It’s taken a while, but social media has now assumed its position at the centre of marketing strategies across industries. This re-positioning and, in some ways, increased respect for social media marketing doesn’t come as a surprise as brands, organisation and agencies strive to better understand the true value of social. As you’ll no doubt be aware, it’s far easier to allocate spend to quantifiable channels.

Having said that, there are still barriers in the way of social media receiving the levels of investment it deserves. And this is particularly visible in our chosen industry of travel, tourism and hospitality where decision-makers, for better or for worse, would rather position spend where they can guarantee a certain yield.

The problem? Direct comparisons between the efficacy of social media versus other digital marketing approaches are hard to come by. There are two reasons for this; full service agencies are likely unwilling to publish findings that could damage relationships or business channels, and; the number of social media agencies with access to traditional digital figures is relatively small.

Our latest project with one of the world’s foremost international destination marketing organisations, however, included – for the first time – several traditional digital and print marketing approaches. This has given us a unique opportunity to explore and, more importantly, publish a directly comparable analysis of results from social media versus traditional digital media.

A Word on Costs

While a comparison of the absolute numbers delivered by our work with the DMO in each channel is the ultimate goal of this article, it’s important to do so in the context of an understanding of spend. While we’re unable to publish exact figures relating to spend (understandably), it’s worth noting that budget levels for the social media aspect of the campaign accounted for only 28% of total project spend.

“…it’s worth noting that budget levels for the social media aspect of the campaign accounted for only 28% of total project spend.”

It’s important that those interested in the below analysis understand that this is not a case of ‘spend more, get more’ as a way of illustrating a point with no credibility or evidence. Even more emphatically, the total spend for Facebook advertising for the period (not including the stand-alone hero campaign) stood at a mere 30% of the total spend for traditional marketing efforts.

Campaign Background

Though we’ve been working with the DMO for some years now, the scope for this project was by far the widest. It’s a destination with big ambitions for the next 4 years, and in an effort to match that ambition we were briefed – after competitive pitch – to deliver a multi-channel UK awareness project, across social, digital and print.

This included 3 main campaign strands; a Facebook ‘hero’ campaign, partnership with OTAs and partnership with an international airline. The latter two also included a sophisticated Facebook advertising campaign which will form the basis for the comparative analysis below.

But first a word on the results of our Facebook only campaign, which was implemented at a cost of around 6% of the total project budget;

While direct comparison here with traditional digital here is difficult, it’s worth noting that the results expressed above account for 7.6% of the total impressions achieved by the project and a hugely impressive 36% of the clicks generated across the period.

OTA Campaign Analysis

As noted above, our campaign in partnership with two of the foremost OTAs in the UK was the first of two additional focus areas. The objective here was to use diverse advertising to drive users – from Facebook and website landing pages – to the relevant pages for booking. The results achieved were as follows:

All aspects of this campaign were fantastically successful, with the first OTA’s onsite banners being anecdotally described by the OTA as “the best they had ever seen” with a CTR of 0.2%. But in terms of cost per result, social media vastly outperformed traditional banner advertising when driving users to booking pages.

“…the evidence that social media advertising playing a compellingly large part in achieving the ROAS of 32.6 and significant revenue growth is overwhelming.”

While the latter generated a little over 6,000 clicks to target pages for the period, our social media advertising resulted in nearly 10 times that number, driving 51,231 clicks. Viewed in the context of relative spend, the evidence that social media advertising playing a compellingly large part in achieving the ROAS of 32.6 and significant revenue growth is overwhelming.

Airline Campaign Analysis

Unsurprisingly, the focus and methods of our partnership with the airline was of a similar nature to that with the OTAs. The results achieved were as follows:

What did differ about this element of our project was its use of traditional print advertising, including a cover wrap for the UK’s most popular free newspaper. As you’d expect, however, given the non-digital nature of print advertising, a comparison of success there is difficult, so instead we’ll focus again on social media versus traditional digital.

Once again, all aspects of this campaign could naturally be described as highly successful, with digital advertising on digital print platforms (for instance, online newspaper websites) achieving relatively high CTRs of 0.29% and 0.25% respectively. Our work with the world’s biggest travel review site to deliver informative articles based around the destination was also impactful, resulting in 1,337 direct clicks to the airline website.

“The gulf in spend between social and traditional was the largest here, yet the results from social media were among the best we’ve seen.”

But as with our OTA campaign, we saw drastically different sets of results when considering them on a cost per result basis. The gulf in spend between social and traditional was the largest here, yet the results from social media were among the best we’ve seen. Our Facebook advertising for the period generated 34,183 clicks direct to the airline partner, representing more than the lion’s share of the campaign’s success.

Conclusion

It’s worth highlighting, once more, that each subject of direct comparison here was successful in its own right. This isn’t the case of a successful social media campaign obviously outstripping the results of an unsuccessful traditional digital campaign. Instead, it demonstrates how successful social media can be at driving traffic to specific objectives, as well as delivering absolute awareness for a destination.

Seen in the context of cost per result, while spend on social media accounted for only a small amount of the overall project spend, its results are what drove overall project success to such lofty heights. And while we wouldn’t anticipate, or even recommend, a destination allocating 100% of marketing budgets to social media, there is clearly something to be said for deploying significant social media marketing efforts alongside supplementary digital marketing approaches.