A number of travel companies find themselves struggling to create enough content for their marketing strategies, but what they don't realise is that they actually needn't put in so much effort, as there is a goldmine of available content out there for them to harness: user-generated content.

As a number of news outlets and marketing specialist sites have reported, user-generated content is changing content marketing dramatically – particularly for the travel industry. Nowadays content marketing is as much about broadcasting company-created content as it is highlighting the content created by users or customers; and as audiences have more power than ever before, making them part of the conversation is crucial.

Especially so for the travel industry. According to an article on Skift, 72% of consumers post photos on a social network while on holiday and 76% post them after they return. This equates to 80 million photos every day on Instagram, and 350 million photos per day on Facebook. Harnessing the compelling (and free!) images posted by consumers allows a travel brand – be it hotel or airline – to showcase the positive experiences of their customers in an authentic manner; this will lead to better customer engagement, more customer acquisition and reduces the cost of creating in-house content.

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And it's important to mention that a recent study has found that millennials love user-generated content, too. Crowdtrap and Ipsos combined to question 839 millennials (those aged between 18 and 36) on their attitudes to media and it was discovered that they respond differently than other age groups to traditional media. This demographic prefer user-generated content – images and posts created by their peers.

Millennials spend a staggering 18 hours per day interacting with media, whether online or in print, and 30% of that time is spent looking at user-generated media. The majority (71%) also view content on social media sites every day and 11% watch television at least once a day, too.

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The type of content created can be anything from a blog or review, image, video of simple status update. The respondents claim that user-generated content such as this is 35% more memorable than other media, and 50% more trusted. Because of this user-generated content has a significant impact on millennial spending – it is 20% more influential than other forms of media, with 45% using it to influence their hotel choice and 40% allowing it to influence their travel plans.

Some travel companies have already jumped on the user-generated content bandwagon. The Canadian airline WestJet used the hashtag #WestJetChristmas last year to create a hub on their blog for user-generated content, and recorded a 182% increase in website visitors compared to last year, a 300% increase in traffic to the WestJet Christmas Campaign landing page and a 63% increase in time spent on the site compared to last year.

Savvy travel businesses should follow in WestJet's footsteps and seek to utilise user-generated content as much as possible. Instead of creating content, they should seek to create opportunities for users to create the content themselves.

© Digital Trip