We spoke in last week’s blog about how social media marketing can help generate sales and that social media needs to be a key part of your marketing strategy. If it is not then you are losing out on essential and valuable exposure, brand awareness and lead generation opportunities. So how can you use social media effectively if you are in the travel and tourism industry?
Choose the right social media platform
It goes without saying that you should concentrate on using the platform that will give you the most exposure. Work out where your potential customers are hanging out and how best to engage with them.
Create a social media strategy
No plan, no gain. You have to set your objectives and work hard to achieve them. Most disillusionment with social media comes from not having a proper plan to begin with and then not following through. Your social media plan should tie in with your marketing plan. Here are just a few examples of what you could be doing:
- Sending out latest travel deals and specials to fans (without overdoing it and being too salesy)
- Creating, promoting and managing competitions (if done on Facebook there are rules and it needs to be done through an app)
- Sharing blog posts about unique experiences and offering helpful advice
- Encouraging followers to engage and share their experiences
- Posting travel articles, industry news and tips
- Posting engaging videos
- Using Twitter for latest real time news and customer service
Build and optimise your social media pages
For example if you are on Facebook, getting your Facebook Page set up correctly from the beginning is important and gives you a good foundation to start and then to develop. You also need to ensure you are optimised all your social platforms – take a look here to see how to set up and optimise your Twitter page.
Use “Killer” images
Many of the social networks are now very visually based. Out of focus and irrelevant images will hurt your brand image and your social media pages. Ensure that your cover images are refreshed regularly and that the images you post are of good quality and are catchy. What you post will be determined by your brand and strategy.
Make a commitment to social media
If you put in the time to understand, develop and manage your social media strategy, then you will get results. You have to put the time in. Another of the most common phrases used as an excuse for not using social media is “I just don’t have the time”. Well if you already have an outline plan done then you only need about 30 mins a day to implement and engage with people. Stagnant social media pages do your brand more harm than good – it would be like going to a party and no one talks to you, boooooring!
Integrate your social networks with your other marketing activities
Make sure that everyone knows about your social media pages. Include links on your website, blog, on other social sites, in your email signature, your business cards, email newsletters and so forth.
Measure your social media efforts and return on investment (ROI)
Start gauging your consumer demographic and behaviour. Once your social media pages are up and running, you need to track what is working and who is engaging, liking and sharing, and measure these against your goals – as an example take a look at how to set up goals and measure and work out the ROI for a twitter campaign and what tools you can use to monitor and measure your twitter activity. Facebook has an inbuilt free tool called insights, there are many tools to measure your twitter activity or various management, monitoring and reporting tools for social media. If you are driving people to your website ensure you have set up Google Analytics or another analytics system on your website so you can measure the traffic to lead conversion – if you are driving a lot of traffic to your website but you are getting a high bounce rate and no leads, then you need to look at WHY your website or landing page is not working.
Some examples of social media pages and campaigns
These are a mix of travel and non-travel related social media pages and campaigns just to give you some ideas and inspiration and get those creative juices flowing!
- Tourism Australia’s Facebook Page Photo App where fans like and upload their holiday photos and then choose ‘favourite fans pics’
- Explore Canada’s Facebook Page where they have integrated an Instagram app to encourage people to get involved.
- Costa Rican Vacations who use Facebook as a tool for generating testimonials – they were slow to adopt Facebook for its older, niche audience, but once the team found a way to take advantage of the platform, the network soon became integrated across its marketing strategy.
- 20 Cool Branded Twitter Pages
- Top 7 Pinterest Campaigns of 2012
- Social Media Examiner Top 10 Small Business Facebook Page 2012 Winners
It could be that some of the above strategies are on budgets that are out of your reach, so you have to adapt the strategy to your business.
