As more and more travelers turn to short-form content for trip discovery and inspiration, the stage is set for destination marketing organizations (DMOs) to fully embrace this popular format as the most effective way to engage with today’s audiences.
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Not sure where your travels will take you in 2023? If you’re like most travelers these days, you’ll likely find inspiration for your next trip while glued to your smartphone screen. More than ever, travelers of all ages are searching for and discovering short-form video content to inspire and inform their journeys.
While younger groups such as Gen Z are increasingly turning to platforms like TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts instead of Google Search for trip inspiration and information, older generations are also craving this highly entertaining, authentic, and participatory content format. A 2022 survey from MMGY Global found 40 percent of U.S. travelers aged 30 and older prefer TikTok over Google as a search tool when researching travel.
This is great news for destination marketers, especially in light of a HubSpot report showing that short-form video has the highest return on investment and is the best content format for lead generation. But while the amount and frequency of short-form video DMOs need to post to make an impact is growing, their resources aren’t.
SkiftX spoke with Dan Holowack, CEO and co-founder at CrowdRiff, a visual destination marketing solution, about how outsourcing content to local creators helps address bandwidth challenges and content supply issues, and how its Localhood Stories are providing DMOs with new opportunities to reach potential visitors.
SkiftX: Why is short-form video such a great format for destination discovery and inspiration?
Dan Holowack: Short-form video has captured the hearts and minds of consumers worldwide, especially travelers. These short and entertaining videos are characterized by a clear style, concise content, and fast rhythm, attracting attention within seconds and compelling users to keep watching. It’s a fast and fun way to get information while also being entertained — what’s not to love?
Social channels like Instagram Reels, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts have exploded in popularity because their algorithms deliver streams of short-form video optimized to show content tailored to specific interests. We are living through an evolution from the friend-based social graph perfected by Facebook to the interest-based algorithm popularized by TikTok and replicated by Instagram. This makes short-form video discoverable and turns it into a combination of entertainment and information. Short-form video is also viewed as unfiltered and unbiased compared to highly polished brand content, making it irresistible to travelers.
This is why it’s important for DMOs and businesses serving these travelers to deliver highly relevant, local, and engaging video. Basically, they need to go where the travelers are and adapt their content to a video format that is more effective at promoting a destination or a service.
SkiftX: What makes short-form video so well suited for destination storytelling?
Holowack: Every destination we’ve spoken to recently recognizes that short-form video is no longer a nice to have, but an essential. It’s clearly the format of the future for effective destination storytelling. Short-form videos transmit a lot of information quickly, as evidenced in TikTok’s sudden rise as a search engine. Quick videos merge information with inspiration to deliver a compelling narrative. They provide destination marketers the ability to inspire and share information needed to convert travelers from lookers into bookers. This efficiency means they hold a logical place in destination storytelling.
Short-form video provides an immersive, almost multi-sensory experience for travelers. Images, video, and audio capture the personality of a destination, from the crackle of a campfire to charming downtowns or the vibrant colors of local culinary delights. By consuming short-form videos created by local experts or those who have traveled to a destination, a traveler is much better equipped to imagine what it might be like to visit that destination for themselves.
SkiftX: As leisure travel rebounds, DMOs have been struggling with bandwidth problems and content supply issues. How can outsourcing short-form video help address those challenges?
Holowack: With travel demand back and better than it’s been in years, DMOs are feeling pressure to keep up with creating short-form, vertical video content to win over a share of that wanderlust. Without enough content to keep travelers engaged, DMOs lose the ability to maintain direct relationships with travelers and risk losing them to third-party travel partners. Feeding this need for perpetual content takes a lot of time and creativity.
Partnering with in-destination content creators to get relevant and compelling content is an extremely popular and cost-effective method for DMOs at any stage of their short-form video journey. Some DMOs are just getting started with short-form video. Others have started using TikTok or YouTube Shorts, but find it challenging to keep up. In both cases, these destinations find the solution by partnering with content creators.
