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Marriotts Elviria Marbella

Adopting a User Generated Content strategy for your holiday rental marketing

If you follow the Rental Tonic marketing blog you’ll be accustomed to our banging on about selling the experience, not the accommodation. These days you have to sell the guest experience. Nothing less will do.

There are two ways you can do this through visual content. You can create your own or use the visual experiences of your guests. This is called user generated content.

What is User Generated Content?

UGC isn’t a new medium, but it’s snowballing in terms of its true potential, especially within the travel and accommodation sector. User Generated Content is any content: blogs, images, social media posts, reviews, which have been created and are shared by unpaid contributors, i.e. fans, i.i.e. your guests.

The evolution of visual content marketing

Visual content plays a huge part in how marketers convert consumers to their brand and its come a long way since the days of banner and button advertising. The objective of which was to convince the client of a quick sale, playing up to consumer pricing – something we want to avoid. The visual aspect was uninspiring.

These days the way we create, view and share visual content has become somewhat of a phenomenon. We play out our lives through a camera lens and share it with the world. We are in a moment of perpetual discovery, continuously seeking new experiences to live and share; not just with friends and family, but with like minded people around the world. Our reach is limitless.

Hike along the Rio Chillar in Nerja

Great hike along the Rio Chillar in Nerja. Highly recommended if you’re visiting Andalucía.

Our shared experiences make the consumer buying process more enjoyable. No longer do we have to rely on what a brand tells us. We can find out what like-minded consumers think about a brand or product. We trust ‘people like us’ more than we trust the advertising message. In fact we have at our fingertips visual content that echoes our dream holiday and motivates us to plan and book the next adventure.

As travellers enter into perpetual discovery mode, your task as a holiday rental owner or manager is to grab them with visually exciting content at the inspiration (planning or dreaming stage), before they’ve reached the buying (booking) stage, when you lose them to a hundred other accommodation options.

Reaching your ideal guests through visual content marketing

Consumers attracted to visual content tend to purchase with their heart and are much better at engaging with content and using review systems. Ultimately they are not driven by price, the trigger we most want to avoid, so instead of creating content you should be creating experiences; capturing inspiring, authentic moments that captivate your ideal guests and provoke a reaction.

Visual reviews

Question: What do you think is the more convincing review?

Visual travel reviews

Getting your guests to share their instagrammable moment during their holiday is a super way to grab the attention of potential holiday rental guests who want to visually digest travel experiences. If text reviews already offer potential guests a credible assessment of a travel experience, can you imagine adding a photo? All of a sudden the review becomes even more authentic and anticipated. It instantly humanises your holiday experience.

Customers want to be able to picture themselves in the place of the reviewer, so all visual content should be relatable, not perfect. Nobody can imagine themselves in a stock image. Your focus should always be on content that’s authentic and original.

Will my guests want to share their best moments with me? Some will, some won’t. Take the attitude that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Mention the concept during pre-stay communication, perhaps when you send them your insider’s guide or digital welcome book. You might want to wrap up the request with an offer, such as a discount off future bookings (more repeat guests), or a free welcome pack (happy arrivals).

How should I use them? Visual reviews should be featured across your own holiday rental website, as part of an evergreen social media campaign and linked to within your pre and post stay guest communication.

Getting influencers involved

Leah Travels Instagram

From Leah Travels. Travel writer and photographer.

The next step, or rather ‘big leap’, in your user generated content journey is to get influencers involved in your story. Influencers  – travel bloggers, photographers, instagrammers – take photos of everything: on the way to the airport, on the plane, arrivals hall, in their accommodation and during every moment of their trip. They use geofilters and hashtags to map out their adventure, so their followers feel like they’re travelling with them.

Clever travel brands use these influencers to reach out to new and wider audiences, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t too. Their take on your holiday home could have far reaching possibilities for the future of your holiday rental business.

