Four tips for travel marketers: Going beyond Instagram and impressions

Cue the selfie of your deskmate bungee jumping in New Zealand, the photo of your hot neighbor surfing the North Shore, and the video of your nephews building a sand castle in the Carribean. Seventy-six percent of travelers post their vacation snaps to social networks, and while the endless display of friends and family having the time of their lives unleashes the green-eyed monster for some, 52 percent of Facebook users say such posts inspire their own travel plans, reports Tnooz.

Those two stats alone should signal the impact that social media has had on the travel industry, so how can marketers best plan for the channel as Memorial Day weekend and the start of travel’s high season looms ahead? Here are four tips from seasoned travel marketers that should get you going in the right direction.

Use all the platforms

Everyone tends to stereotype platforms — and the people who use them. Snapchat is for teenagers, Pinterest is for women, Tinder is for hook-ups, HBO GO is for your freeloading friends and so on. But when it comes to social platforms, it’s important to consider that “every single platform has your audience,” said Matt Heindl, senior director of social/creative at Razorfish. They might may not have them in high numbers, but they still have some percentage of your audience, he said.

In fact, that audience might convert better through an unexpected platform instead of the ones they’re typically associated with. People aren’t tied to one social network; according to a 2014 Pew Research Center report, 52 percent of adults use two or more social media platforms, a 23 percent increase from the year before. While it may not be immediately clear why a percentage of your target audience converts better on, say, Instagram than Facebook, it’s worth experimenting and studying the variables — product offering, creative, geolocation — besides the platform that are producing higher conversions.

Engagement, not numbers

“A lot of marketers are just looking at impressions and reporting high numbers––which is great––but a lot of that can be paid for and never really mean anything,” said David Beebe, vice president of global creative and content marketing for Marriott.

Instead, he recommends paying closer attention to engagement. How are users sharing your content? What do they say about it? Tracking sign-ups for reward programs and email newsletters as well as number of bookings is good, but social comments better indicate the perceived brand value. To help generate those comments, marketers should consider video to entice engagement. It matches well with travel and is known for driving clicks on social — eMarketer reports that 51 percent of marketers rank video as providing the best ROI.

Abandon the calendar

News outlets like the New York Times and NBC have been predicting that summer travel this year will be the busiest on record. Such forecasts cause marketers to fixate on trip-goers from Memorial Day through Labor Day, but keeping your focus on seasonal travel can mean forgetting business travel, extended-stay vacationers, or even staycationers. “We have guests traveling 24/7 around the world in 18 countries across 19 brands,” said Beebe. “We are across the portfolio, continuing to engage year-round.”

Think globally

What qualifies as the high season for travel in the United States may not be the same in Europe or Asia, so if you’re targeting trip planners in other countries, you have to consider their holidays or, if your audience is families, their school schedules. “German travelers have different timings from British travelers and American travelers,” said Charise Mason, an integrated marketing specialist for the Philippines’ Department of Tourism. “If you know these patterns, then you can match it with the travel product.”

It’s also helpful to understand different trends in different countires, such as mobile tech adoption. In the UK, for example, 79 percent of consumers own a smartphone, with 43 percent owning a tablet. These numbers are higher than they are in the United States, making mobile a prime channel to target. Taking advantage of the nuances among your audience will help make the travel season a successful one.

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