We’ve all seen the social posts: selfies from a beach vacation, airplane wings en route to a faraway destination and delicious meals in a different city. Through all the changes and growth that social media has experienced in the last decade, some things stay the same. Vacations are posted about in all of their stages: planning, sourcing recommendations and the trip itself. Social media plays an important role in all of this and travel companies should recognize it or risk stagnation.
Whether you’re a luggage company or a hotel, our tips should give you some ideas to test out on social. You’ll notice that a lot of the ideas are centered around content and that is because travel lends itself to a more visual audience. People want to see what the experience will be like and they need to see it often. Read on to find out how to take advantage of social media to get the message out about your travel brand.
Basics: Set yourself up for success
If you’re starting your strategy from scratch or just looking to update your current one, taking a look at the resources available to you is always step one. You can’t manage four different social networks by yourself if you have a large and active audience. Responding to comments alone would take up a lot of your time. So what kind of resources are we talking about?
Staff is the most obvious one. How many people do you need for your company to successfully meet goals for sourcing and creating content, posting, managing comments and DMs and keep an eye out for complaints? Is your company large enough that you need a 24-hour watch on social media? Managing a single-location company is far more different than managing a multi-location one, especially if it spans multiple time zones.
The next basic resource to pay attention to is skill. This ties closely to staff because you want to make sure you have all the right skillsets to execute your strategy. And if you don’t, then you’ll need to be comfortable outsourcing. Social media managers tend to have a lot of different skills, including excellent communication and writing.
Third, get your budget in order. Ads are an important part of the travel industry. If you’re running flash deals on social media, ads are the way to go and you need to make sure you have the budget to promote them.
Lastly, document your strategy with goals. Without clear social media goals per network, your strategy will flounder. The best way to set these up is to evaluate your current audiences and see how they’re using each network. For example, if your customers like to use Twitter for direct customer service, set up goals on response time and a feedback loop of how well your responses are performing. Have a response plan in place for common questions and complaints.
Setup might take a while and you’ll go through several iterations in trial and error, but having a basic plan in place will save you wasted effort in the long run. Having a total picture of the resources available to you will help you know if you should be active on that additional social network or not.
Plan posts for each portion of the purchase cycle
For more expensive getaways and items, the purchase cycle will be longer. For travel brands, this means you’re playing the long game and need to make sure you have posts targeted for each stage.
At the beginning of 2019, Pinterest released their travel personas and trend report. It noted that “69% of Travel Pinners use Pinterest to discover travel services when deciding what to book.” The Pinners typically booked within two months of starting research and research included everything from what to bring to what to do.
Instead of directly promoting their services to customers, cruise company Carnival created a “Cruising Tips” Pinterest board for those still thinking about going on a cruise or have recently booked. The guides are a nice mix of what to expect when you go on a cruise to how to stick to your exercise routine.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a hotel or a travel backpack company. The principles of targeting consumers at each part of the purchase cycle remain the same. Don’t forget that you’re not done when they’ve made the purchase. You want to keep them constantly engaged and reminded of your product or service.
Understand different generations
Millennials and the younger Generation Z groups have more spending power now but to market to them, you’ll need to understand their social media use. An Expedia study of millennial and Gen Z travel behaviors found that they were heavily influenced by social media.
Eighty-four percent of Gen Z and 77% of millennials surveyed had been influenced by social media when planning their travel. More than 70% surveyed were open to help and inspiration during the planning process.
Both Gen Z and millennials named appealing imagery and deals as the two most informative pieces of social media content. Photos and videos maybe costly to create and produce but they will be worth it in the long run.
To ease the content sourcing pain, include user-generated content from past customers. This works particularly well for high-ticket purchases. Potential customers get to see what they’ll be buying through the lens of someone who’s already been. It establishes credibility to your brand so you’re not the only ones talking about you.
Marriott Hotels consistently uses user-generated content to promote its various hotel locations. They give glimpses into what it’s like to stay at a location. While some photos and videos on your account will be staged, you can bring in additional authenticity by reposting ones created by their guests.
Respond to reviews
Reputation management is important in travel and this doesn’t mean only responding to complaints. According to a Harvard Business Review study with TripAdvisor, it found that once hotels started responding to reviews, they saw a drop in the amount of short negative reviews. Knowing that management was reading and responding to reviews made for more thoughtful posts.
In a 2019 study, TripAdvisor noted that 81% of respondents frequently rely on reviews before booking a hotel. Travel purchases represent a major investment of money, time and even the emotional expectations people place on anticipating a great vacation, so your audience depends on feedback from reviews and social media to figure out how to spend their money and effort. This is why staying engaged and responsive on both social networks and review sites is key to building a travel brand’s presence.
To make it easier on yourself, use Sprout’s new review management tool to respond to reviews on Google My Business, Facebook and TripAdvisor all in one place.
The next essential step is to create an online review management strategy. This involves coming up with tone, vocabulary and common scenarios that might need addressing.
Online reviews do influence consumer behaviors so it’s best to approach them like any compliment or complaint you might have in person. Be sure to respond in a timely manner, listen to what they’re saying, offer a resolution if you’re able to and e sure to avoid a defensive tone. Pretend that you’re being recorded and the video will be posted publicly for eternity–this will help you avoid lashing back at difficult customer feedback in the heat of the moment. Future customers will read your responses, so how you respond is important.
Divide & conquer
For multi-location businesses, it’s sometimes best to create separate accounts for your national and local brands. The national brands can amplify local messaging and connect with loyal brand advocates while the local brands can address in-the-moment customer service queries and promote their immediate area.
Following the lead of other large corporations, you may even set up a separate account to address customer service inquiries. All of this is up to your company and your available resources. For whichever circumstances you fall under, Sprout makes it easy for enterprise companies to post in a cohesive and collaborative manner. Divide your local branches up into groups but still give them access to your Sprout Asset Library.
Ace Hotel does a good job of creating a cohesive national brand presence while their local accounts focus on what’s happening in that location or city. Each local account also runs promotions to make following them more appealing to those who are thinking of booking.
The travel industry is large and encompasses many different types of companies. But whether you’re a single-location vacation rental or a multi-location global company, travelers still want to hear from you. Your best bet is to plan carefully and get creative. Take inspiration from other companies and be sure to invest in a strategy and professional imagery.
Idyllcove Vacation Cabin is a great example of one location doing their best at promotion. The shots posted are always on brand even when they’re user-generated content. To help potential visitors cement their decision, they created a highlight that tours the cabin. And the Guest Snaps highlight makes use of user-generated Story content.
Airbnb, on the other hand, is on the opposite end of the vacation rental spectrum. The company uses Instagram to highlight its many available places to book and what you can expect out of each one. In the above example, you can not only picture yourself there but you also get ideas on what you can do while you’re staying there.
Whatever your specialization is in the travel industry, the basic tenets are the same: get your basics down, respond to reviews in a timely and gentle manner and don’t forget the newer generation.
What are some of your favorite strategies for travel social media? Let us know what’s caught your eye on social in the comments below!