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User Generated Content in Tourism Marketing – A Quick Guide

By now, you’ve heard the term user generated content (UGC), and if not, it’s probably best if you acquaint yourself real quick.

What is User Generated Content?

User generated content is defined as digital content produced and shared by end-users. In the context we’re talking here – think of it simply as content about your business, created by your customer and may include:

  • Images
  • Videos
  • Comments
  • Blogs
  • Reviews

And it’s a hot topic right at the moment!

Mainly as we realise that social media is a hungry beast, and we as tourism business owners or marketers can’t continually create quality content ourselves to keep it satisfied. We have to look elsewhere for content and where better than to the people who love our business – our customers!

More and more, we’re seeing the effectiveness of stories shared by real people. According to Nielson, earned media (and this comprises user-generated content) is believed to be far more trustworthy than any other form of media.

User generated content is widely agreed to trigger the path to purchase, and it’s been proven repeatedly that consumers trust their friends over brands.

So, by first recognising consumer contributions and incorporating user generated content into our tourism marketing plan, we are getting our customers to do some of the heavy lifting. And then we are also able to identify, nurture and grow brand advocates.

Isn’t that the essence of why we use social media in the first place?

Think of it as simply another form of social proof.

FURTHER READING: How to Use Social Proof in Tourism Marketing

There probably is a wealth of great content about your tourism business already online. So it’s time to get savvy and learn what it takes legally and ethically to employ that unique user generated content to help spread brand awareness beyond each customers’ social media influence.

Did you note the legally and ethically?
You can’t just grab brand relevant user generated content and re-purpose it for your means.

Some pretty complex copyright laws dominate the online world. So take a moment and read through commonly agreed do’s and don’ts that will assist you with your tourism or hospitality content marketing strategy.

DO Create & Use a unique Brand Hashtag

Hashtags have moved beyond their original purpose of optimising search capabilities and have become a unique online language. However, from a brand marketing perspective, they are still most effectively used as a way to track and then participate in discussions on social media.

FURTHER READING: How to Use Hashtags in Event Marketing 

By creating a unique brand hashtag, you can search out, follow and join in these conversations with customers.

Do advise users that if they use specific brand hashtags, they permit you to repost that content on your social media business channels.

DO Create Visual Cues both Online and In-house

Give your customers visual cues on what social channels they may find you. Secondly, encourage them to post their experiences on their preferred social networks using your unique brand or campaign hashtag.

Social savvy businesses offer visual cues to customers on how to engage.

DO Ask Permission

It’s a commonly held misconception that it’s free to use if a photo is posted on social media.

So NOT true!

Thanks to copyright laws, the photographer/content creator still retains the legal rights to these images – yes, even if posted using your unique brand or campaign hashtag.

I like to err on the side of caution and reach out and ask for the use of any user-generated content even when a brand-specific hashtag has been used (for small campaigns, of course – it would be impossible to do this for a considerable campaign such as #RestaurantAustralia).

This tactic creates a rapport with the content creator, and they usually jump at the opportunity for their content to be reposted/shared by a brand they love.

When you reach out, be clear who the brand you’re representing and how the content is to be used.

Do Give Credit

I can’t believe this needs to be said, but it seems it does – publicly recognise from who you sourced the content. You still have to credit them even though you’ve asked consumers to share their brand relevant content via a hashtag or such.

Social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter make attribution easy with tagging, sharing and retweet options.

Wherever you’ve re-purposed user-generated content, thank the contributor via either sharing directly from their original post, tagging them, or cross-promoting from one social network to another, advise what social network and the @tag (address) of the person it was sourced.

Don’t Change the Content

If you change the content by putting text over the image, you’re effectively using it as an advertisement. This brings up a whole other area of copyright issues.

Don’t Use Outside the Context it was Intended

Unless you have written approval to do so (a tweet or Facebook reply DOES NOT count) and you’ve paid for the material, you cannot use the content for other purposes than posting on your social media channels.

This means, no, you can’t use it in print material, tv advertisements, online advertisements – and no, it cannot be used in social media advertisements!

If you wish to use a user-generated image in your advertising – buy it. Pay the creator a licensing fee as standard ad creative guidelines apply here.

DO Use Common Sense

Use common sense when re-purposing user generated content. Remember, these are other people’s thoughts and experiences concerning your business, so respect the content and user.

These are your customers, and they are potent influencers.

You are no longer in the driving seat. Your customers are sharing their experiences and content all over social media. So incorporate user generated content into your marketing strategy as it’s one of the best ways to produce genuine, authentic and trusted content for your social media channels.

Tania Shirgwin

Tania Shirgwin

Founder + Head Consultant

Tania is a marketing strategist specialising in tourism, wine and hospitality marketing. As founder of Decant Digital (formerly bizeez communications), Tania’s unique role over the past 14 years has enabled her to follow her passions of travel and her marketing obsessions of strategic marketing planning, consumer-focused web development, search optimisation, and training. With over 80 customised websites built to date, successful event marketing campaigns and new business branding, Tania’s wealth of experience ensures businesses continually increase website traffic, direct bookings, and sales via proven marketing tactics.

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