Social Media has always been an attractive avenue for travel brands. The prime reason is that travel is a very social experience both as a purchase as well as an activity. People consult their friends for travel recommendations and seek their advice for places they should visit, airlines they should prefer and hotels they should stay. Moreover, people travel with their friends, make new friends during trips and travelling together (at least for holidays and leisure) is always considered more exciting that travelling alone.
Travel brands are trying to bring this social experience online for people to get travel recommendations, share their travel experiences and help make their customers' travel better. Seeing the increasing excitement of travel brands for social media campaigns, I decided to look into some of the most interesting patterns emerging in the social media efforts by travel brands.
Scope: Here in this research I have tried to analyze how travel brands are using social media for their marketing campaigns. Here I have considered all brands that generate their revenues explicitly from customer travel or enthusiasm for travel as travel brands (and hence travel guides, travel media too falls in this category).
Research: The research shows that there are broadly 8 social media campaign strategies being used by travel brands.
You will see that these broad 8 social media strategies leverage 4 different social dynamics. Social Games, Social Media Campaigns and loyalty campaigns leverage the consumer generated content to thrive, while blogs and advocacy programs thrive on smart conversations by the brand or its representatives with the consumers. Certain forums and social websites leverage the community social dynamics where consumers crowd source content for their passion towards travel while some other travel brands use social applications to connect people to travel better. Each of this strategy is detailed below:
- Social Media Campaigns
Many travel brands have explored social media campaigns to engage its audience and bring participation and fan base. One of my favourite examples is Queensland tourism campaign for 'the best job in the world'. In this campaign, the organizers launched a user generated contest to offer the job for the caretaker of the Great Barrier Reef Islands. The caretaker would be supposed to communicate his explorations and his experiences to the world through his blog. The campaign was a great success. Some time back even European Travel Commission launched a photo contest on Facebook asking users to submit their morphed pictures at various travel locations
- Loyalty Campaigns
Social Media has given many new faces to loyalty campaigns and completely changed the way brands are rewarding consumers for loyalty. Take for instance, Jet Blue's Go Places app, where Jet Blue is rewarding customers for checking-in at Jet Blue Terminals using Facebook Places. Customers unlock official badges and reward points for real rewards. Tripadvisor has launched a campaign to recognize its most loyal reviewers and community members. The campaign showcases Tripadvisor's star reviewers and their reviews / forum posts
- Social Games
With the success of social games like Farmville, Mafia Wars etc, brands have realized the power of games in engaging consumers. Travel Channel has used a similar idea to launch a social game called Kidnapped. The game aims at increasing customer awareness and information about various interesting locations around the globe. The game challenges consumers to kidnap their friends and to escape, the kidnapped person has to answer trivia related to that city where he/ she has been kidnapped.
Travel blogs by brands are an excellent way of communicating the brand's passion for travel to the consumers. Lonely planet here does an excellent job of educating consumers about making their travel experiences better. If you visit their blog, you will see travel showcase, destination, tips and stories. Similarly Southwest Airlines' blog - Nuts About Southwest aims at communicating to the traveller community how Southwest Airlines can make their travel experience better
- Advocacy program
Certain brands try to generate a word of mouth by providing an advocacy platform to experts to express their opinions and thoughts to consumers. British Airlines has created one such platform called Metrotwin to promote tourism between London and New York by 'twinning' the two cities and providing recommendation of best places at both the cities. The recommendations here are made by experts who bring out the best places to eat, shop and stay in the two cities
- Social apps to connect
These apps leverage the fact that travelling is a social activity and people prefer the recommendation of their friends or friends of friends to take travel decisions. Tripadvisor has a travel map app that maps where all the friends in your Facebook network have been around the world. Airbnb Social Connections app helps you rent places in your personal network. It shows you others in your network (friends or friends or friends) who have places to rent.
- Crowdsourced content
It is here that the travel brands leverage community dynamics to energize people to put meaningful content on their websites in form of reviews, ideas and comments to help other users get better information for travel. Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet do this with reviews, likes and ratings to help customers produce recommendations
- Travel forums
Travel forums have always been a popular destination for people researching for travel information. Now brands are hosting travel forums to participate and support such conversations. Virgin Airlines hosts v-flyer travel forum and traveller online community to facilitate conversations and social relationships. Lonely Planet hosts the Thorn Tree forum to empower such discussions.
Hope this researched help you look into some of the top social media marketing implementations by travel brands. The research above is summarized in the presentation below: