Creating a User-Generated Content Strategy

By Alex Gaggioli, June 17, 2016

User-generated content is one of the best ways to invigorate your social media strategy and build a larger following. User-generated content is a form of social proof that shows guests an authentic view of your property. Here we’ll show you how to use different types of user-generated content in your web strategy.

What is User-Generated Content and Why is it Important?  

User-generated content hammock 

User-generated content includes videos, photos, reviews, and blog posts, that are created by someone other than the business’ representative. User-generated content is valuable because it represents what actual customers, guests, and users think and feel about a company’s product or offering. Businesses win on social media when they feel authentic and unmanufactured.  

There are two types of user-generated content that are widely available to hospitality properties.

Photos and Videos: Travelers love to share visual content, especially on Instagram, and sometimes Twitter.

Reviews and Comments: TripAdvisor reviews, Google reviews, and Yelp reviews can be used to your advantage. Many times people won’t consider reviews user-generated content that you can use. But, positive comments and interesting tidbits are excellent things to share.

People love user-generated content. 84% of Millennials report that it has an influence on purchasing decisions when it appears on websites, according to Buffer. Travelers have become accustomed to perfect, professional pictures on the property’s website. But, now they want more. Professional hotel photos are often “too perfect” and therefore inauthentic. User-generated photos can help give a sense of what it looks like when people are actually in the room or on the property.

In short, user-generated content helps you present an authentic image of your hotel while saving you time and energy generating content.

How to Source User-Generated Content for Instagram

User-generated content

In order to find the best user-generated content, you’re going to have to identify what it is you’re looking for. Because you’re a travel brand, life is a little bit easier. You will likely choose an Instagram theme that focuses on your general destination, rather than a hyper-focused subject matter. We suggest choosing a theme that gives you flexibility. Share content from guests using your hashtag, non-guests who post pictures of your destination, and even popular culture that might affect your property.

For example, if you’re a ski lodge in Aspen, you can share images of people hanging out by the fireplace, people skiing on a local mountain range, and also about local weather patterns. All of these instances fit with your overall subject.

After you decide what you’re going to share, you need to figure out how to find it. The easiest way to find user-generated content is through a branded hashtag. First you’ll need to establish a hashtag for your brand and advertise it to your current guests. Choose a hashtag that is simple and easy to remember. For Cloudbeds, we could use something as simple as #Cloudbeds.

Then, once people start sharing pictures of their travels, they can hashtag their photos appropriately. The only pain point here is getting people to actually use your hashtags. At check-in, you can tell people about your social channels and your hashtags, or have signage up in appropriate areas around your property. It may take some time for your guests to start using your hashtag, especially if your channels are new.

If people aren’t using your hashtags, there’s no reason to fret. You can search other hashtags to find relevant photos. In the case of Aspen, you could try using #Aspen #Colorado #Ski, and other related keywords. Once you search for one keyword, Instagram will recommend related hashtags to help you search.

Searching for photos using hashtags in Instagram is fairly easy. Navigate to the discover page using the magnify glass on the bottom navigation, and type in hashtag you’re looking for in the search box.

Aspen Instagram Photo Tag

Then, Instagram will show you the top posts for that hashtag, They use a combination of likes and timeliness to determine which pictures appear in the top section. Then below, you’ll find a live stream of the most recent photos that have used that tag. From there, you can identify which pictures you’d like to post on your feed.

Buffer mentions other tools such as Tagboard and Talkwalker to find images using hashtags, but Instagram works great on its own (and it’s free!).

How to Post User-Generated Content

User-generated content 3

The best way to post user-generated content is to ask permission. You can do this by commenting on the user’s photo or simply direct messaging them through Instagram. After you obtain permission, you can use an app like Instagrab to post the user’s photo to your timeline. Instagrab is a free app that allows you to quickly share other people’s photos to your account. The app will apply a badge to the photo and link to the original account in the caption.

Where to Use User-Generated Content Other Than Instagram

Most brands will implement a user-generated strategy only on their Instagram. However, you can use these photos and videos on other platforms like Facebook and your own website. Depending on which website platform you use, it may have an Instagram widget that displays your feed on the site, like you’ll see on Scorpion Bay Hotel.

Using Your Guests’ Reviews

As mentioned above, your positive reviews and testimonials are a great form of social proof. Reviews are a popular mechanism for guests to give feedback and you can use it to your advantage.

Where to Find Guest Reviews

TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google business listings, and your own website are the best sources for guest reviews. Find the best positive reviews with good sound bites such as “the staff was incredible, cannot wait to come back!” You likely don’t want to promote your negative reviews, however there is a hilarious restaurant in San Diego that recorded someone saying all their negative reviews and it plays out loud in their bathroom. So needless to say, you could get creative if your brand allows it.

Where to Promote Your Reviews

We recommend including testimonials on your website. There are a few places you should include them. On your homepage, you can include blocks that show one or more of your best reviews. In your booking widget, showcase reviews that are specific to certain rooms, like suites or other distinguishable room types.

If your property has a blog (it should), you could write an article about “the top things people love at our property” or “the top amenities our guests rave about”. Also consider creating a testimonials page to highlight your top reviews. This gives potential travelers a quick glance at how previous guests felt about your property.

Potential travelers are looking for affirmation and social proof. Your website has the opportunity to provide the last nudge travelers need to book.

Social Media Captions

You can also find ways to use reviews on your social channels. Reviews make great captions. For example, if someone raved about your Aspen Lodge’s hot tub and its great views of the ocean, you can use it as a caption to a great photo. You can use reviews on captions on almost any of the sites including: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even Pinterest.

Other Places to Find User-Generated Content

Instagram and reviews are generally the easiest places to source good user-generated content. You can also find content on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, they just do not make it as easy.

On Facebook, you can use the search bar to find people who have used your hashtag. However, far fewer people use hashtags on Facebook as they do on Instagram and Twitter because it’s not as well built into their infrastructure. From the beginning, Instagram and Twitter’s culture fully embraced the hashtag. Facebook added it later on and it has not gone mainstream. Many people have strict privacy settings on Facebook that won’t allow people who aren’t their friends to see their posts, even if they’re hashtagged.

You can also search hashtags on Twitter, but because the platform has fallen out of mainstream culture, you may have mixed results.


Creating and maintaining your social presence can be a handful. Taking quality photos and writing interesting captions take time and effort. A user-generated content strategy will not automate the process, but it will help fill your social timelines. It will also help you think of creative posts and tell you what your guests are interested in. Use localized content to help fuel your social growth and start reaping the benefits.

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