In many ways, social media has transformed the travel industry beyond recognition. Recent research by eMarketer found that 20% of travelers now use social media to help them plan and organize their trips. Social Media Today contributor Blair Nicole has reported that social media is changing the travel industry.
Whether it's a tip from a friend on Facebook or an in-flight selfie by a glamorous Instagrammer, travel consumer trends are heavily influenced by conversations started on social media platforms. But to succeed in drawing in customers through these channels, you need a foolproof strategy geared tailored to travel brands.
1. Become a Source of Travel News
Social media is rife with companies and individuals claiming to be an authority in their field, but many just regurgitate trending content.
As a travel marketer, you should be using your social media channels to keep your audience updated with the latest travel news and information. For example, if you represent a flight comparison site, you should be sharing aviation stories and related economic news. Tour operators need to keep followers in the know when it comes to important local events.
Authority is critical here, and knowing and responding to changes in your market shows you have a finger on the pulse.
2. Show Them the World
Images are key. Utilize platforms like Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram to show consumers what they're missing out on if they don't book through you. Travel blogs and articles are all littered with imagery - in many cases, it's the image that sells the story.
Your job as a travel marketer is to inspire people to want to see the world, and to do it with you. Become part of the community, share amazing images. And if you're posting your own, make sure they're of the highest standard.
The newly launched Trip Seats (a travel search company), for example, recently uploaded this catchy cover photo that speaks to their target audience:
Instead of just posting a photo of a destination, they gave the photo an extra pop of color and used engaging typography to tell prospects what they do.
In addition, images are also a great way of encouraging your audience to engage with you. Embolden people to upload and share their images with you. Everybody knows how irresistible it is to share a holiday snap - imagine the draw when it has the potential to be seen by thousands.
Not only does this help in creating content for your platforms, but you're also building an active community around your brand.
3. Use the Power of Influencers
Key influencers travel the world for free using platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat to share their experiences with a loyal band of followers. They are paid huge sums of money to visit certain destinations, fly with particular carriers and wear the right bikini on the beach.
In many cases, full-time influencers can be paid thousands per post, according to Mashable. Influencers with more than a million followers can easily demand fees up to $25,000 for a single mention.
But of course, others will post for far less. The most important thing is to do your research.
Who are they followed by? Are you're markets compatible? If you find the right influencer to take on your brand, you could have the ultimate PR tool.
4. Get Your Audience Talking - and Respond
As well as sharing images, it can be beneficial to get your audience to share their travel stories too. By their very nature, travel stories are full of inspiration, adventure and excitement. Tap into this passion by asking your followers about their travel experiences.
Keep abreast of their experiences with your brand too. If a customer mentions you in a Tweet or on Facebook, respond to it, ask them more about it - get them to tell a story.
Even if they've had a negative experience, you can turn it into a positive one by communicating directly with them on social media. It's all about building personal relationships that will last.
5. Right Content, Right Place
It's very easy to rely on the standard, popular social media platforms when developing a strategy for a brand - but with travel, you need to think outside the box.
Look beyond Facebook and Instagram and tap into markets outside of the West.
As a travel marketer, you're operating in a truly global market, and it would be foolish to ignore one of the most successful emerging markets on the planet - China.
Last year, the country's leading social media platform Weibo hit 100 million daily users, according to eMarketer, and this is just one example of a hugely popular site little known in the US and Europe.
It's also important to put the right content in the right place. With so many different people using social media, the scatter gun approach simply won't work anymore.
Say you're launching a promotion aimed at the over 50's, Snapchat's probably the wrong place to do it.
Be mindful of how different audiences use and engage with the social media platforms you use and make acknowledging these differences part of your social media strategy.