Reaching your audience isn’t enough. You have to speak with their voice.

Courtesy: @ Vincent_Lewis, Instagram

The social media machine demands a specific voice. Posts have to be cute but not try too hard, be humorous but not slapstick, and ultimately, make people feel compelled to enact the gold standard of engagement: hit the “share” button.

As a Content Strategist, I’m always look for content that is “social-first” — content that looks like it belongs. User Generated Content (UGC) is a great way to do just that.

But doubling down on UGC isn’t simple. User-made content is just one criteria to creating a successful social media strategy. When we utilize social media, we want to provide content that melds with the other content on the platform. We want to come across like your friends do; posting videos that inspire wanderlust, cueing in on social trends and engaging in two-way conversations.

Successfully using social media with UGC is especially important for Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs). Audiences are heavily influenced by positive recommendations from family, friends and rating sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp and FourSquare. They want to read about (and see) a destination from someone like them.

Potential travelers usually don’t go to government visitor’s websites or seek out standard advertising. They look for genuine opinions.

Social media has the potential to fill that gap.

What successful UGC looks like

Every day, thousands of people post about the places they’re exploring. Delicious food, amazing landscapes, inspiring architecture– travelers capture and share all of that and more. These posts generate excitement and visibility for destinations.

What makes user generated content work?

Audiences can imagine they are the one doing the activity. At its best, this type of content shows audiences an intimate first person point of view. Good UGC used in the correct way can show what a destination is “really” like, and a low cost too.

Destinations on the beach are a prime example for how to take advantage of social media’s potential. Too often, beach marketing is the same generic couple running down the beach at sunset, kicking water with their feet as the waves roll in. It’s so generic, it could be any beach. Based on that type of advertisement, there’s no reason for people to visit that beach over any other beach.

Imagine seeing a Snapchat from your friend of the same beach with the caption “I love this place so much!” The underlying magic here is that your friend loves that place so much, they took the time to make a short video and caption it and then share it. And if they like that beach so much, you might like it just as much. Maybe you should visit.

Video — the most engaging UGC type

User generated content can be powerful. But, there’s one form that speaks louder than the others. Video is the big dog of UGC.

Video has been all the rage for the last two years. But not just any video will do. Audiences want to feel transported.

A thirty second clip of people riding horses, ATV’s and skydiving over tropical waters is fun, but what if we did it with a POV angle? We can send the consumer plummeting towards paradise, galloping across the beach on horseback, or on a thrilling ride down the coastline at sunset. And you don’t have to send out a full crew to do and film each of those activities. In fact, you can collect POV content with ease.

Content aggregators like Chute make it possible to pull content directly from the consumer. We can see and use the content that people upload, allowing us to source in real-time with 1 click. There are drawbacks to be sure. But properly used UGC adds a new perspective to social media strategies and marketing strategies overall.

Speaking directly to your audience

UGC can be amazing sleight of hand. It can pull back the curtain on audience personas and cut directly to an experience. The social media world still has a lot of growing to do; you probably won’t find too many Instagram posts from grandparents or Snapchats from Dad’s with their kids. But that is rapidly changing and as it stands, social media still reaches large swaths of demographics.

The destination market is saturated. Messaging and visuals that could be from Anywhere USA– any beach, any mountain, any cute town or bustling city.

How are you going to differentiate yourself from the noise? One way to show what makes you stand apart is with the genuine voice of the people that have visited.

UGC is still in its infancy. There will be missteps and pitfalls. And you must be careful about what you use and how you use it. But we are constantly pushing ourselves to assess: “Are we adding value to the destination marketing conversation, or are we just adding noise?”

Used the wrong way, UGC is just another noise maker, but its unique qualities make it a tool with a lot of potential.

Reaching your audience isn’t enough. You have to speak with their voice. was originally published in makestorieshuman on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.