Three Ways for Travel Brands to Turn #Selfies into Sales

By Gary Zurnamer - July 14, 2017
4 mins read time
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From that epic sunset shot to the token landmark selfie, we’ve all seen or contributed to the mass of travel photos posted online everyday. On Instagram alone, there are over 194 million photos with the hashtag #travel and more than 59 million tagged #vacation.

Those numbers aren’t surprising when you consider that 76 percent of travelers post vacation photos on social media. Potential travelers now look to this authentic social content for vacation inspiration and validation when booking their next adventures.

76% of travelers post vacation photos on #socialmedia and 83% use social for travel inspiration.Click To Tweet

In fact, 83 percent of travelers using social networks as a source of travel inspiration and 52 percent of travelers having used social media to plan a trip. This user-generated content (UGC) is a goldmine of inherently trusted and engaging content just waiting to be tapped by travel marketers.

While most travel companies already have a social media strategy in place, many have yet to evolve it into a user-generated content strategy with the proven power to convert social posts to booked vacations.  

Liking, sharing and reposting travelers’ photos is a good first step but to achieve real results with social content, you need to infuse it throughout all your owned and paid marketing channels.

These three travel brands have all stayed on the cutting edge of digital marketing by strategically leveraging the real, compelling content travelers post online every day to achieve increasingly impressive results.

Virgin Holidays Boosts Online Bookings With #RedIsTheNewBlack Campaign

Worldwide travel company, Virgin Holidays, wanted to harness the power of social media to build online excitement, engage audiences and increase online bookings during Black Friday.

Their #RedIsTheNewBlack campaign aimed to cut through the Black Friday noise by asking social audiences to tweet @virginholidays with the event hashtag in order to unlock online discounts – revealing better offers as tweet volume thresholds were met. “Working with Stackla, we created a dynamic visualisation whereby the volume of tweets revealed increasingly generous deals”, said Claire Cronin, Virgin Holidays Vice President of Customer and Marketing.

Virgin Holidays achieved massive reach and engagement, while identifying their most loyal consumers and increasing overall social sentiment by 37 percent.

”Within eight hours, we achieved well over 6,000 tweets… [and] were also a top Twitter trend for a period of the day which is a fantastic result,” said Cronin. “The campaign was a brilliant example of our teams working together to drive demand with a 260 percent increase in online bookings. Additionally passenger numbers were up by an impressive 64 percent YoY.”

Hamilton Island Benefits From Adding UGC To Blogs and Facebook Ads

Since Hamilton Island is an idyllic global travel destination in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, it’s safe to say that most visitor photos taken there are wanderlust-inspiring.

Typically, travel companies and destinations spend a significant amount of money on professional photography to use in everything from websites and ads to billboards and brochures. However, Hamilton Island understood that their guests post thousands of high-quality photos online, and those real visitor images were more credible and influential that any expensive photography they could commission.

After seeing success with their Stackla-powered dynamic UGC webpage, Hamilton Island’s Director of Online, Aida Merdovic, decided to strategically expand their use of UGC into their blogs and Facebook ads.

They invited guests to blog about their reef experiences, encouraging them to include the pictures they had taken during their time on the island. “We strategically placed user-generated content on each blog to show that these magical experiences are accessible to everyone, not just professional travel writers and photographers,” said Merdovic.

This proved to be an effective strategy, since blogs featuring visual UGC resulted in 50 percent more bookings on average than blogs that didn’t contain any UGC.

Doubling down on this success, Hamilton Island began using Stackla’s rights management and Facebook ad plugin to integrate authentic traveler images into their Facebook ads.

With UGC at the forefront of their Facebook advertisements, Hamilton Island experienced a 3x higher click-through rate and their ads were one third the cost per click. That’s right. By making their ads more relevant and engaging to social users, they increase ad performance while simultaneously reducing cost.

Helloworld Inspires Multi-Channel Engagement With UGC

Integrated travel company, helloworld, was on a mission to grow brand awareness as well online purchases. “It’s great to have lookers,” Kate Shilling, Head of Marketing Strategy and Partnerships at helloworld, “but we needed them to become bookers.”

To grab people’s’ attention and get them to move from inspiration to booked vacations, helloworld needed to create an interactive experience with a fresh stream of captivating content. “We knew we wanted to keep our online assets really fresh and inspiring. We also wanted to incorporate social media, and knew Stackla could help us do it,” said Shilling.

They decided to stage the world’s first Instagram relay, asking consumers and influencers from around the world to submit travel photos via direct upload or using the hashtag #helloworldRELAY. They created a microsite, working with Stackla to develop an interactive map to feature the best social posts being published around the world.

Using Stackla, they asked all users to accept their terms and conditions for explicit permission to repurpose their content for email, digital, display or out-of-home (OOH) ads. In the same interaction, they were able to collect participants’ email addresses to help build their CRM database for future communications.

In just 36 hours, over 20K posts were generated across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter from over 80 countries. Having achieved broad awareness and engagement, helloworld now went about leveraging all the great UGC across their digital, OOH and TV ads.

Digital displays at hundreds of bus shelters and train stations featured interactive touchscreens of UGC aggregated by Stackla.

At the same time they were retargeting past site visitors with Adroll ads featuring Stackla-powered UGC. Not only were these ads more authentic, they also had thousands to chose from – easily being able to swap them in and out to keep their ad creative fresh.

They even used UGC to develop a TV ad that reached 1.3 million viewers. “We selected 25 of the best images aggregated using Stackla and cut them together into a magnificent ad,” says Shilling.

In the seven-day sales period following the campaign, Virgin Holidays received over 10,000 sales enquiries, and the campaign won the Award of Excellence for Marketing Effectiveness in Social Media at the 2016 Communicator Awards.

These are just a few ways innovative travel brands are investing in UGC and seeing major returns. To learn more about how Stackla can help your travel brand attract, engage and convert consumers with user-generated content, fill out the request demo form below.

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