Guest blog by Duncan Robertson, Managing Director at Busabout
“How do we communicate the quality of our travel experiences in an authentic and non-contrived way?”
This is the question we, at Busabout, always come back to.
Since people now visit an average of 38 websites before booking travel, it’s no longer enough to just slap a ‘98% customer rating’ next to a stock photo on your booking page and call it a day.
Instead of telling people how great your tours are, you need to show them what these experiences are like in real life.
Travel is a visual industry, and Millennials in particular seek out visually engaging content.
To truly present an authentic view of our tours, we decided to ditch the expensive professional photography and put the real travel content our customers were creating at the heart of our brand.
Why User-Generated Content?
At Busabout, we viewed user-generated content (UGC) as the perfect vehicle for our brand’s evolution towards authentic storytelling for three key reasons:
- It provides real and trusted social proof
- It’s visually engaging
- It’s highly scalable — a freely available and constant source of high-quality content
Social media has been a gift to travel marketers, providing places for our customers to freely and frequently share their best travel photos and videos. It’s our jobs as marketers to tap into the passion for travel our customers have captured and use it to fuel inspiration for others.
4 Steps To Building A UGC Travel Marketing Strategy
1. UGC Discovery
At Busabout, we first assessed the quality and quantity of the user-generated content that was already available to us on social media.
Since our customers are mainly Millennials and Gen Z, they are natural and active social media users who are looking to gain their own social capital by posting photos about their travels online. And from smartphones to GoPros, consumer technology has put production-quality images in our customers’ backpacks.
With many years of tours under our belts, we had over 20,000 existing #Busabout images to work with. Now we needed an efficient way to aggregate and manage them all.
2. UGC Aggregation & Curation
There are billions of pieces of content posted on social networks everyday. To manually sift through all that content across multiple platforms and extract only the pieces relevant to our brand would be a full time job.
Since we already had a large volume of content being posted by our customers, we needed a system that could pull all of that UGC in real time by brand mentions or hashtags, enabling us to easily curate and search through them for fast deployment across our marketing channels.
Stackla’s UGC platform helped us do all of this, providing an intuitive and centralised place for us to manage all our traveller content. We quickly had over 100K UGC images and videos aggregated into Stackla — ready to be deployed across our website and brochures.
3. Relaunching Our Website with 99% UGC Visuals
As part of our UGC brand transformation, we permanently gave up on being a content creator and instead became a curator of the phenomenal experiences our travelers were having with us.
Our goal was to make 99 percent of the visuals on Busabout.com user-generated.
In order to sell a tour, you have to answer all the basic questions a customer will ask: Where will the tour go? How long will the tour be? What are the accommodation like? And so on and so forth. It’s at this deep, granular level that we inserted UGC.
First, we created real-time social feeds for all our tours, featuring genuine experiences shot by customers on each specific trip. Then we used Stackla to rights manage the best imagery, making those photos the hero images at the top of each of our webpages.
Using geo-fencing filters, we pull in content that is relevant to each specific tour — spending no more than 15 mins a day moderating over 100 UGC feeds.
Next, we focused on using UGC as visual navigation. By connecting our product catalog with the best UGC from each associated trip, we provided a direct link from the social proof on our homepage to our tour booking pages. This allows potential customers to visually navigate Busabout.com using real customer photos as inspiration.
Lastly, we used Stackla to create interactive UGC maps. Taking all our aggregated social content and its associated geo data, we mapped our UGC against each of the continents we operate on — showing each tour experience through the eyes of our travellers.
4. Taking UGC Offline
To truly put authentic storytelling at the heart of our brand, we decided to align as much of our offline content with our new online UGC strategy.
A core element of our offline brand is our seasonal travel brochure. Fully embracing UGC, 95 percent of the images in our 2018/2019 brochure were taken by real customers on our tours.
Additionally, the sides of all our 2018 fleet of coach buses now proudly display user-generated photos.
Amplifying Travel UGC
Once you’ve built the foundation of your UGC strategy, you need to amplify its impact. Since travel is an inherently social and visual experience, it’s fairly easy to generate new customer content.
Still, there are a couple basic principles we follow to help grow the amount of high-quality UGC people create about our brand:
- Always operate at the highest service standards – Great service fosters great customer experiences which typically results in amazing UGC.
- Launch a series of dedicated UGC campaigns – Sometimes people need extra encouragement or incentives to create the volume, quality and diversity of visual content you need to fuel all your marketing activities. At Busabout, we run regular competitions and programs to inspire our community and boost engagement.
At Busabout, we’ve gone ‘all in’ on UGC and it’s already paying off for our brand.
As new challenges arise, we try to knock them down with a UGC focus — even in areas well outside of the digital scope — and it’s all in the name of authentic storytelling.
Without a doubt, user-generated content is the most authentic way to show people who you are and what you do.
Watch this on-demand webinar to hear Duncan explain how Busabout is Bringing Travel Experiences to Life With Real Content.