No-one can argue that social media isn’t now a part of the marketing mix – whatever industry you’re involved in. But the days of simply having a presence on channels like Facebook and Twitter is over. Brands are now using social to deliver real business benefits – from driving traffic to closing sales.

Using research conducted by EyeforTravel we recently created a video looking specifically at how travel providers, agents and operators are making the most of social media.

Here’s our summary of what we think are some of the most interesting results;

 1. Social is no longer a ‘maybe

 “100% of global travel brands surveyed had a Facebook brand page (up from 82% in Feb 2011), and 75% had a Twitter profile.”

The question of whether social media is right for your brand has now passed – it is essential if you want to keep up with your competitors and engage your customers in the spaces they are most likely to listen.

2. Social and search are linked

 “For companies looking to preserve or improve their rankings, social marketing activities will no longer be optional – they will be a necessary element of traffic driving success.”

Social media is becoming of more and more importance to the algorithms that sit behind search engine results pages. Companies that take the time to not just be active on social channels, but build connections and deliver relevant, rich content will see their reputations – and rankings – rise.

3. Social is a traffic driver

“51% of travel brands cited an increase in traffic from Facebook (Q3, 2011). Social networks are the 2nd most influential source of online traffic for travel suppliers (Q4, 2011).”

The second biggest search engine behind Google isn’t Bing, Yahoo, or AOL; it’s YouTube – a social channel. Consumers don’t just use social channels to chat with friends, they use them to discover new music, share fashion finds, and get inspiration for their next trip. Tap into this by creating great content, exciting competitions and interesting ad campaigns.

4. Social is a sales driver

“50% of travel brands surveyed agreed that they have generated direct bookings from social media.”

Peer recommendation is now a big part of the buying cycle, and social channels are where people communicate with their peers. If your customers are talking positively about their purchases from you, there’s potential to reach new audiences and new sales. Social is also a great place for promoting new offers and deals – which are frequently shared amongst friends.

5. Social media is an engagement tool

“71% of travel brands agree to some extent that social media has improved engagement.”

Capturing your audience’s imagination can be difficult, when you’re competing against everyone else. But Barbara Pezzi, Director Analytics & Search Optimisation for Fairmont Raffles Hotels, explains it is possible: “For social media strategies to have longevity, they need to engage the users with stimulating, relevant content, and/or provide then with the tools necessary to meet their needs over time.”

 6. Your competitors are investing

“In Q3, 2011, 33% of travel brands allocated more of their marketing budget to managing their presence in social media channels, and 61% of travel brands are expecting to increase their investment in social media over the next 3 months.”

Social media marketing now comes in third place for marketing spend, after search engine marketing and email marketing. This shows that brands are recognising the opportunities of the space – and showing their commitment with actual investment.

7. Social ad spend is up

“In Q3, 2011, 42% of travel brands allocated more of their marketing budget to social media advertising than they had in the previous quarter.”

Above-the-line advertising has been losing out to more measurable digital methods for some time. Now online ad spend includes a social element, driven partly by the ability to highly target specific audience segments using data from their social profiles.

 8.  Investment can save costs elsewhere

“Travel marketers surveyed found that using social media reduced PR costs by 24%.”

Whether it’s a great offer or an imagination-capturing campaign – shareable social content can turn your customers into your PR team, as they spread your message to their friends and family – for free.

9.  Facebook is still the centre of social

“Facebook has over 845 million active users, and accounts for 1 in every 7 minutes spent online around the world.”

Incredibly user-friendly, interactive and with endless opportunities for sharing – if you focus your efforts on one place make that place Facebook. For brands especially, it’s continually developing its offering – as seen by the recent timeline switch for brand pages and the upcoming revision of its ad packages.

10.  Reviews are indispensable in the booking process for travellers

“88% of travellers consult reviews before making a booking and half say that reviews are the greatest influence on their booking choices”

There have been many reports highlighting the significant influence that reviews and user generated content have on consumers when making a purchase decision.  Like it or not, today’s savvy internet users require user generated content such as reviews, ratings, photos and videos to help them make their decision to buy. Why? Because people trust other consumers for advice and guidance. According to research conducted by emarketer, consumer reviews are trusted 12 times more than product descriptions by the company.

Find out more about the importance of reviews and ratings and how they can increase your bookings.

Get in touch to find out how we can help you to maximise your social media marketing with social applications and campaigns. Call 0117 905 5195 or email info@digitalvisitor.com