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The Impact of Social Media In the Travel Marketing Industry
Posted on March 12th 2014
I will surely refrain from spouting off all the latest and greatest social media marketing numbers. From the gazillion numbers of people on Facebook on Twitter to the rapid rise of Pinterest and Instagram and on and on and on.
I am fairly confident in saying that social media is not a fad. Hard to believe but there are still people who walk among us who still believe that. This just in, the world is not flat, either.
The reason I started this particular piece off this way was for the simple reason that with so many of us humans on one, two or thirty different social media platforms, the point is we are all using social media. Ok not all, but a really, really big number of us to use a not-so-scientific reference.
So with that many people using social media why wouldn't the travel marketing industry be impacted by its use along with essentially every other industry?
Doesn't Marketing 101 dictate to go to where your customers and prospects are? I'm pretty sure it did and still does.
- Approximately one-fifth of leisure travellers worldwide turn to social media platforms for inspiration within different categories of their travel planning including:
- Hotels (23%)
- Vacation activities (22%)
- Attractions (21%)
- Restaurants (17%)
As for which social media platform specifically is most used by travellers, Facebook came in first as per the same research.
The Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts brand is of course one of the most famous brands, not just within the travel and hospitality industry, but across all industries.
In the summer of 2013 their Four Seasons Hotel New York location decided to do something a little different to attract a new demographic: the modern travelling family.
Their specific focus was to try and increase weekend bookings at the hotel.
Partnering with Shoutlet, the hotel came up with a highly engaging and interactive 12 week campaign featuring “Maxine”, a lovable fuzzy plush toy from the TY Monstaz collection. Each week, Maxine “travelled” around New York, visiting a unique Big Apple destination. Four Seasons Facebook fans were invited to guess the location of each adventure, with a draw being held at the campaign’s close for a Four Seasons Gift card.
Every social channel was employed to promote the campaign, including Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and Vine. And of course little visitors to the hotel got a chance to interact with Maxine, through photos and personalised amenities created for each family.
The results of the campaign were strong, according to Elizabeth Pizzinato, Global Luxury Consumer and Digital Marketing SVP, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.
"Kids loved being able to follow Maxine’s adventures and bringing her travels to life by visiting the same Big Apple destinations featured in the campaign," she said. "More importantly, the campaign had the desired business result: the hotel saw a 5% revenue increase in weekend business, a 10% increase in Facebook fans and a 19% increase in Twitter followers, ensuring that the high level of engagement created by Maxine would carry on well past the campaign’s close."
For their part, Aaron Everson, President and Chief Strategy Officer at Shoutlet said it was all about doing a little digging.
"We teamed up with Four Seasons to take a closer look at their bookings and demographics and identify opportunities where they could tap into different audiences," he said.
"They soon discovered that the majority of their reservations were for business purposes and wanted to launch a campaign that was more targeted to families looking to book weekend travel." he added. "From there, we worked with Four Seasons to build the #MaxineTakesManhattan contest and helped them look for ways to target the right audiences through social and make the contest really engaging so that it gained momentum over time."
In speaking with both Pizzinato and Everson about this specific campaign I could tell they were each very passionate about social media, its uses and how to best use it to benefit a given brand. Love speaking with folks like this for sure.
Along those lines I queried them as to what they each think are some of the mistakes brands make when it comes to the use of social media marketing.
Pizzinato believes two big mistakes brands make when it comes to social media and resourcing/staffing and focus.
"It’s not just a question of establishing a Twitter feed or a Facebook page: social channels thrive on immediacy, engagement and authentic responses, so brands need to be prepared to manage the additional pressure that social places on key resources," she told me.
"By building the right balance between agency support and internal resources to provide the “real” voice of the brand in its interactions with consumers, brands will go a long way towards getting social right. Which leads to the second potential downfall: embracing too many channels all at once. It’s better to be visible and highly engaged in fewer channels and fully understand both the resources needed and the level of engagement that those channels engender, rather than trying to be in all channels at once."
As for Everson he too sees a flaw when it comes to keeping an eye on the proverbial ball.
"I think something brands often fail to do is to clearly identify their objective for social and remembering that their efforts there should always map back to a bigger business goal," he said "We're constantly hearing about and talking about not having social live in a silo and the first step to overcoming that common mistake is to look at the big picture and answer 'what are we trying to accomplish for the business?'"
Not surprising to hear the replies whatsoever. Word like authenticity, engagement and silo are absolutely at or near the the top of my list re: keywords for brands when it comes to the use of social media. If brands can't come to grips with these kinds of words, they have no shot at succeeding in social media.