Help Your Visitors Help Your Marketing with Their Travel Pictures

Your future marketing opportunity is right in front of you: your current visitors. They are interacting with your brand and impacting future visits. Almost half of all US travelers are inspired and influenced by travel pictures that are posted by their friends (i.e., the people here right now.)

In fact, they trust their friends more than travel experts. That’s why it’s important to have a plan for user-generated images that operates at multiple levels.

Lighthouse shot

Lighthouse Views

On my recent visit to a lighthouse on the Great Lakes, the tour guide made a point to direct everyone to where they could take the iconic photo everyone has seen. It’s the shot that everyone wants and shares. There were two ways to get it: walk up and down what seems like a thousand stairs to the water’s edge or purchase the image in the gift shop. One way or another, everyone leaves the area with the shot. Whether it’s a long-standing national monument like a lighthouse or the Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) in Chicago, these images come to symbolize the place.

  1. Directs visitors to opportunities
  2. Creates channels for user-generated content
  3. Fits with messages you create

IAmsterdam letters tourist destination

Manufactured Shots

But what if you don’t have an iconic visual for visitors to photograph? You can create one! The Hollywood sign in Los Angeles is instantly recognizable and a great example, if not ideal for individual interactions. Recently, cities and destinations have constructed their own signs and placed them where visitors can easily put themselves in the picture. When Amsterdam and Toronto added signs in their cities, the signs became so popular (more than 8,000 photos taken a day in Amsterdam) that residents demanded that they become permanent fixtures. In fact, Amsterdam added additional portable signs that could be moved around the city.

Montana Helena destination selfie-spot

Nudge the Sharing

All of those photos won’t matter if they are not shared with the thousands of friends and followers who are connected with these tourists. You can boost the natural inclination to share with hashtags and fun, onsite reminders, making sure that you mention the platforms used by your audiences. Toronto garnered an estimated 120 million posts on social media with the sign as a backdrop and the hashtag #share3DTO. That’s an impressive reach for a comparatively small investment.

Several destinations have gone beyond one iconic image to create opportunities that tell a complete story. The hotel Ovolo 1888 opened as the first “Instagram Hotel.” With planned “insta-walks” around the grounds, built-in “selfie-space,” and free stays for platform enthusiasts who have more than 10,000 followers, it has fully embraced and actively courted user-generated content from travelers. Others have chosen a simpler route, with “selfie spot” signs and instructions on where to stand for the best results, and contests and rewards for participants.

Multiply Your Exposure

Having user-generated content in the feeds of your social platforms is great, but don’t stop there. Consider adding streams to your website or monitors around your destination. Both will encourage more sharing by your audience as well as increase your reach across channels. Be prepared to monitor the streams to make sure that inappropriate or unrelated content doesn’t make its way to your audience.

Also, consider using images on other platforms or communications in your own efforts. Caution is required here: Just because someone used your hashtag or posted to your site doesn’t mean that you own rights to the image. Follow these simple guidelines for best and ethical practices: contact the user and ask permission; if they own rights to the image, give them credit, and don’t change the image. Additionally, only use the images in the manner that you requested.

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Destination travelers value the experiences of their friends, experts, and influencers even more than celebrities. They look at their pictures, videos, and stories on social platforms. And they talk to them before they decide. Guide their experience with specific instructions and rewards, and recognize them when they do. You’ll find that your guests can do the significant heavy lifting for marketing your destination. You’ll also learn more about them and what they find interesting.

Check out our Destination Marketing eBooks for more detailed information.

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