Social media has changed the destination marketing game significantly over the past decade. It has revamped the rewards program structure, changed how customers give feedback and reviews, and become its own channel for marketing opportunities. In short, it is now a critical feature of any successful marketing organization, offering many benefits for those who use it wisely. Here are three ways social media has impacted destination marketing along with examples of organizations who are making the most of these transformations.


1. It Changed the Rewards Model


Loyalty programs used to offer rewards to customers for repeat purchases only, but nowadays, many brands are giving points and perks to individuals who partake in social media sharing as well.

Marriott hotels, for example, gave out real-time loyalty points to social media users who mentioned the brand on Twitter, resulting in a 100 percent conversion rate, according to Considering that 30% of travellers turn to social media for inspiration (according to MDGadvertizing), it’s not surprising that the rewards program structure is shifting some of its focus.

In an article with Forbes, Wendy Burk, CEO of the travel management company Cadence, gave insight into this shift, especially in regards to Instagram. She said: “Based on a quick search, there are currently 300,000,000 posts tagged with the word “travel,” which averages out to 100,000 posts every day for the last eight years. The tool’s sheer mass can turn an unveiled destination into a tourist hotspot, and it gives consumers the power to create, not just follow, global travel trends.”

Certainly, those numbers make a strong case for shifting the rewards program structure to include social media, and all signs show that this trend will only grow stronger as social media-savvy millennials begin to dominate the market.


2. It Brought Transparency to the Traditional Review Model


There was a time when the most prominent reviews of hotels, destinations and resorts came from esteemed journalists who published in high-profile magazines and newspapers. But online review sites like Trip Advisor changed the status quo by giving ordinary travellers the power to post their opinions along with photos, opening the door for a more transparent view of most travel experiences.

Not too long after, social media added a real-time element to this transparency, giving ordinary folk the ability to review their travel experiences as they were happening—thus, capturing authenticity at its peak.

In fact, travellers find social media reviews so helpful that nearly 89% of millennials plan travel activities based on content posted by their peers online, according to an article by Forbes.


3. It Cultivated New Content: User-Generated Content (UGC)


UGC wasn’t a well-known acronym until recent years, but with the rise of image and video-heavy social media, it is now a force to be reckoned with. Where before stock photos or professional photography were the main sources for most DMO imagery, today, many organizations rely on content that social media users post. From stunning Instagram posts of tourist hot-spots to short vlogs capturing a montage of activities, there are millions of users creating new and alluring content for brands to use for promotion.

UGC has many benefits for DMOs too: First, with proper attribution, the content is often free to use. Second, it’s authentic, which is what most consumers crave in our modern era.

“Due to redundancy, customers have grown tired of overly branded content, so it is quite easy for them to tune it out. What they cannot help but respond to, however, is authentic content generated by fellow customers,” writes  Pius Boachie in an article for Adweek. He adds, “The average person wants to feel a real human connection to your brand before agreeing to buy from you. Consumers browse through social and digital news feeds on their mobile devices to research new and interesting content. If the content is rich enough to capture their attention, they’re more likely to click on offers or promotions.”

The stats agree: According to a report by Nielsen, 92% of people trust the recommendations from people they know and 70% trust opinions posted online by customers. Moreover,  other reports have found that, on video platform sites such as YouTube, UGC fan videos get 10 times more views than brand content.

DMO, Macon, Georgia has harnessed the power of UGC by using it in their advertisements, giving them “an endless source of fresh, cost-effective content to keep [their] ad-exhausted audiences engaged,” says Alyssa Gallion in an article for Simpleview.

There’s no denying a sea change in digital marketing with the rise of social media, and for those who can adapt quickly, this change holds great value.