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The Future of UGC Marketing: 6 Major Trends You’ll Want to Watch

Wide angle shot of The Louvre on a sunny day, with lots of tourists nearby

When you think about UGC marketing, it’s likely in the context of social media. After all, that’s where user-generated content is created and shared (for free) by users.

Most DMOs use visual UGC primarily to engage with customers across social networks or on website galleries.

franklin homepage crowdriff 2017

However, UGC marketing is evolving. We’re seeing a number of trends emerge as DMOs discover new ways to get the most out of social photos and videos.

So, today, I want to talk about what’s next.

What does the future of UGC look like – and how will it shape the way brands leverage visual content?

Let’s take a look at six emerging trends in UGC marketing you’ll want to pay attention to.


(Or if you’d rather listen to me talk about the future of UGC, watch my webinar on the topic!)

1 | Rise in UGC video

First of all, video is exploding. Consider these stats:

Rise-in-video-UGC-marketing stats
Stats from AdAge

Not only is there more content being created, but there are also more people watching user-generated video.

According to AdAge, there’s been a 360% increase in the number of videos showing up in Facebook newsfeeds. Plus, YouTube — which hosts a mix of UGC and brand content — now reaches more 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S.

Whether they’re Snapchatting every step of their journey or broadcasting an amazing view on Facebook Live, travelers are creating more user-generated video than ever before.

2 | UGC is playing a bigger role in visual decision making

At CrowdRiff, we often say that visual UGC is much more than a pretty picture – and this has never been more true. These days, visuals – especially those from friends or peers – directly influence how travelers make decisions.

So how can DMOs take advantage of this?

Visit Phoenix is one DMO that’s taking advantage of UGC’s influence on decision making. With UGC website galleries embedded on over 90 pages of their site, they use authentic imagery to give multiple snapshots into their destination.

visit-phoenix-hotels-page ugc marketing laptop

Even better, using CrowdRiff, they overlay clickable custom captions that give visitors the information they want – in this case, the hotel name and a link to its listing page – when they are intrigued by a photo.

CrowdRiff-CTAs ugc marketing phoenix

Instead of redirecting visitors to Instagram when they click on a photo, these calls-to-action provide more details and take visitors deeper into the website.

This is a win-win-win scenario: it’s helpful for visitors, the DMO gets to keep visitors on their page for longer, and the DMO can easily drive traffic to their tourism partners.

3 | Blurring the lines between UGC, owned & paid media

Brands are trying to emulate the unfiltered authenticity of UGC. As a result, the distinction between UGC, owned, and paid visuals is becoming less and less clear.

For instance, Visit Seattle has invested heavily in video content for their channel called They partner with real travelers in video series that put the visitor experience front and center — just like UGC does, but with a much higher production value.

owned media emulating ugc marketing

This begs the question, are influencers who partner with brands any different from paid media?

which-is-UGC marketing

(Psst…the image on the left is UGC and the one on the right is a stock photo. Did you guess right?)

Furthermore, each destination has a bunch of local micro-influencers – those who don’t have thousands of followers but are passionate about sharing content around your destination – yet don’t think to showcase them in their marketing.

As the lines between paid and authentic content continue to blur, we hope to see more DMOs discover the power of micro-influencers.

Why? Because small-scale influencers still hold plenty of clout for your destination and their content is unfiltered – which is what other travelers love most about it.

4 | AI is making it easier to manage large (and growing) volumes of UGC

Today, 3.2 billion images are shared every day! The modern traveler is obsessed with capturing and sharing their experiences online. This means marketers have a growing pool of UGC to dip into… but it also means that it’s that much harder to quickly locate the specific high-quality visuals you need when you need it.

As travelers continue to create more content than ever before, technology must adapt to help marketers make sense of their growing libraries of UGC photos and videos – especially since people don’t always use the most descriptive captions on their Instagram posts.

Luckily, leading visual marketing platforms like CrowdRiff are adapting to leverage AI and machine learning technology. CrowdRiff automatically tag images and videos with relevant keywords that perfectly match the content.

What’s more, because there is so much content being produced, AI is making it easier to filter out the top imagery you’ll want to use, from the rest of the noise.

CrowdRiff uses machine learning and industry insights to learn which photos are the most engaging and get the most clicks — then surfaces these for you. That means you don’t have to waste time scrolling endlessly through social imagery that just isn’t right for your needs. If you want to get a taste of this AI-assisted photo selection, try your hand at this quiz we made.

It doesn’t matter if it’s social UGC, professional, or otherwise – you should always be able to easily find the ideal image wherever you manage your visual content. These advances in artificial intelligence are helping marketers find the visuals they need, when they need it.

5 | UGC will power every marketing channel

The real-time nature of UGC means it will always be the freshest source of authentic visual content for your brand.

Combine that with the fact that 85% of consumers find UGC more influential than brand visuals, and there’s no denying that UGC is something of a marketing asset superstar.

So, it’s not surprising that UGC is taking on a larger role in just about every aspect of tourism marketing – including both print and digital assets.

Almost anywhere you typically feature branded visuals, you can swap in UGC to send a more powerful, timely message. From brochures, visitor guides, and on-location digital screen (like Blue Mountain uses) to microsites, website galleries, and clickable buttons overlaid with CTAs, UGC is popping up in just about every vertical and marketing channel imaginable.

Visit Colorado takes advantage of CrowdRiff’s API to push out real-time user-generated content in their digital takeover ads. So, instead of taking weeks to update their content, Visit Colorado can react accordingly to changes in the weather and local updates. They can switch between featuring different locations and images quickly and responsively.

colorado digital ugc ad marketing

UGC is influential on buying patterns, and it only makes sense to see it coming up throughout different marketing avenues.

6 |Adapting to the evolution of social networks

We’re entering a new era for user-generated content, as social platforms like Facebook and Instagram work to provide a more secure and authentic experience for individuals.

Now that algorithms prioritize content with higher engagement in feeds, as opposed to whatever was posted first), marketers will have to find new ways to make sure their content is getting the views they want. For example, using tools that can surface top-performing visuals to then post on social media.

On the flip side, marketers will also have to change the way they find the great content people are posting too. This is especially true as Instagram and Facebook continue to improve privacy for individual users. Going forward, there is an increasing need for marketers to lean on their visual marketing platforms to surface the content they might’ve missed.

CrowdRiff can bring in all the content being shared in your destination and combine it with your owned assets. Everything that’s being posted about your travel brand will show up in your collection. That along with an intelligent search means any visual you’d want to find is always at your fingertips.

Stay ahead of the curve with the visual marketing platform that’s always looking forward

Technology is catching up to support new advances in UGC marketing, so that marketers like you can make the most of every opportunity to captivate a traveler.

From the latest AI-powered capabilities, to partner connected collaboration and more, CrowdRiff is the one visual marketing platform that’s staying ahead of the pack.

Get in touch with us today!

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*This article was updated May 29, 2018.

About the author

Amrita Gurney is the Vice President of Marketing at CrowdRiff, where she leads a team responsible for brand, content, product marketing and demand generation. Amrita loves contemporary art, museums, drinking tea and travelling (of course!).