The thought of reaching out to a travel blogger to ask them to review your holiday experience may seem a daunting thing, but it’s worth a few knock backs. Start by following the top influencers in your region or target market. These might be micro influencers in the grand scheme of global audiences, but they will help you reach and captivate new audiences that you wouldn’t be able to reach on your own steam.

You’ll need to start by building a rapport:

  • Add your expert and, importantly, friendly opinion as comments in some of their blog posts
  • Follow, like, share and retweet their posts to your followers
  • Share your holiday experiences, visual reviews and related travel and destinations news with them via social media
  • Recommend them to your followers and guests as an expert travel blogger for your destination or holiday experience

Once you’ve built that rapport and shortlisted the influencers that are most engaged with your content, you could take it to the next level and ask them to personally review your holiday accommodation.

Before you go wild, you’ll be disappointed if you aim to convince macro influencers to review your holiday. Those guys and gals are earning big bucks from big brands to review their product. Do your research well, identify influencers who are either currently travelling your region or live within a reasonable distance and offer them a stay in your holiday home.

Obviously that’s not going to work for all of you. To get a travel influencer to stay in your holiday accommodation you have to have a pretty special proposition. A unique home, location or a quirkiness that might just grab their attention. This level isn’t for everybody and it will cost you a weekend (that you probably couldn’t fill), but the opportunities are far reaching and outweigh the expense.

Look out for our next article: Five Countries, Five Top Travel Bloggers and Instagrammers to Follow!

Doing it for yourself

While you’re building up your user generated content, there’s no reason why you can’t be creating your own visual content. Think about your holiday experience, what are your instagrammable moments? What moments would evoke your guests to take a photo during their stay?

Until you can get them to capture the best moments for you, you can recreate them through your own eyes. Just remember to make them authenticate and rich with life. Forget photographing your holiday home, step outside and look at what’s around you. Capture the view, the locals, the sunset, the cuisine, the cocktails. Basically capture life. Remember forget picture perfect and focus on the human experience.

Traditional Korev Cornish beer enjoyed along with great views from our garden.

Traditional Korev Cornish beer enjoyed along with great views from our garden.

Where to be

Teeny tiny flamenco bar in Castellar de la Frontera

Vertical images are viewed better on mobile devices.

Ok, so for those taking the first steps onto the social media marketing ladder, the first question is always where should I be? Is it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google Plus, LinkedIN? The answer is everywhere, but don’t panic. There are tools and methods that will help you schedule and share your social media and blog posts, so don’t worry about where.  What you mustn’t lose focus on is the what. It’s the medium that counts. And that medium should be visual content.

Instagram and Snapchat are the visual platforms that have really snowballed in 2016. The most important statistic you need to know about Instagram is that brand engagement is 10 times higher than Facebook, 54 times higher than Pinterest and 84 times higher than Twitter. Revealing Instagram as an essential channel in any travel marketing strategy. (Oh and pizza is the most popular instagrammed food 😉

Top tip: Nearly 80% of social media time is spent viewing on a mobile device, so whilst traditionally we would recommend taking horizontal shots, vertical images and video bring experiences to life better on a mobile device.

Make it actionable

As with any marketing, there’s no point in doing it if there’s no ‘call to action’ or route to purchase, in our case, to book your holiday home. All of your beautiful experiences need to be actionable, so showcase the experience together with a call to action. Your engagement should always follow through, whether that be to your website, advertising listing, email or other sales funnel.

Top takeaways

  • Showcase the experience not the features: think outside the box to highlight your experiences
  • Highlight your best moments, the instagrammable moments: take your guests and followers along for the ride
  • Take them on the journey and provide advice and guidance along the way
  • Use visual and even video reviews: they’re authentic and humanise your experience
  • As always, knowing your ideal customer is key to delivering visual content they want to see
  • When reaching out to travel influencers first research their reach and followers. Do they resonate with your ideal guest persona?
  • Make all customer experiences actionable

What are you waiting for? Go get started creating inspiring visual content!

If you want to find out more about how visual content marketing and user generated content can help your holiday rental business, get in touch with me today and tell me about your instagrammable moment.