Most of us would instantly choose the former. Chances are if you see a photo one of your friends took eating dinner at a local restaurant, you’ll want to go there a lot more than if the photo popped up as an Instagram ad.
That’s why user-generated content (UGC) is so effective. By sharing real content that your locals and travelers have created, you’re giving others an authentic look at what’s happening in your destination and with your partners right now.
…but now that you’re ready to go create a user-generated content campaign of your own, you might be wondering where to start.
We’ve compiled a list of 10 creative UGC marketing campaigns that show how travel and tourism marketers are responding to the unique challenges their brands face today. We hope these give you ample inspiration and help you start reaping the benefits of UGC. Let’s dive in!
1 | #btownchallenge encourages UGC creation and supports local businesses
Like most destinations, local businesses in Bloomington have been hit hard by the pandemic.
Visit Bloomington put together a challenge, called the B-Town Summer Challenge, to get locals moving and help support businesses in the area.
People participate in and complete a set of activities around town to win cash prizes. They’re encouraged to share content of each activity on social media using the branded hashtag #btownchallenge or upload it using CrowdRiff Collector.
Categories include eating, shopping locally, and exploring the outdoors.
Erin White, Director of Leisure Marketing and Media, Visit Bloomington, says they included activities that met varying degrees of social distancing to accommodate people’s different comfort levels, and mixed up paid and free activities to make the Challenge as low-barrier as possible.
Why we loved it
- The challenge is a great way to get people moving, encourage them to support local, and share UGC with Visit Bloomington.
- So far, the challenge has had thousands of visits, with an average of 4-minutes average time on page (meaning people are reading the challenge!), and 800+ downloads. The team has also generated 100+ rights-approved UGC images from the challenge so far.
2 | A crowdsourced UGC itinerary shows the perfect #StePoWknd
To celebrate National Travel & Tourism Week 2020, Stevens Point Area CVB wanted to honor the spirit of travel. They used social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook to ask their followers to vote for their favorite things to do for a perfect #StePoWknd.
Then they compiled the results of the daily #StePo Showdown results and crafted a weekend itinerary leveraging UGC content from the places mentioned.
Why we loved it
- The UGC campaign is budget-friendly and time-friendly. Instead of taking hours to write lengthy descriptions of each spot, the images do the talking. Rather than having to capture new images, they tapped into UGC they already had.
- It’s an SEO win. When locals or visitors are searching for activities to do during COVID-19 in Stevens Point, they’re much more likely to click on this post versus a more general article on things to do in the area.
- The team can easily replace the images when restrictions change to keep the post relevant.
“The content will be useful as we move from local audiences to travelers looking for nearby adventures and road trip suggestions."
- Melissa Sabel, Communications Manager
3 | For the Love of Mesa generates 500+ rights-approved images in two weeks
One of the best ways to increase the number of rights-approved images available to you is to run a contest.
As part of their For the Love of Mesa contest, Visit Mesa asked people to create content describing what Mesa meant to them. In the past, they created this video with professional photographers and videographers, but this year they wanted the content to come from locals. The best photos and videos were then featured in a music video, “For the Love of Mesa”.
Their goal was to capture 200 photos from the community, but it didn’t take long to exceed it.
“Essentially we got almost 500 user-generated photos in a matter of two weeks. We didn’t have to do a lot of asking around or searching for it,” says Kate Eckstein, the Digital Strategist at Visit Mesa.
“We were able to not only get content for our project but also get great content for future use,” she adds.
Why we loved it
- The campaign shows future visitors why locals love Mesa and why they can too.
- It quickly increased the amount of rights-approved content they had in their library.
- They can repurpose the content on different marketing channels.
4 | Calls to action on The Denver Museum of Art’s homepage shows how they're keeping visitors safe
After being closed since mid-March, the Denver Museum of Art re-opened in June.
All visitors are required to wear a face mask or cover before entering the museum. To drive this concept home for incoming visitors, they feature images of people wearing masks on their website homepage.
Each UGC image also has a call to action (CTA) button that links to additional safety procedures the museum is taking. They use language like, “Face coverings are required,” and “Social distancing guidelines for visiting,” that guide people to museum guidelines.
Why we loved it
- With as many as 68% of Americans saying they will wear a mask and follow social distancing guidelines while traveling, these images communicate to incoming visitors that not only is the museum now open, but it also reinforces a message that they're prioritizing people's health and safety by requiring them to wear masks.
5 | Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association built regional road trip itineraries with UGC
To capture the local drive market, Melea Hames, social media manager, Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association put together a “when business returns to normal” blog series that covers four areas of the region. Each post includes a short itinerary using UGC galleries to showcase unique imagery at each stop.
