Universal Social Media Lessons from the Travel Niche




  • April 13, 2015

    A travel company has a lot going for it when it comes to content. The world, quite literally, is their oyster. From writing about faraway lands to sharing recipes of exotic foods, there’s so much variety in what you can post on social media that your target audience will love and connect back with your brand. But can you replicate the same diversity for the niche that you work on? Read on to find out.


    Tickle the Visual Senses to Drive Engagement

    Travel brands have a free rein gives to experiment with various types of content on their social media pages. They have access to just about every sort of content ranging from long winded reviews of hotels submitted by visitors, boring old data, schedules and lists from airlines or tourism boards, breathtaking photos taken for marketing brochures, and user generated videos of people doing crazy things. All of these are ripe for posting to social networks.


    One unambiguous trend in all this content that clearly shows through is the impact of visual content. According to a 2012 HubSpot study, posts with photos generated 53% more likes, 104% more comments, and 84% more link clicks. Three years later, things haven’t changed much. Check out the difference in engagement between American Tourister’s visual posts vs. shared URLs. Drastic, to say the least:


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    This isn’t just the case with travel brands. Global numbers on engagement rates for social media content have been parallel to what we discovered years ago. According to the data below from eMarketer, 87% of the most shared posts on Facebook in March 2014 were image related ones.


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    This year, the data shows video as the big shining hope for social media. YouTube became nearly as big as Facebook in terms of number of users in 2014. At the same time, Facebook upped the ante on native videos and became more popular than YouTube for watching videos! In fact, Facebook did such a fine job of promoting video posts in 2014, that video became the most engaging post type of 2014 with an organic reach that was more than twice the reach of the leader so far – image posts.


    That does not mean images stopped being important to users. It just means that users sought out other platforms to share their images. This was exemplified by Instagram overtaking Twitter in terms of user numbers and engagement.


    How can you make sure you don’t miss out on this opportunity? Scout around for images that strike a chord with your audience and use them liberally. Picography and Magdeleine are a couple of my favorite sites for license-free photos. Videos can be expensive to create, but offer huge returns in terms of user value and engagement. Invest in them and see the difference. The bottom line? Whether it is images or videos, we are inherently visual creatures. Use this human tendency to the fullest.


    Multichannel Marketing Yields Social Media Gold

    One of the favorite ploys used by travel brands to get a quick spike in engagement is user generated content. From sharing travelers’ holiday photos on social media to putting up their hotel reviews, travel brands manage to keep audiences involved on a constant basis.


    However, I have found that the biggest game changer for travel brands have been multichannel campaigns that used social media as a key pivot point. Destination New South Wales will agree. The tourism promotion board for New South Wales launched an interesting Bollywood themed campaign to woo Indian tourists to Sydney and New South Wales. The campaign ran on social media platforms of NSW’s travel partners in India and was supported by a television, print and outdoor campaign to boot.


    The results? NSW saw a 21% growth in Indian tourists for the year ending Aug 2014 as compared to the 6% growth that they got the previous year.


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    Lesson learned – don’t let social media speak in isolation. To really get the most out of the medium, use it in conjunction with your other platforms. For instance, you could create a QR code with your print ad (and maybe a discount coupon!) and share it on Facebook. Voila, by simply scanning the code, your users can carry your video inside their phones! Plus, there’s the added benefit of incremental sales when users redeem your embedded discount code.


    You’ve seen the Twitter hashtags that overlay news programs or even your favorite reality show. The repeated exposures help in brand recall and the social media engagement on the same marketing message helps drive home the point even clearer. Nielsen’s research proves that users’ brand recall went up from 50% to 74% when they were exposed to advertising messages across multiple platforms as against just television.


    Speak the same language and amplify the same message across different platforms to get the best out of each.


    Parting Thoughts

    Social media can seem intimidating when you compare your efforts with the leaders and poster boys of marketing. The key is to pick up lessons from their wins as well as blunders, and build a strategy that marries these lessons to your unique customer insights. Here’s to some smart social media marketing!

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