Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Boosts Social Growth By 150% with Authentic Content

Results with Stackla-powered UGC:

  • 150% increase in social growth across all platforms
  • 500% increase in Instagram growth
  • 80% reduction in time spent sourcing and creating content
  • 9 million impressions on UGC content on website and in emails
  • 20,000 increase in magazine print run

Leading Australian regional tourism brand Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism relies on user-generated content (UGC) as an essential component of their omnichannel marketing strategy. As a non-profit organization representing the wine and tourism industry, Hunter Valley is the brains behind the strategies for both the region’s consumer and trade content channels.

For locals, tourists and experts alike, Hunter Valley represents all of the best ways to experience the area. A perfectly picturesque landscape lays the groundwork for a memorable stay, fueled by good wine, good friends and, most importantly, good photo opportunities.

When Hunter Valley revamped its website in 2016, Caron Reynolds, Hunter’s Valley’s Digital & Marketing Specialist, knew there was an opportunity to showcase more of the highly-valuable social content their customers were consistently creating. “We didn’t have a social media aggregation tool, so we were having to engage with our followers manually,” said Reynolds. “It was an important priority to be able to easily curate that social content, because it was performing really well on our social channels.” The team looked to Stackla to solve their content problems — now, they’re leveraging authentic content across their social channels, website, print magazine and events.

A focus on authentic social media content results in a 150% boost in followers

Hunter Valley made the switch to feature majority customer-created content across their social channels — and it’s working. With customers as the face of their brand, Hunter Valley fosters engagement and community for new and return visitors alike. Since implementing Stackla, Hunter Valley has seen follower count across all social platforms increase by 150 percent, and they’ve increased their Instagram followers by 500 percent.

By rights managing the content they like, Hunter Valley has amassed a huge repository of digital assets ready to be used across their channels. “Our visitors end up being the best advocates for our regions,” says Reynolds. “Everyone we reach out to is happy and forthcoming for us to use their content. When they’re in Hunter Valley, they’ve had a great time. It’s up to us to show that to the world.”

“Everyone we reach out to is happy and forthcoming for us to use their content. When they’re in Hunter Valley, they’ve had a great time. It’s up to us to show that to the world.”Caron Reynolds, Digital & Marketing Specialist, Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism

The team leverages Stacka’s Asset Manager to run campaigns that bring in specialized content they can also feature in galleries on the website. “We did a campaign last year, #HunterHounds, which was really popular,” said Reynolds. “Getting people out to see the wine dogs resonated quite well, and a ton of people came out to take pictures with them.” Customers were excited to participate in the campaign and share pictures of their own dogs while at the vineyard. With the Asset Manager, Hunter Valley could easily aggregate all of the #HunterHounds posts and publish their favorites across their social channels.

Rewarding customers by sharing their content is essential to developing a community-centric customer experience. And, when 51 percent of consumers say they’d be more likely to continue engaging with and purchasing from a brand if it shared their photo, video or social post across its marketing, it’s a proven successful customer engagement strategy.

In web galleries, Hunter Valley engages and entices visitors with authentic content

Featuring the most compelling content — the posts created by customers — on their website was a no-brainer to the Hunter Valley team. “The website was one of the first channels we wanted to do, but we didn’t want it to be a generic-looking website feed,” said Reynolds. “We really wanted it to come from the consumer’s perspective, and that’s why we thought Stackla would be great. We could handpick the content that was going up on the site, and it wouldn’t just be us talking about ourselves all the time.

With content like the photos and videos in the feed above, it’s no surprise that Hunter Valley chose to feature a gallery right on the homepage. But, they didn’t stop there. In order to extend the content experience, Hunter Valley implemented galleries of authentic customer content across the site, with dedicated galleries for event content.

As Reynolds says, they don’t worry about receiving great content from their customers. “People create fantastic content,” she says. “Some brands have to pay for influencers, but we don’t. They come out anyway, and they’re quite happy to share their content with us.” And that organic content is working. Since implementation, the authentic UGC content they publish on the website and in emails has received 9 million impressions.

With UGC, Hunter Valley also gives customers an inside look into one of the most exciting times in a winery’s season: the vintage. One of the most important times in a winemaker’s calendar year, the wine vintage is the point of the season when the wine’s grapes are harvested and processed to create the wine we know and love. And, you guessed it — that means a whole lot of purple feet and hands from crushing all those wine grapes (and a whole lot of UGC created, too!).

Hunter Valley invites industry partners to participate in the vintage, making for an exciting and inclusive event. “For vintage, we get all of the wine industry to get engaged with us on social and share their tags with us,” said Reynolds. “Then, we link back to a single page so people can see what’s going on. The content resonates quite well with consumers and trade. They love to see what’s going on in real time!”