What people in the travel industry are saying about using social media for travel
We asked some of our travel industry friends for their tips and feedback and what they recommend when using social media for travel. Here is some of the feedback we received:
Make sure your tweets and posts aren’t “selfish” – be prepared to share good news regarding your competitors. Make tweets and posts about praising your clients, they are more likely to want to share good news about themselves than they are about you! Seek out new customers by checking for associated likeminded products and interesting posts and weaving in a thread for your own product/brand before re-tweeting/re-posting/sharing. Most of all make your social media uplifting and aspirational. I AM convinced social media works for Travel!
Ailsa Tavares – http://twitter.com/TravelPromoters
I think the best tip of all is that it is effectively free advertising if used wisely, just enough to remind people what I do without being overly pushy. Not too many offers, it puts people off. Links are best because they are easier to ignore if people don’t want them in their face but easy to read if they are interested. The blogpost links work well as do photos and testimonials, I don’t have to blow my own trumpet as other people do it for me. I get a lot of work from Facebook and some from LinkedIn. I also often thank tour operators and hotels on Facebook and Twitter for looking after my clients. I have never had a job from Twitter however I do use it as a useful communication channel, often quicker and cheaper than phoning premium rate numbers, particularly useful for airlines and hotels. If I receive a business card I look them up on LinkedIn, easier to remember who they are and what they do and if they move on congratulate them on their new job and the communication channel is still open.
Cathie O’Dea – http://mytraveltoyou.wordpress.com/
Having spent the last year and a half building up the Norwegian.com Facebook page with very little in the way of budget, the key thing from my perspective in making posts successful is to keep things fun, light and yet within it all retaining brand integrity to make sure people know this is a seriously good product too. As an airline, I have always pushed the posts of our tourism partners from Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and more recently the Canaries, Algarve and Croatia. It gives far greater gravitas otherwise we’re generally pushing destinations that people have barely heard of (Alesund, Trondheim for example). The problem is always overkill of sales pitch, so too much, ‘have you booked your holiday yet, or do you want to go to’ rather than, share your tips, photos etc. People need to feel their input is valuable and responded to accordingly. It has been pretty tiring as you cant really take a break from it, but at the same time… it’s been very good fun. Has it increased sales for Norwegian.com? Well, it is not everything, but it does spread confidence about the product and Norwegian just celebrated their best ever first quarter…coincidence? Never.
Mitchell Hawes – http://www.facebook.com/norwegian.com
I think social media is a great way for travel companies to engage with existing and potential visitors. I switch off whenever I see companies just using it as another sales tool, bombarding customers with offers and forgetting that it’s SOCIAL media for a reason. You have to instigate discussion, comments, share but then also join in! It takes time to build up your profile and your following, it’s like customer service – if your social media followers feel welcome, they’ll come again. There needs to be a strategy with what you want to promote and the tone of the brand. I particularly love the Facebook page from Love Croatia – they do an amazing job to really showcase the destination with stunning imagery and asking tips on what to do/see/share their experiences. It’s now another Visit Britain and London based sites also do a great job of providing fun facts on what to see and do but also sharing quirky facts and experiences. I heard a brilliant case study where a company tried to integrate flight bookings on their FB page. The result of trying to push sales was this tiny, hard to navigate box (it looked ridiculous) which just put people off. So sharing links and sharing partner info is the best way forward if sales are the objective.
Kristel Valaydon – http://twitter.com/KVComms
I think engagement is the key to Social Media. Consumers are bombarded with constant and transparent sales messages. One of my clients, Flamboyant Hotel in Grenada is a small 68 room property and they have close to 17,000 likes on their Facebook page and this is down to engagement – asking people what they think about the destination, and discussing the history and unique aspects of Grenada. In the midst of this of course there are marketing messages and notices about what is going on at the property but its incredibly well balanced and most importantly INTERESTING! I’m very proud of this small 3 star resort for leading the way. I am also currently involved in the following competition on Facebook.
Gemma Lewis – http://twitter.com/escapemarketing
So in conclusion, you can see how with a little creativity, a plan and consistency you can really make social media work for your travel product and create an impact.
If you have any questions or other tips to share we would love to hear from you – please leave your comments below!