Since its original settlement by the Ngaro Aboriginal tribe nearly 8,000 years ago, Australia’s Hamilton Island has attracted visitors with its spectacular, pristine beauty. The island was purchased by renowned Australian winemaker Bob Oatley in 2003 and has since become one of the world’s leading holiday destinations.
Thanks in large part to the stunning photographic opportunities it presents, Hamilton Island’s Instagram account quickly amassed tens of thousands of followers after its launch. Visitors began using hashtag #HamiltonIsland on their own as well.
“We’ve been very lucky that visitors have always wanted to share and interact with us,” says Aida Merdovic, Director of Online for Hamilton Island. “We see about 4,500 hashtagged Instagram posts each month about the island.”
Social engagement is a “double-edged sword” for travel vendors
Hamilton Island wanted to make these posts central to its marketing efforts. “Social media has become an essential part of the travel experience,” Merdovic says. “But it’s a double-edged sword. When travelers share every intimate detail of their holiday, it leaves very little room for surprise and delight.”
Hamilton Island works to meet the challenge through constant reinvention and innovation. “We take a fundamentally different approach to marketing,” says Merdovic. “We are no longer just a brand telling our own story in our own words.”
Social hub provides a real-time view of authentic visitor experiences
The Hamilton Island team is working to weave user-generated content (UGC) throughout its communications. Its strategy: spotlight guest perspectives, allowing their voices—and especially their photos—be the focus of brand communications throughout the travel purchasing funnel.
To help inspire prospective guests and build purchase intent with returning visitors, UGC is now a central component of the redesigned Hamilton Island website. A curated Live from #HamiltonIsland social hub, powered by Stackla, features posts from current guests and gives potential visitors a real-time view of the island’s vivid scenery—as well as blog posts and other content generated by the marketing and online team. Filters for activities, accommodations, events, and so on also help guests find the content they care most about, making it easier for them to envision their own stay.
“Not only is this user-generated content reinforcing our brand messages through guest endorsement, it’s also strengthening the destination’s social following—a community made up of over 150,000 dedicated fans across both our Hamilton Island and qualia accounts,” Merdovic says.
Live event displays deliver a 3x increase in engagement
Several events happen on the island throughout the year. The most prominent of these is Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, which draws hundreds of yachts from around the world for a series of regattas. The 2014 event marked the first time Hamilton Island incorporated live Stackla-powered UGC displays into the proceedings.
Guests’ social posts were aggregated, curated, and displayed throughout the week on large screens around the island. This strategy helped to boost engagement with the #hamiltonisland and #AHIRW hashtags. “Engagement with our hashtags increased threefold versus the previous year,” says Merdovic. “We attribute much of this success to the visibility of the public feeds.”
Social ROI nearly doubles after launch of UGC-powered website
Merdovic calculates ROI for Hamilton Island’s investments in social media and UGC based on three key metrics:
1. Leads and conversions received from social sources
2. Equivalent media value of social mentions and traffic
3. Content production savings
Based on this equation, she says, “we nearly doubled our ROI for social in the month following the launch of our new website. We have seen the growth rate of guest engagement and follower numbers on social media almost double week on week across all platforms as well.”
Internal social hubs help sales teams sell the dream
UGC is helping to inspire not just prospective visitors, but Hamilton Island employees as well. To help remind its Sydney-based sales team of the experience they are selling, Hamilton Island displays unfiltered social content from guests on large screens in its reservations call center.
This real-time view of what guests are experience on the island every day enables sales consultants to engage more authentically and deeply with prospective guests beyond the transactional process. “The consultants love having a constant reminder that they’re not selling nuts and bolts—they’re selling the dream,” says Merdovic.
Next up: UGC throughout the marketing mix
Based on the success and ROI it has achieved thus far, Hamilton Island plans to expand its use of UGC throughout the marketing mix. Merdovic’s team will use Stackla to manage competitions, UGC-powered ad campaigns, and live UGC-driven signage within airports in the coming months.
“The sharing of and commenting on inspiring images is a great way to harness the power of storytelling,” says Merdovic. “Through our new website and social media activity, we want to continue empowering people to showcase the beauty of Hamilton Island’s Great Barrier Reef destination—and in return, inspire others to come and experience it for themselves.”