When Coca Cola launched their personalized coke bottles, dubbed the “Share a Coke” campaign, with bottles named after people, it took off all over the world. To keep momentum going, customers were asked to share pictures of themselves enjoying a drink with their personalized coke bottle on social media. The result? Coca Cola’s customers stepped into the role of advertiser and their user-generated content (UGC) delivered millions of dollars in revenue along with a whole new image to the company. Even I took part of the phenomenon!
But what exactly is user-generated content?
UGC is any type of content that has been created and posted online by unpaid contributors or, using a better term, fans. It’s pictures, videos, testimonials, tweets, and blog posts, and is the act of users promoting a brand rather than the brand itself.
For the hospitality and tourism sector, managing online reputation and UGC is of utmost importance due to the specifics of the industry. Service, being one of the most important parts of a touristic product, is intangible and dependent on human factor. Therefore, consumers do not trust general advertisement statements of ‘providing best and customized services’, but rather seek the feedback of customers who have already tested the service themselves.
Why is user-generated content so powerful?
According to a study by customer relationship management solution provider, Salesforce, 92% of consumers trust online content from friends and family above all other forms of brand messages, 53% of millennials say that UGC has influenced their purchasing decisions, 50% of consumers find UGC more memorable than brand-produced content pictures. In short, we enjoy sharing, we seek advice online and we trust personal opinions.
Where to manage user-generated content?
Some of the most popular sites customers share and seek advice are: Travel UGC websites designed specifically for reviews, such as TripAdvisor, Yelp and WikiTravel, OTA’s websites such as Booking.com and Expedia, and travel metasearch engines, such as Kayak.com and Trivago.com.
Ways to enhance user-generated content on different platforms:
Give your customers stories worth telling. Host a photo contest on Social Media such as Facebook and Instagram. Create "wall of fame" on your website with the best content of your guests. Be present on UGC websites. Monitor and answer the comments users make about your business. Display comments posted by guests on websites such as TripAdvisor on your website.
How to leverage user-generated content?
Let’s consider a simple formula to calculate the number of potential storytellers that your hospitality business has each year. If you have a 100-room hotel that has a 60% occupancy rate with 1 to 4 guests per room, you have nearly 31,000 storytellers staying at your hotel each year. The same calculation applies to the number of covers a restaurant serves, or to the number of guests who went on that tour or excursion. Use them to your advantage to spread the word about your business and to increase loyalty. Do not underestimate the power of UGC and start managing your online reputation now!
What are the legalities of sharing content?
It’s so easy to share user-generated content, but that doesn’t mean you’re legally able to without some ramifications. Make sure you understand the rules and establish best practices. There are third-party services to make sure businesses have the proper copyright permissions in place, but also increasingly rigorous data rules in the European Union put the onus on businesses to make sure they’re using content the right way. If content will be displayed on ads or in print, be very careful with the approval process. Do your due diligence and follow the appropriate steps.
How do you track returns on investment?
The “million-dollar question” is how to translate social media success into direct return on investment. While business owners would like to see a direct correlation between social media efforts and revenue, social media is similar to customer service - it’s difficult to tie a dollar value to a great front desk person even when you know they’re incredibly valuable.
Putting rate codes directly in social media posts is certainly an option, but that can sometimes erode the value of using user-generated content. Influencers will be hesitant to share content because they want to appear authentic.
Essentially, the ideal strategy is a marriage of your business’s branding and user-generated content. Marketing efforts built around user-generated content should be approached with the same level of detail and planning as any traditional marketing. Make sure the customer knows how to tag your business on social media channels. If they see your social media icon, but it doesn’t say what your handle is. That’s like saying ‘call me’ without giving them a phone number.
For assistance with creating and implementing your content strategy, contact Caymera International.
Brooke Meyer is the managing partner of Caymera International, a Caymanian-owned hospitality and tourism consulting and advisory firm. She’s an industry veteran and holds a master’s certificate in Hospitality Management from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY and has also earned continuing education certifications in Hotel Real Estate and Asset Management, Digital Marketing, and Revenue Management from Cornell University. Visit Caymera at www.caymeragroup.com . firstname.lastname@example.org