It’s not hard to see the benefits of earned media. Earned media (also known as user-generated content) refers to anything that the public has shared simply because they love your brand, including selfies at your destination, social media mentions, social media shares, reviews, ratings, user recommendations, word of mouth, and more.
Plenty of destinations take advantage of earned media, but market leaders optimize the value of these assets by closely monitoring metrics and then promoting the most effective ones.
The best place to start is by measuring user generated content (UGC) for stand-out engagements and then empowering your best contributors for repeats and referrals.
How Do I Know What to Measure?
Everyone will have their own unique mix of goals, whether it is follower count, engagement activity, or conversions, so each will have a different set of metrics that matter. You may even find that different stakeholders in your organizations care more about certain measures, so it’s best to track the most information you can up front and issue different reports as needed.
That’s why we’ve put together an extensive, though not exhaustive, list of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) preferred by leading travel and tourism marketers.
Components of the 4 Point UGC Plan
A map is no good unless you know where you are and where you want to end up. Start with the end in mind and work backwards from there.
Step one: Lay out your goals. We’ll see below which metrics help you grow your follower count or convince prospects to become customers.
Step two: Choose the most important KPIs from the list below to help you get closer to your goals.
Step three: Measure yourself now and set your baseline. This a good time to benchmark your current metrics against travel and tourism leaders.
Step four: Set up a tracking system that measures KPI changes over time. Pay attention to UGC that is correlated to jumps in KPI tracking, both positive and negative.
The true art and science of applying UGC strategically involves isolating which factors you believe caused the jumps in KPI numbers, then experimenting with UGC that matches your theories. Intuition or data alone won’t get you there. You need a scientist’s eye for detail and a marketer’s feel for your customer’s values.
Top KPIs to Measure User Generated Content
These are designed to deliver insights about you galleries or individual assets. By measuring differences over time, you’ll measure the success of your campaigns and get a sense of what resonates with your preferred audiences.
First some definitions:
Views - The number of times that visitors saw the visual.
Interactions – The next step after viewing. This is a simple measure of overall action on a gallery or asset. It includes any time a user loads more images, clicks on an asset, or takes action on a CTA.
Engagement rate - A broad measure of UGC’s ability to generate interest, comparing the total overall interactions to the number of simple views. The formula goes: Engagement Rate = Interactions ÷ Views.
KPIs for UGC On Your Website
On your website, what matters most is the engagement rate, the number of conversions and how that all relates to direct bookings at your property.
For Engagement, the metrics you want to track are:
- Time on page
- Time on site
- Bounce rate
- Engagement rate (clicks/views)
For Conversions, conduct A/B tests for different visuals: hero image vs video, static images vs interactive gallery, etc.:
- Engagement rate (clicks/views)
For Direct Bookings, attach buttons or other CTA links to UGC images to measure:
- Views and clicks for a particular visual
- CTA click-through rates
- If you use software like Google Analytics, you can connect Direct Bookings to specified campaigns
KPIs for UGC on Social
We’ve put together an entire DMO Guide to Measuring the ROI of Social Media. Check out this resource for metrics like:
- Click-through rates
- Hashtag uses
KPIs for Paid Social
Here is where you justify ad spend on platforms like AdWords, retargeting, Facebook and other social ads. You need to track:
- Cost per click or other action
- Conversion rate retargeting
- Cost of acquisition
- Return on investment (ROI)
This is what most finance leaders and C-Suite execs want to know first. How much bang are you getting for your buck? It can be difficult to nail down, but start with these five steps:
1. Identify your main objective. Ie, Increase revenue.
2. Define KPIs. Ie, Direct bookings, conversion rates.
3. Establish a system to measure visual performance. Ie, Attach CTAs to photos.
4. Track any results and tie back to original source. Ie, Bookings from social.
5. Calculate ROI aggregate data above and tie back to your objective.
Other factors to consider in ROI calculations include:
- Content costs (software cost + owned or UGC)
- Growth and value of visual asset library
- Rights response rate
Takeaways on Measuring the Success of UGC
Setting up these UGC metrics and keeping track of them is actually easier than it sounds. Once the process is in place, it will prove extremely valuable as you save time each week in figuring out what to post next and save dollars each year in justifying your budget.
If you ever get stuck and are not sure what the data is telling you about UGC performance, go back to the customer. Take some time to look and listen to what’s buzzing on social channels in your sector.
The factors that people look for in a preferred travel destination is always changing as trends grow and fade. Customer demographics are always moving on as well, and you may find that the average age of your customer base is changing due to referrals or the popularity of specific UGC campaigns. Experiments with UGC may succeed or fail, but every time you try, you win or you learn. On good days, you do both.
Image credit: @vietvinh