This article is part of RootsRated's new "Adventures in Marketing" beat, covering the business of content marketing for the travel and tourism industry. We hope you enjoy it, and if you'd like to know more about how RootsRated helps companies connect with passionate outdoor enthusiasts, request a demo here.

1. User-Generated Content – Turning Your Audience into Storytellers

Capturing the sunset.
Capturing the sunset. Jordan McQueen

Let’s start with user-generated content (UGC), because there is really nothing more authentic than content created by and for your target audience. Positive and compelling UGC, especially photos–which outperform text and are even more coveted in the image-driven travel market–is like free money to a marketer.

According to a study by Chase Marriott Rewards, 97 percent of millennial travelers post on social networks and share experiences while traveling, with 73 percent posting at least once a day. Imagine the difference it would make if even just a fraction of that content focused on your brand.

Consider the impact of an outdoor enthusiast who posts from the top of a destination’s tallest peak and says it’s worthy of a #bucketlist on Snapchat, Instagram or any other social media platform. His quickly-snapped image and handful of words have become the modern-day version of customer referrals and good word of mouth, which is precisely the sort of recommendation that people trust most. UGC is honest and compelling, placing your target audience at the center of your marketing efforts, right where they belong.

It’s also earned promotion, and according to 84 percent of the marketers who participated in a Nielsen Trust in Advertising Report, earned media is by far the most influential. UGC allows your audience to step into the driver’s seat and do the talking for you, providing validation that your destination is worthy of engagement. This can go a long way towards building trust with your audience.

UGC doesn’t have to live on social media alone, however. Some marketers wisely choose to incorporate customer reviews into all of their marketing channels, including their own websites, or prompt an entire campaign that relies on users sharing their thoughts, images and ideas. DMOs such as the Wyoming Office of Tourism regularly host contests around UGC, awarding prizes to those who generate brand-related content and engage with their audience.

“We also play videos informing travelers about our hashtags in all of our visitor centers, encouraging them to share their experiences live,” says Chris Mickey of the Wyoming Office of Tourism.

They’re not the only ones encouraging UGC. In 2015, Marriott began providing guests with complimentary GoPro cameras at select hotels and resorts, prompting them to share their experiences. The innovative approach turned guests into brand ambassadors, not just winning them over but also charming the millions of viewers who suddenly had a front-row seat for their travel experiences.

Even if marketers decide not to repurpose the content across their own channels, UGC provides an incredible amount of insight, which is valuable on its own. UGC is as organic and authentic as it gets; so much so, in fact, it may be better to think of it as Unique, Genuine Content.

2. Custom Content – Make Your Audience Feel Special

Brainstorming session over espresso.
Brainstorming session over espresso. Alejandro Escamilla

Research shows that custom content also increases engagement and trust because customers feel tailored to, which can be a strong motivator when it comes to travel. In fact a whopping 70 percent of consumers prefer to get to know a company via content instead of ads, says the Content Marketing Institute.

Rather than trying to be all things to all people, custom content allows you to craft the right content at the right time, so you tell the story your customer wants to hear, rather than the story you assumed they wanted to hear. Want to attract families? Follow New Orleans’ lead and create itineraries for families with young children. Looking to lure those who’ve never been to your destination? Publish content specifically for first-timers.

Like the perfect first date, custom content signals you care enough to create something special, not just the same ol,’ feed-the-masses clutter that customers today think of as noise. Custom content cuts through all of that and gets at the heart of what customers are after— whether that’s inspirational, motivational, or somewhere in between.

3. Licensed content – Choose Your Friends Wisely

Enjoying the afternoon with friends.
Enjoying the afternoon with friends. Ben Duchac

Speedy and efficient, licensed content from reputable sources adds cachet to a brand. Suddenly you’re cool by association, even if you didn’t create the content yourself. When curated effectively, it helps brands scale their campaigns with authentic, targeted content from trusted sources.

One Nielsen study found that 85 percent of consumers seek trusted third-party content -- articles and reviews written by credible sources -- when considering a purchase. It also found that expert content lifted brand familiarity 88 percent more than branded content, and 50 percent more than user reviews. By allowing experts to craft the content for them, brands save time and money while elevating their profile at the same time.

Licensed content also allows you to share content across social media and link back to your own site rather than a third party site, generating traffic. Over time, this helps SEO by providing a greater number of pages for indexing and showing social traction to search engines.

While some scoff at the cost of licensing content, consider the cost of strategizing, conceiving, and creating the content across a multitude of platforms yourself and it becomes clear why so many brands are opting to use it.

RootsRated helps companies connect with passionate active travelers and outdoor enthusiasts through exclusive and syndicated storytelling; learn more and request a demo.

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