Hames sources the UGC from local area hashtags, partners and ambassadors through the North Alabama Ambassador program.
Why we loved it
- The campaign highlights local areas attractions and businesses and who are open and need support right now.
- It’s easy for digital marketers to swap out the images as restrictions change.
- It gives people more direction when traveling to your destination.
- UGC shows people when it’s safe to return to restaurants or visit surrounding cities.
6 | Gulf County Tourist Development Council powered a visitor guide page with UGC
Printed visitor guides published by DMOs are an important resource for trip inspiration and planning. However, with nearly every DMO operating with reduced budgets, for many, physical visitor guides are off the table this year.
Gulf County Tourist Development Council partnered with CrowdRiff to translate the traditionally print experience into something digital for both future visitors and locals. They highlight places to eat, things to do, and where to stay, as well as a digital directory featuring content from their partners and local businesses.
Why we loved it
- With many DMOs operating with reduced budgets and resources, finding ways to go digital is an effective way to save money and stay agile as restrictions change in your area.
- CTAs help promote their partners and drive traffic to them.
- Enriching each UGC gallery with Google Location data lets people know where businesses are located and their operating hours.
- A CrowdRIff Media Hub provides a place where people can download important items like maps, games, and/or activities.
7 | Visit Duluth puts UGC front and center on their website to build trust with locals
In an environment where things can change quickly, your website needs to reflect what’s happening on the ground right now. This reinforces your trustworthiness among locals and prospective visitors.
Visit Duluth uses taps into the real-time photos and videos that people are posting to social media to give their audience an accurate and up-to-date picture of what is happening at their destination.
They’re showcasing getting back to nature, outdoor experiences and hidden gems. CTAs also turn the images into visual launchpads, guiding people to places like a summer guide of Duluth.
Why we loved it
- A UGC gallery is one of the most effective ways to keep your high traffic pages up to date with relevant imagery.
- It’s a low-effort way to share the latest information and details about what is open and what the latest health guidelines are, as the gallery can also be populated with branded images.
8 | Explore Georgia's video showcases how different DMOs are helping neighbors in need
Destinations across Georgia have been stepping in with creative ways to help healthcare workers, first responders, employees, residents, and others hit hard by the coronavirus.
As a way to showcase their efforts and show stories of positivity and resilience, the DMO made a video using UGC photos and videos. The video highlights things like an iconic mural sold to raise funds for artists and art teachers, and how a local restaurant removed thousands of dollars from its walls for its employees.
As destinations around the world reopen, videos showcasing real-time UGC shows your audience how you are keeping people safe right now. They’re also good to repurpose across your social media channels.
Why we loved it
- Did you know UGC video gets 10X more views than branded content? The video helps get the message across that Explore Georgia is putting its community while reminding travelers of still thriving vibrant communities there.
- The video helps call attention to the relief efforts partners of the DMO are doing.
- From a production standpoint, the video is time and budget-friendly. Tapping into UGC meant the DMO didn’t have to hire photographers or videographers.
9 | Louisiana Northshore uses UGC to drive traffic to local businesses
The best way to build trust with locals and travelers is to show real-time visual proof of your destination.
Louisiana Northshore is doing just that on its business operations page, where real-time UGC shows locals and out-of-towners what is happening with restaurants, hotels, and other local businesses. It even has timestamps to show when the page was last updated!
Why we loved it
- One of the key priorities for destination marketers is how to build traveler trust in the short and long term. Showing people that businesses are open in your neighborhood in an unfiltered way is the best way to do this.
- It’s easy for businesses to see how to be included on this page—all they have to do is use the hashtag #LANorthshore and #TammanyTaste.
- CTAs on select images guide people to read more information or take a virtual tour of the business and surrounding area.
10 | Visit South Bend is using UGC to promote mask usage in partnership with their local health officials
Visit South Bend Mishawaka mandated face coverings in all indoor public spaces on June 24th, 2020. The DMO has been tasked with promoting mask usage in partnership with their local health officials.
They created a campaign to promote the public health requirements to both visitors and locals. The campaign involves a blog post that communicates safety information from public health officials with relevant UGC content, and a contest to collect more UGC. Those who share photos wearing face coverings have a chance to win gift cards to area restaurants, businesses, and attractions.
Why we love it
- It’s a creative and engaging way to encourage people to follow public health guidelines.
- The contest is a clever way to source content to reflect the new normal that can be used in future marketing.
Making user-generated content marketing work for you
It’s important to remember that the focus in your campaigns should always be the people posting them. The most successful campaigns aren’t aimed at pushing a product, but instead about letting the authentic experiences locals and visitors are having at your destination or travel experience shine through and inspire others.
Your locals and visitors are already out there creating everything you need… now it’s time to go out there and find it!