How Operators Can Leverage Their Customers’ Content

Operators should be leveraging customer UGC in their marketing. Here’s how Flytographer gathers and deploys authentic content at scale

Reading Time: 4 minutes 27 seconds

Operator takeaways

  • User-generated content is critical to any digital marketing strategy
  • Develop a process to acquire content — photos and feedback — from customers
  • Keep it opt-in to ensure trust with your guests
  • There’s no substitute for personal curation — take the time to choose the best photos to represent your experiences

Building an efficient system for user-generated content is one of the holy grails of marketing. Operators’ guests need to provide regular content, it must be collected, and then published. Without a proper process in place, a UGC project can quickly fall apart.

Flytographer, a Vancouver-based, in-destination photography company founded by Nicole Smith, has carried out 35,000 photoshoots in 350 cities across the world. It allows travelers to hire a professional photographer to capture the memories of their holiday. Their UGC project has shared tips and pictures from more than 4,000 customers, boosting their search-engine optimization and social presence.

“There’s only two goals to what we’re trying to create,” Smith says. “One is a rich resource for customers — it’s like a mini Tripadvisor where all the users are verified. They’re people that have just visited there and share what they learned or what they loved. And then the second thing for us is that it’s a way to get content at scale that’s really authentic.”

How they do it

How Operators Can Leverage Their Customers’ Content Arival Ben Finch
After the shoot, each customer is asked to share their travel tips — Natashia Shukla / Unsplash

After every shoot, Flytographer sends the customer an email to ask how everything went, what they liked, what their thoughts on the pictures and photographer were, and whether the guest would recommend them. At the same time, they ask if they would like to share their travel tips, stories, photographs and a testimonial.

Smith says they currently receive about 10 stories to share each day, and expects that to increase as Flytographer returns to full capacity. 

Travel tips are collected through a question and answer-style form, and stories give the customer a little bit more space to breathe. This allows the guests to choose how they would like to share their memories. 

To build the system, Flytographer’s developers created a pipeline from ActiveCampaign, a customer experience automation provider. It supplies a CRM, and a sales and marketing email platform.

The travelers’ tips and photos are automatically pulled from the emails and published on Flytographer’s website in real time. The content is tagged so that it can be filtered easily by the type of shoot the guests purchased. Smith’s favourite is the wedding proposals: “I just love proposals.”

Smith says that there is an approval process for the publication of the UGC, “but the thing is that most people are good. I haven’t had any issues. These are our customers and they have spent an hour with one of our photographers. So that’s not been a problem so far.”

Rather than sharing all the content on social media, the best one or two are chosen to be published so as not to overwhelm Flytographer’s followers.

Always ask permission to publish user-generated content

How Operators Can Leverage Their Customers’ Content Arival Ben Finch
While many people are happy to share, permission should always be asked — Vitor Pinto / Unsplash

Some customers are not happy with their pictures being shared online. Flytogapher is firm on respecting that choice. “It’s very important to us that the customers are doing this because they want to,” Smith says. “It’s opt-in.

“I know there’s other people out there that just assume that they have ownership of all the photos and can post them for marketing. We’re vehemently opposed to that. We think your customer needs to feel good about sharing their photos and want to participate.”

“I wouldn’t want any of my customers to ever feel surprised or upset that their photos are out there.”

The value lies in the content, not the process

How Operators Can Leverage Their Customers’ Content Arival Ben Finch
“It’s often a special trip with special people, and they want that photo that they can put on their wall, and just relive where they were,” Smith says — Patrick Jansen / Unsplash

The tips, stories, photographs and testimonials are where the real value in the UGC lies. Automation just makes it easy to get them out and market to potential customers. “Our customers are everyone from millennials to grandparents — people that value memories,” Smith says. 

But not every operator needs to make an investment in time and technology to build their own UGC process. Companies such as Fotoflo and PicThrive help operators acquire and deploy guest photos. What matters most is that operators leverage the guest content — nothing inspires future bookers more than seeing what the experience could be like. 

“That’s the souvenir they want to come back with — a rich experience of connection. Many of our customers are printing their pictures and putting them on their walls at home.

“It’s a big trip, often a special trip with special people, and they want that photo that’s going to be beautiful that they could print it out, put on their wall, and just relive where they were.

“Our potential customers can see their photos and their rating. It’s very legit, it’s not bought, it’s just an actual customer. They’re all verified and it’s feel-good stuff.”

