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New Social Media Rules for Travel Marketers

Social media influences travel decisions for more consumers than ever — with numbers as high as 77% and 84% among millennials and Gen Z (Expedia), respectively. And it impacts every step of their travel planning process, from researching destinations to choosing the airline or cruise line that will get them there, the hotel or resort they’ll stay at, and the activities they’ll pursue once they’ve arrived.

But while seven in 10 Americans engage on at least one social media platform today, up from just 5% in 2005 (Pew Research), marketers’ ability to reach them organically is on a sharp decline — thanks to algorithm changes that prioritize content from family and friends. That means without a paid component to their social strategy, travel brands are no longer likely to reach their target audience and drive business.

Effective social media marketing today, then, requires a balance of organic and paid strategies. Here’s how your travel brand can make the most of both:

Use Organic to Foster Engagement and Loyalty

Organic social media marketing takes advantage of the free tools the various social platforms make available to build and engage with a community of followers, by sharing a steady stream of valuable, appealing content and inviting user- and influencer-generated content.

  • Show your personality. It can increase brand value with your followers. This is what drives people to follow you on social media. Create a consistent voice and personality that’s relatable, interesting and that people will want to interact with.
  • Post great pictures. Invest in compelling photography and, even better, video, which will account for 82% of consumer internet traffic by 2021. In the travel industry especially, a picture paints a thousand words, whether it’s a spectacular sunset view from your resort’s infinity pool or a GoPro video of ziplining above the rainforest canopy. By posting imagery that makes your followers want to see themselves in the picture, you’ll inspire them to book.
  • Expand your reach with hashtags. Strategic, judicious use of hashtags will help more people discover your content and drive them to your social pages — particularly on Instagram and Twitter and to some degree on Facebook. Keep hashtags short, simple and relevant to your content, and no more than two per post, to avoid the appearance of spamming.
  • One size doesn’t fit all. Sending the same message or creative across multiple platforms might seem efficient, but what cross-posting saves in time it loses in effectiveness. Each social media platform has its own requirements, from character counts to image dimensions. That bit.ly URL that saved you valuable characters on Twitter, for instance, could be flagged as spam on Pinterest. So take the time to create content that’s optimized for each platform.
  • Listen. Communicating on social media is a two-way street. And that means taking the time to monitor what your followers are saying on your social pages and join the conversation in a way that nurtures the relationship; for example, “We’re so glad you enjoyed the tour and would love for you to share a few pictures here” or “We look forward to your arrival — can we help with dinner reservations?”

Use Paid for Fast Results that Drive Conversions

Paid social media could be anything from a display ad to a sponsored message delivered to a particular social user demographic so they see your content on their feed.

  • Expand your followers. It can take a long time to build a healthy base of followers organically, limiting the impact of even the most engaging content. A well-targeted ad can boost your fan ranks quickly so your organic posts reach, and engage, a larger audience.
  • Reach the right audience with the right message on the right platform. Facebook is a great platform for a first foray into paid social, since it is popular across all demographics. And, it offers a wide variety of ad types — from simple photo ads with a call-to-action button to collection ads that display video and multiple images — so you can pick the format that best suits your goals, whether it’s to drive viewers to your website, build your fan base, or promote a special fare or package.
  • Start small. Test the waters of paid social with a small ad budget then, based on results, choose where to invest more. The pay-per-click model adopted by social media platforms means you only pay when the user takes the desired action (for example, “Book Today”). This is especially cost-effective for travel-related businesses, for which the average cost-per-click on Facebook is just $0.63, compared to $1.72 across all industries.
  • Target — and retarget. Thanks to the wealth of demographic and psychographic information social media platforms collect on their users, you can target your paid content to a very specific market, whether that’s empty-nest couples who enjoy golf and live on the West Coast or newly engaged millennials who like beach destinations. And to hone your audience even further, Facebook offers a retargeting pixel that you can install on your website so that anyone who visits the site will subsequently see your ads in their social media feeds.

Is your social media strategy on point? Learn more about social media marketing.