Think Iowa City Inspires Locals & Attracts Tourists with UGC

Destination marketing organizations (DMOs) have a strong need for quality content, but it’s often a challenge to match the time and resources required to maintain a fresh, creative content strategy. But, that doesn’t mean the content isn’t out there. In fact, travelers are seeking out and sharing meaningful, visual experiences now more than ever — posting 267+ million #travel images on Instagram alone.

Think Iowa City was no stranger to the struggle of producing enough quality visual content to support their multi-channel marketing strategy. Wanting to leverage all the content visitors and residents were sharing throughout Iowa City’s curious community, they knew they needed a user-generated content (UGC) platform that would help them efficiently aggregate and put that engaging content to use everywhere they needed it.

Think Iowa City partnered with Stackla (through their CRM, Simpleview) to find, curate and manage the rights of the rich user-generated content images produced by locals and tourists alike. By optimizing the use of hyper-focused travel keywords, neighboring location searches and targeted hashtags in Stackla, Think Iowa City sourced thousands of UGC images to share across their website, social media channels, advertisements and print.

Website engagement: 69% increase in pages per session, 17% decrease in bounce rate

Once Think Iowa City tapped into this user content with Stackla, web engagement surged. By integrating widgets across the website within their Simpleview CMS, Think Iowa City showcased a rich medley of the best user-generated content, including features of popular restaurants, local activities and seasonal events. And the results show that online visitors are inspired by the content they see; when a user visits a Think Iowa City webpage that features UGC, they view 69 percent more pages per session and their chances of bouncing off the page are decreased by 17 percent.

Now, being featured on the Think Iowa City website has become a badge of honor amongst local and traveling photographers. “When we integrated our widgets on our website, I put a screenshot on our Instagram story telling people to tag us for a chance to have their photos featured,” said Addison Mittelstaedt, Digital Media Coordinator for Think Iowa City.  “It’s crazy how many people started tagging their Instagram photos because they know their photo might be on the front page of our website in our Stackla widget.”

Increased interactions across social media

The website isn’t the only place seeing increased engagement. In Mittlestaedt’s words, “Not only do I use Stackla to pull photos, but I also use it to engage with users in the area. If I see a good photo, I’ll interact with it. I’ve noticed it’s helped a lot with our following and our engagement.”

With so many qualified photos being captured within Stackla, Mittlestaedt monitors Stackla throughout the day. “I look over it every morning. I look for pictures that are captivating that should be shared across our social media. I’ll check again around lunchtime and then before I leave.”

Leveraging these simple social interactions has increased Think Iowa City’s social media engagement and boosted their follower count.

Obtaining rights to visitor content

To ensure they had permission to use these authentic visual assets across any channel they may choose to feature them in going forward — advertisements, printed visitor guides, social channels and more — Think Iowa City utilized Stackla’s robust Rights Management workflows.

Through Stackla, they have secured the rights to hundreds of UGC images using both the Rights via Response and Rights via Registration features.

“I don’t think anyone has ever denied a request. I’ve gotten every single picture I’ve asked for. We’re starting to build a new visitor’s guide. We’ve found awesome photos with Stackla that we’re going to use,” said Mittelstaedt.

Saving time and money: 61,000 UGC images sourced in less than 4 months

In August alone, Think Iowa City had sourced 9,000 UGC images through Stackla. In less than four months, the team has sourced over 61,000 UGC images by utilizing Stackla as their premier content engine.

Previously, the team was spending hours coordinating photoshoots and outsourcing creative to agencies. With Stackla, Think Iowa City has improved website performance, increased social engagement and developed a robust repository of authentic content for use across their marketing channels, all while increasing staff time efficiency.

I brag about it all the time. It has made my job a million times easier. Before, I would have to take days out of my week to go do photoshoots. We used to have to send photographers out to our surrounding towns. There’d be one day a week I’d have to go out and take pictures in bulk. With Stackla, now I have time to do other things with those photos coming in. I rely more on Stackla for those images.Addison Mittelstaedt, Digital Media Coordinator, Think Iowa City