Tourism is a social industry and yet some of the most over-used phrases in tourism when referring to Social Media are “I am not convinced”, “I’m not sure”, “What is my ROI?” and “I don’t have time”. Things have to start changing.
Should you or shouldn’t you get into social media? How much time should you expend on managing your channels? An industry contact recently raised an interesting point when they said that they would “not place too much dependency on social media as a direct sales route as traditional sales methods counted for the vast majority of tourism sales globally.” Social media as a direct sales route is still developing and will eventually mature. It was the finality of the comment that struck me more and is indicative of the scepticism of the travel industry with social media as a whole.
Modern travel companies (where ever they are based) have to be thinking of an integrated marketing plan that has social at its heart, and most importantly, looking to the future of where their sales may come from. Traditional methods, great, but for how long can they survive alone? Companies need to be able to leverage both traditional and digital marketing methods to realise future growth.
Marketing (Sales) is based on AIDA – the four key elements are:
- Attention – how are you getting the consumer’s attention
- Interest – what benefits do your product have for the consumer and how are they better than the competition
- Desire – Create a “must-have” mindset
- Action – Purchase my product
I see social media as essential part within all four elements. I will however concede that the take up in the Action phase is more complicated and needs time to mature. However social media is key to driving traffic, engagement, attention, interest and desire down to the bottom of the sales funnel and can influence the action – a sale.
The digital landscape is moving at an astonishing rate and if you have not invested something in social media then the divide between you and your competition will only broaden. A small investment now along with a social media marketing strategy will ensure that you are on the train and at least moving forward. Being active in social media also helps to foster a more open mindset in the adoption of new ideas, or indeed the development of new ideas.
Speaking to those in the travel industry using social media
I spoke with Hamish McMaster from Water by Nature and he says that they understand the need for having social media, and that it is hugely important in strengthening their brand and defining their digital footprint. In the old days people would land on your website and assume you’re were an expert, because you told them so. No longer. Consumers are much more savvy. They will look at your digital footprint, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and evaluate very quickly if you are “legit or full of shit”. If they like what they see and what other people are saying, they are more likely to come and book (in the traditional way!) So for Water By Nature, their Facebook Page and social media marketing is an important tool for exposure and brand strengthening that helps to drive and retain customers in the sales funnel. They also experiment with technology such as using a unique trip tracker on their website, which is a great way to see where their trips take place and as well as showing trip images.
I also spoke with John Berry of Zambezi Safaris who are very active on their Zambezi Facebook Page and Save Mana Facebook Page as well as their blog – but not yet on Twitter and YouTube. They have invested the right amount of time, about 20mins a day, and money for their company. John says that his experience tells him, that not to be involved would be fatal for his business, but he will not spend too much too early as it is hard to predict where it is all going. He tracks his pages and follows what his competitors are doing to keep ahead of the curve. When it comes to direct bookings he does concede that they get very few. But, they do get bookings. The importance of the social media channels to John and his business, is the re-marketing of the Zambezi Safari message. Every new and engaged fan is a potential brand ambassador. Give them the experiences to talk about and they will share with their friends, who in turn become potential brand ambassadors and customers. John also says that in some instances they would not have been able to launch new products if it wasn’t for social media. Fans have been engaged and have helped with awareness and exposure of the company. No company could ask for more in its sales funnel.
So the conclusion is:
Yes! Social Media marketing helps generate sales.
View our post on how to use social media for travel, to grow awareness, market your travel products and drive people into your sales funnel. We showcase some examples of those travel brands using social media in innovative and engaging ways.