Every now and then I ask people who run consumer-facing businesses what they think their most effective social network is. I’d say around 70% of these people say Facebook. The other 30% is evenly split between Twitter and Instagram.
Surprisingly, this isn't the case. In reality your most effective social network isn’t your Facebook, it isn’t your Twitter and it isn’t your Instagram; it’s the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts of your customers!
The people who book your tour and activities are more than just customers – they’re your marketers! Each and every one of them has a smartphone which means they can market your business for you via user-generated content. If you can get them to do this, you’ll reach potential customers in arguably the most effective way because user-generated content is your most powerful marketing tool.
Why? -- Well, do you know what’s more effective than telling your 10,000 Facebook fans ‘Hey everybody, we’re great!’? 100 people saying the same thing to their online network! This is because it’s a far more genuine message.
How can I generate user-generated content?
You’re probably wondering how to create this content. There are a lot of ways to do it, on a lot of different channels. But the most effective way is having a company hashtag. If you have one and you tell your groups about it, they’ll subsequently share content on social media with that hashtag. You’ll subsequently reach a new audience but also have the opportunity to share this content.
Here are four quick tips for creating a good hashtag:
1. Keep it short
The original social network for hashtags is Twitter (even though they didn’t actually create them). This microblogging platform famously only allows users to have 140 characters in a tweet so you don’t want your hashtag taking up too much room. As a rule of thumb, try to keep it to 15 characters – the number of characters you’re allowed have in a Twitter handle.
2. Keep it relevant
The main objective with your hashtag is for others to market your tour or activity for you. With this in mind, your hashtag must do that at a glance. Make sure it isn’t cryptic. The name of your tour is a good place to start. If you can also get the destination in there -- great!
3. Keep them to a minimum
If the main objective with your hashtag is to get others to use it, then you don’t want to confuse them by giving too many of them! Time and time again I see companies loading their posts with too many hashtags. Don’t be one of those businesses! Choose one hashtag and stick with it.
4. Make sure nobody else is using it
If you choose a hashtag that somebody else is using, finding content that’s shared from your tour or activity is going to be very difficult. You're going to have to spend time going through content that has nothing to to with your business! Choose a hashtag that nobody else is using and you’ll find it easily.
There are many other ways you can trigger user-generated content, but I’m going to keep that for another post. Until then, something else you should think about is what sort of content you want people to create.
We love @eljackson 's pictures from exploring Fjord Norway! Here from Kongevegen aka the King's Route near #Lærdal in @visitsognefjord, an ancient route connecting eastern and western Norway. ⠀ ⠀ You'll find the route in Outtt app - @stayouttt ( #📷 @eljackson via @latermedia )⠀ #fjordnorway #visitnorway #visitsognefjord #Kongevegen
A photo posted by Fjord Norway (@fjordnorway) on
TrekkSoft customer Fjord Norway, the official tourism board of Norway's fjord region, does a brilliant job at integrating user-generated content with its wider marketing! Their hashtag on Instagram is simply #fjordnorway.
What type of user-generated content is the best?
Reviews are obviously extremely important, but I don’t see that the same as content – they’re opinions that are (hopefully!) complimentary of your business. Instead you’re looking for content that you can re-share on your own social channels. Text-only updates -- namely tweets -- are great but they’re not going to sell a tour very well so look for images.
Search through different social networks for content shared from your tours and share the best photos you can find! This brings me to something that is also very important: finding user-generated content.
How do I find this user-generated content?
- The main way is by the aforementioned hashtag. But you have to appreciate that not everybody is going to use the hashtag you’ve given them. They might use their own hashtag that is still connected with your business. To find these pieces of content, search Twitter and Instagram for every variation of your business name possible.
- Another way, which is Instagram-specific, is by content that is geo-located. See if anybody has shared a photo from the starting point of your tour or your offices. If it’s good, share it!
- The final way is Twitter-specific. Simply go to Twitter search and search for the name of your tour and/or activity and you’ll be surprised what you discover.
Don’t just think about your own content – think about your customers’ content too
Follow these steps and you’re bound to come across content on a social network that you can use right away. Choose the right hashtag and you’ll soon have more content being created cross-channel as well. This content, as it’s created by advocates of your business, is by far the most effective type you can create.
Learn about other ways to implement user-generated content with our Ultimate Social Media Guide
Written by Colm Hanratty
Colm is Founder and Managing Director of digital marketing agency Sixtwo Digital. After running Hostelworld.com’s content and social media for almost 11 years he felt it was time to branch out on his own, using all his experience to educate others in the travel space.