The ever-evolving travel industry, as we know, is forever changing and the way people think and talk about travel is a contributing factor to this. User-generated content (UGC) on social media apps such as Instagram, which boasts 600 million users that post 95 million photos a day, has pushed travelling and the idea of escapism to the forefront of people’s mindsets.
“72% of consumers post photos on a social network while on vacation, and 76% post them after they return.”
One scroll through Instagram on your afternoon lunch-break and you are bound to see at least one travel post. Today, one Instagram search of #Travel brings back 172,948,157 posts from people worldwide and people from all walks of life. Essentially it’s real people, sharing their own travel experiences and photos, with no hidden agenda or purpose. Accounts such as TravelGram and travelandleisure have amassed millions of followers just by collating the very best of this user-generated travel content (UGC) into one place.
“52% of people taking a summer holiday use social media, especially photos, for inspiration.”
You only have to go as far as comparing the Instagram followings of big travel brands such as Expedia & Virgin Holidays to understand that customers now respond and engage more with their own user-generated content from real people rather than the generic, past its sell by date, stock photos and unrealistic, unrelatable TV ads. This is due to the simple fact that people now want what is real and what they can relate to.
“A study found that 51% of people trust user generated content (UGC) more than a company’s website (16%) or news articles (14%).”
With this in mind and there for all to see, we have seen a big shift in the way big travel brands now advertise and market themselves. With brands looking to capitalise on this UGC trend, their marketing strategies have evolved from the traditional ads we are so custom to seeing, to new ad campaigns inspired by UGC and authenticity.
Expedia’s most recent ad campaign was one which aimed to connect to its audience by portraying mini-documentaries that depict “real people” in “real life” situations. In the first mini-documentary, we meet a lorry driver from Birmingham. His big passion in life is Opera and his dream is to a see a live show in Madrid’s grand opera house – The Teatro Real, much to the amusement of his fellow lorry driver friends. Through the use of real people, the ad is most certainly infectious and pivotally grabs the viewer’s attention. Proof authenticity is now key for marketing within the travel industry.
Crowned ‘campaign of the year’, Virgin Holidays’ live TV ad was aired during the X-Factor in December 2016. The ad featured 18-holiday destinations from around the world including Disney Land & Barbados. Designed to show “real people doing authentic things” and also to promote the brand’s long haul destinations. It is clear to see Virgin Holidays has been inspired and driven by how people feel about UGC. Earning 16.9 million impressions on Twitter and pulling in 838 web searches a minute, it doesn’t take much to see just how much a hit the ad was.
“70% of people trust online reviews, the second most trusted form of media.” – Nielson
Reviews play a huge part of UGC content. Review sites such as Tripadvisor are built on real people leaving honest reviews about their hotel and travel experience and have helped place UGC content as one the most trusted form of media available. Customers now search for the very best price and want to fully understand what they are booking before they actually book. On average customers visit 27 different sites before they book a trip. This goes to show customers are now more likely to trust real reviews on independent sites and UGC photos rather than the glossy stock images in the hotel brochure.
User generated content will continue to grow and become more prominent in all aspects of the travel industry. Content creation for any ad campaign can require a lot of resources. However, brands now have access to a wealth of UGC content online, already created by real people. In our spotlight article, we highlighted how Airbnb has taken photographs on its listings and turned them into its own, cost effective gain. Airbnb is using this UGC content on its own social media platforms to promote the brand and engage its audience.
Over time we will begin to see more and more differences in the marketing campaigns of the future, than the ones we have seen in the past. UGC content will continue to influence consumers, which will lead to its inspiring marketing campaigns, as more and more travel brands realise their customers trust what is authentic and what is real.
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