By Michelle Hummel
A full 85% of people who travel for leisure use their smartphone while they’re away. Prior to or during a trip, 30% of people have used at least one mobile app to find a good deal on a hotel. And 29% of people planning a trip have used a mobile app to secure a flight. A big part of why this type of activity is so common is because people trust it. When surveyed, 92% of consumers say that earned media like recommendations from family or friends is the type of advertising they trust most. While word-of-mouth isn’t a new concept, social media has allowed it to be significantly amplified.
What adds to the power of social media is even when online reviews are written by people an individual doesn’t directly know, a full 70% of those surveyed still say that these reviews are second on their list of trusted advertising sources. And as these examples have shown, social media’s impact is no longer an abstract concept that’s next to impossible to measure. Instead, online activities are translating directly into offline action. For example, 52% of people who use Facebook say that the photos their friends posted had an impact on the travel plans they made.
Another example of the type of direct action that social media triggers is the fact that after taking a vacation, 46% of people post an online review of their hotel. Whether that’s on one of their social networks or on a site built specifically for that purpose, the fact that nearly one out of two travelers will put a review in a place that has the potential for a lot of people to see it shows the absolute importance of great customer service within the travel industry.
Notable Examples of How Companies in the Travel Space are Using Social Media
As you can see from the above statistics, social media’s significant impact on the travel industry is quite clear. For companies who have figured out how to harness the power of social media’s reach, this trend is a positive one. But for established companies that haven’t quite figured out social media or new companies that are trying to juggle this aspect of marketing with everything else that goes along with building a new business, trying to navigate social media can be a little intimidating.
Although it’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed by the weight that social media carries, the good news is there are plenty of other companies you can look to for inspiration. While it’s obviously not going to make sense to copy exactly what another company is doing, looking for inspiration is a great way to get started. Since they’ve built such a strong brand around the world, it makes sense to start with the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts. Last summer, the New York branch of this hotel company decided they wanted to reach out to a different demographic.
The demographic they decided to target was the modern traveling family. Specifically, they wanted to use this demographic to boost their weekend bookings. The way they did this was by launching a three month campaign using Maxine. Maxine was a fuzzy plush toy that traveled around New York and visited a new destination each week.
In addition to utilizing Facebook to engage fans by offering the potential to win gift cards in exchange for correct guesses about Maxine’s next destination, Four Seasons also used Vine, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest to spread the word about this promotion. The outcome of these efforts was in addition to boosting their social media following, the New York location increased their weekend bookings by 5%.
Another innovative example of a travel company utilizing social media is Virgin Airlines. Since this is a company that’s known for taking plenty of chances, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’re taking a unique approach to social. By listening to customer feedback, they discovered that being able to connect with other passengers during flights was a common request. As a result, they’re in the process of rolling out their own social media technology to do exactly that.
Finally, Air France-KLM is continuing to innovate on their already successful social media strategy. Currently, their three main areas of focus are to allow payment via Twitter or Facebook, provide travelers with insider tips via their @KLM_LocalEyes account, and enable people to send gifts to loved ones while on a flight via KLM Wannagives.
How to Create a Highly Effective Social Media Strategy Within the Travel Industry
Because they’re quite large in scope, your initial reaction to the above examples may be that social media is something your company simply isn’t ready to tackle. However, as previously mentioned, the purpose of those examples isn’t to give you an exact blueprint to follow. Instead, you should view them as inspiration for just how much is possible with social media when it’s utilized creatively. It’s also worth noting that those examples aren’t the companies’ first experience with social media. Instead, they’re initiatives they’ve launched after successfully implementing and executing more basic strategies.
If you’re ready to start putting together a social media strategy for your business, there are some concrete tips that you can follow. The first is to act as a concierge for your community. Once you identify the community that you’re trying to attract and build, you’ll want to focus on providing as much value to them as possible. By continuously sharing this type of value through social media, you’ll find that people naturally gravitate towards your company.
The next component you’ll want to include in your strategy is encouraging people to share their own stories. By allowing your social media presences to act as a kind of conduit for the sharing of this type of information, you’ll naturally increase the amount of trust that potential and current customers feel for your company. Another proven way to successfully utilize social media is to show people why they should do business with you. While a picture is worth a 1,000 words may be an old saying, social media has made it more true than ever. One of the biggest mistakes travel companies make is attempting to use social media to proclaim what makes them so great.
Instead of feeling the need to justify your business, focus on sharing beautiful photos through networks like Pinterest and Instagram. Because these social media venues are already driven by pictures, users of these sites will be very receptive to your efforts. Since social media does have the ability to generate real action, you may be wondering how to make that happen. A great option is to encourage check-ins at your location. What’s compelling about this tactic is it serves two purposes. First, it provides a clear incentive for people to take action. And second, a steady stream of visible check-ins creates social proof that can help seal the deal for other potential customers to choose your company.
Last, but definitely not least is the importance of using social media as a tool for listening. By taking the time to actually listen to what people are saying and then respond accordingly, you’ll be able to keep people happy and show others that your company cares a lot about the way it treats customers.
Now that we’ve had a chance to cover why social media is so important within the travel industry, how other companies are utilizing it, and what steps you can take to successfully craft your own strategy, all that’s left is for you to do is start using social media to connect and ultimately grow your business.
Michelle Hummel is a passionate internet marketer with over 10 years of successful online business development, sales and marketing experience. She also holds a valuable internet marketing degree; however, with the ever-changing world of web marketing, she strives to learn something new every day. Michelle travels nationwide to share her wisdom and provide social media keynotes with in-depth training. She is writing a book titled: “The Social Media Magnet: Everything You Need to Know to Attract Customers with Social Media.”