By working with content creators, DMOs can access more varied content from people who see and experience the destination differently and are on the ground every day. Producing more diverse and inclusive content promotes the destination to all travelers and increases the likelihood of travelers visiting hidden gems within a destination.
What’s more, DMOs get content produced by creators who use Instagram Reels, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts every day. These experienced creators are in the best position to deliver the variety and quality of video needed for any DMO to be successful, especially on channels that can be difficult to navigate. They know what content resonates, and they know how to film immersive, first-person video for mobile consumption.
The return on investment speaks for itself. Creator-powered video posts are delivering 65 percent more views than traditional video posts from DMOs.
SkiftX: How does having a short-form video presence on Google increase reach, visibility, and discoverability for DMOs? Is it just about increasing organic traffic, or are there other benefits?
Holowack: Social media content like Reels and TikToks are great for inspiration at a high level, but they lack important information and actionable next steps. They don’t give travelers what they need to connect the dots between dreaming and actually planning. Travelers may see their dream hotel or food tour in a Reel or on TikTok, but Google still plays a crucial role in delivering the information needed for travelers to book and convert. Google is on a mission to surface this information in a more visual and engaging way through short-form video.
A new section on Google Search called Visual Stories has gained significant traction over the past year. Reserved only for short-form video, this prominent and eye-catching section is where DMOs can tap into Google’s audience and reach many of the high-intent travelers they weren’t able to reach on their own website.
With our Localhood offering, CrowdRiff has created a solution specifically for DMOs to build and publish this type of short-form content in a format that takes advantage of the opportunity Google provides to increase visibility and boost SEO performance.
Short-form video content on Google can contain links that drive travelers back to a DMO website, making it more actionable than TikToks or Reels. This is highly engaged traffic because travelers have already been searching for terms related to their destination.
SkiftX: How can DMOs keep up with the rigorous posting frequency and volume needed to keep audiences engaged?
Holowack: Again, I strongly recommend working with content creators to tap into higher volumes of more diverse content.
However, working with content creators comes with its own challenges — from sourcing, training, and onboarding creators to educating them on your brand guidelines, drafting and negotiating contracts, managing small individual payments, getting insurance, and providing feedback. There is no doubt that working with creators is its own full-time job, and then some. This is one of the biggest pain points we’ve heard from DMOs and their partners.
To overcome this, I suggest either hiring one or two more full-time people onto your team, or if a DMO is looking to ramp up, outsourcing all of the creator management to an expert has been a popular option. This frees up teams to focus on high-value tasks. At CrowdRiff, we have a specialized team and technology that delivers compelling short-form videos to DMOs at scale, all powered by amazing local creators in a given destination. Our Localhood Creator Solution manages the entire workflow so your team receives the authentic short-form video needed to deliver compelling content on every channel and through every campaign.
SkiftX: Can you leave us with a few final thoughts on how DMOs should be thinking about content creation in 2023, along with a few strong examples of short-form content?
Holowack: Remember, video is the best way to keep viewers engaged and provide an immersive and compelling viewing experience. Localhood is already helping destinations partner with real-life creators to achieve this, as seen in this example showcasing the natural beauty of Monterey, California.
And again, partner with local creators to uncover more authentic experiences or off-the-beaten-track recommendations, like these hidden Southern California gems from one of our creators in this area. In addition, always keep diversity in mind when working with local creators. This story about a wheelchair-accessible corn maze shows how you can highlight attractions that are welcoming to those of all abilities.
Finally, stay away from overly curated, glossy content. It simply doesn’t drive engagement. Instead, show real people having a genuinely good time, even if that means publishing content that doesn’t feel 100 percent perfect. It’s authenticity that counts. To remind ourselves of this, we have a saying: “Published is better than perfect.”
Visit Localhood to learn more about how your destination marketing organization can partner with content creators to share your story.
This content was created collaboratively by CrowdRiff and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.