“From a business perspective, it’s user-generated content that is refreshing daily for us. We get those stories out there really efficiently and really authentically. These are real people. These are the stories straight from the people.”

Hear Nicole Smith deliver a workshop at Arival 360 Orlando about how any tour and activity operator can grow direct traffic and bookings through UGC

Want to delve deeper into how to get great guest photos that help turn shoppers into bookings? Check out the Arival Content MasterClass session Taking Great Photos: Images that Connect & Convert

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


already a member?

Lost your password?


Become an Arival Insider

Included in Free Membership

Included in Arival Pro Membership

The Arival on-demand video library archive
Access to the entire library of over 150 video sessions and webinars

Short, digestible research & trends reports delivering insights into our industry, such as The Tour Operator Outlook for 2021. articles
Topical articles about marketing, tech, operator business and operator stories in all areas of tours, activities & attractions & experiences

Job board access
Find a job from our regular listings, post a resume to the talent network and learn strategies from the job resources articles

New webinars
Helpful, instructional sessions covering subjects such as Mastering Facebook Ads, Grow Your Business and How To Work With OTAs — topics to help advance your business.

Discounts on all Arival in-person events
20% Discount on all Arival in-person events (save up to $300)* based on business type

Arival ProShield – Insurance program
Access to tailored insurance solutions by Granite Insurance is available exclusively for Arival Insider Pro Access Members. Insider Pro Access Members also have access to a suite of resources from Granite Insurance including templates, forms and other informative documents.

Insiders Pro Access member exclusive webinars
Paid membership-only webinars to deepen your understanding of important industry topics.

Job postings & talent directory
Post jobs & connect with candidates most applicable to your business.

Private roundtables to connect, learn and engage
Small, focused and intimate discussions exclusive to Arival Insider Pro Access members.

Full access to Arival’s library of in-depth reports
Up to date, deep analysis of tourism topics ranging from Self-guided Tours to Sales & Distribution Trends and Outlooks, based on the data that defines the industry.

The latest on-demand videos
Over 350+ on-demand videos featuring hot topics in tours, activities & attractions

Insider discounts in digital marketing, tech, e-learning, and more
Save money on additional tools, services and learnings you need to run your business. Exclusive to paid members.

Membership Overview

At Arival, we believe travel can make the world a better place. Our mission is to establish and inspire a diverse community of individuals and companies in the In-destination Industry by providing opportunities to gain insight, share knowledge and build connections. To make it possible for true collaboration, creativity, innovation, and idea exchange to thrive, we are committed to facilitating a welcoming and respectful community for all. This Conference Code of Conduct shares our community expectations and applies to all attendees, employees, exhibitors, speakers, sponsors, volunteers, and other participants at Arival- produced and sponsored events. We empower all participants in our community to actively engage in creating a friendly, inclusive and safe environment for all.

Arival’s core values include the following, and create an expectation for conduct at our events and in online community spaces:

We demonstrate a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.
We value integrity and strive to consistently interact with others in ways that are authentic, ethical, and fair.
We are dedicated to transparency, committing to clear, open and honest communication.
We actively pursue and advocate for inclusion, diversity and representation of varying cultural backgrounds, perspectives and ideas

Arival welcomes people from all cultural backgrounds, and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, gender (including pregnancy, perceived pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or related medical conditions), gender identity, religion (including religious dress and grooming), marital status, domestic partner status, genetic information, age, national origin or ancestry, military or veteran status, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or any other basis protected by federal, state, or local laws.

Accordingly, participants must refrain from displaying any demeaning, harassing, aggressive, or intimidating behavior or materials that would interfere with others’ experience and participation in our community.

If you witness or are subjected to inappropriate or disruptive behavior or have any other concerns, notify an Arival staff member as soon as possible.

Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will not be tolerated. Arival reserves the right to refuse entry to or remove any party from any event or community space at any time when participation or behavior create a disruption or hinder the event or enjoyment of the event by other participants. All determinations are at the sole discretion of Arival, and the decision of the Arival team will be final. Severe breaches of this Conference Code of Conduct may result in disqualification from participating in future events. Individuals expelled due to violating this Conference Code of Conduct will not be eligible for a refund or other consolation.

If you have questions regarding this Conference Code of Conduct or its implementation, please contact us at [email protected].