With these live galleries set up on the dedicated year’s vintage webpage, Hunter Valley can engage both their partners in the industry and their customers. “We don’t keep Stackla specific to the consumer,” said Reynolds. “Engaging with this content works well with our industry trade as well.”

Highlighting the best UGC of the month in email newsletters increases engagement

With success across the UGC galleries published on the website, the Hunter Valley grew its omnichannel strategy by incorporating those authentic visuals into email newsletters.

“It’s another content layer that shows what’s going on that month,” says Reynolds. “At the end of each newsletter email, we show the three best UGC images that feature the recent events. They get quite good click throughs as well.” Featuring that authentic content has helped them achieve an email clickthrough rate that’s one percent higher than the industry average.

Sifting through thousands of pieces of user-generated content to feature in these emails is easy with Co-Pilot, Stackla’s AI engine. “It’s great that in the backend of the product we can drill down to find all the content that’s similar, with tags like ”fire” or ”wine,’” says Reynolds. “Co-Pilot has been great. It helps us find what we’re looking for when we’re looking to have a bit more diversity on our platform.”

“It can pull some of the best images, which is what you want. You want the technology to be nice and automated and easy for you to find high-quality content.”

For the team at Hunter Valley, Co-Pilot makes it easy to source the best images they need for their newsletters (and all their other content channels). “It can pull some of the best images, which is what you want,” says Reynolds. “You want the technology to be nice and automated and easy for you to find high-quality content.” To date, the team has sourced 150,800 UGC images and published over 2,400 assets across all their channels.

Publishing UGC in the magazine extends the touchpoint to print

The team also publishes Hunter Valley Magazine to inspire readers to take their own journey through the beautiful, vineyard-covered hills of Hunter Valley. “We like to use UGC within the printed publication,” says Reynolds. “It’s great to have the rights management tool available for that channel as well.”

Reynolds especially relies on Co-Pilot when sourcing imagery for the magazine. “It’s a lot easier once you’re in the platform looking for those photos. You can find better imagery than trying to sit on Instagram and search,” said Reynolds. “And, since it’s all automated in the backend and rights-managed, we know we have those photos ready to use.”

Having those photos ready and available makes preparation for printing that much easier — and saves the team time. “Before Stackla, we’d have to save all those photos with notes,” says Reynolds. “Now, I know I can just go into the back catalog and we have the approvals there. We can just pick and choose which images we want to go into the magazine.” Previously, the team was spending over five hours per week sourcing content and engagement numbers. Now, with Stackla, that time spent has been reduced to only one hour per week — an 80 percent time savings for their team.

With authentic, rights-approved customer photos placed throughout the magazine, readers get an inside look into what a stay in Hunter Valley really looks like — and, they feel FOMO, too. This year, the Hunter Valley team increased the magazine’s print run from 130,000 to 150,000 based on the success of their readership.

Real-time UGC screens make for interactive events

The Hunter Valley Wine Festival at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley brings thousands of festival goers each year. This year, the event saw 6,000 attendees — a 20 percent increase from the previous year. With big crowds to accommodate, big content experiences are necessary throughout the festival. So, the Hunter Valley team sets up event screens with feeds of user-generated content that appears as it’s posted. “With the screens, festival goers can see what’s going on in real-time, and it encourages them to post more photos as well,” says Reynolds. “And, it gives us more images to feature, so we end up with a good mix of UGC and professional images throughout the event.”

During and after the event, Hunter Valley incorporates that attendee-created content on a dedicated event webpage on their site. With the live gallery, customers and community members who aren’t attending the event can still follow along with the happenings. Through the campaign featured on the event screens, the team sourced 229 new user-generated content images they can now use for future marketing campaigns.

With UGC at every touchpoint, Hunter Valley provides and promotes memorable experiences

Tapping into user-generated content has transformed Hunter Valley’s marketing strategy. “Stackla has been great for harnessing content that can be used across our platforms,” says Reynolds. “Being a non-profit organization, our budgets are limited. We’re saving thousands by not having to get professional photographers out to do the work for us.”

The robust, authenticity-first content strategy has brought Hunter Valley a step ahead of other players in the industry. “Adding the UGC to our site means our consumers are getting real-life experiences, as opposed to other brands that are still only using branded or professional imagery that just doesn’t cut-through,” says Reynolds. “Instead, when we show the real Hunter Valley, consumers reciprocate better, which is why we’re seeing our social grow so much.”

With these great results, the team at Hunter Valley is excited for the future. They already have plans to utilize Stackla’s ShopSpot functionality to further connect content to commerce while also expanding their online UGC strategy to include Hunter Valley dining experiences. “We love Stackla’s product,” says Reynolds. “I’m constantly telling people they don’t need other platforms, like Crowdriff, that are limited to travel, because at the end of the day, you want the best technology — and Stackla’s platform is ahead of the game.”

Showing the real Hunter Valley in real-time is keeping customers, new and old, coming back to create content time and time again.