Grow your brand with user-generated content

The ubiquitous presence of social media has instilled a fundamental drive in Millennials to share their experiences in public for the benefit of the larger community. By establishing online forums for themselves, they’ve shifted influence over buying decisions from brands to each other. In today’s world of social transparency, you can post a question about a new restaurant or hotel and get instantaneous feedback from a group of peers. This creates challenges for brands in terms of managing the online conversation, but it also provides new avenues and opportunities for reaching consumers directly.

User-generated content in travel planning

Reviews posted on sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor clearly guide consumer travel and buying decisions. A recent study determined that user-generated content (UGC)—ratings, reviews and observations on social media—influences Millennial buyers 50% more than traditional media does. These consumers find UGC 35 percent more memorable, making this content a gold mine for marketers.

The common thread between all these social platforms is community collaboration—real people sharing their experiences to provide useful information for others. In fact, this trend prompted Time magazine to declare UGC the “Person of the Year” in 2006.

How top brands are optimizing UGC

Smart travel and hospitality brands are embracing UGC and the opportunities it offers. Airbnb displays numerical and contextual ratings and reviews for each of its listings. Large hotel chains use Facebook to communicate directly with their visitors, and TripAdvisor has become a travel recommendation engine. Millennials are less likely than other generations to make a purchasing decision without consulting UGC: 39% of their hotel purchases and 32% of their travel purchases are not completed before they look at reviews on a variety of platforms.

In this environment, keeping pace requires not only reaching consumers directly on social media, but also paying close attention to conversations to determine trends and preferences. Guests no longer leave feedback on paper for hotel staff—they post it in the public domain. Travel and hospitality companies need to incorporate UGC into their customer experience strategy to get this feedback efficiently and act on it.

Listening for comments about your brand can prevent errant negative comments from going viral. For example, when a guest complains about room service on a social platform, you can quickly remedy the situation with a brief apology and a gift certificate for an on-property restaurant or spa service. According to a TripAdvisor study, hotels that respond to reviews are 21% more likely to receive booking inquiries via TripAdvisor than those that don’t. So paying attention to online reviews isn’t just a best practice for customer service—it can also lead to revenue growth.

By listening to feedback, responding to reviews in a timely fashion and encouraging more guests to share their positive experiences, travel and hospitality companies can leverage UGC to grow their brand reputations online with customers of all ages.

To learn more about improving your relationship with Millennial consumers, read our article “Help a new generation of travelers collect memories, not things.”