The travel industry represents one of the UK’s most mature online markets. Over time, the booking of holidays, travel and trips away has settled into a consistent yearly pattern of peaks and troughs.

These trends define the sector’s key booking periods. As sure as the retail industry experiences a sales peak in December, so does the travel industry in January (and July).

Naturally, these peaks and troughs define marketing cycles in every industry; getting your message in front of your core demographics when they’re most receptive is simply common sense.

Travel Marketing Trends

But, as you can see, it doesn’t stick around for long; by February that peak is quickly turning into a trough. Such a short booking period means that your competitors will be fighting tooth and nail to gain exposure at these times. Maximising the exposure your brand receives requires a clever use of all the marketing channels available to you.

Traditionally, search and email campaigns have proved successful in the travel industry, but social media campaigns have also been shown to perform well for travel industry marketing – you need only look at our case study for Visit Japan to see that…

With that in mind, here are our top 5 Reasons Social Media Should Be Part Of Every Travel Campaign:

1) 89% of people use social media at some stage of their holiday

A recent study conducted by Visit Britain into the ‘role of social media in the context of holidays’ has revealed the extent to which social media is used in the process of holiday decision making.

Indeed, not only was it found that 1 in 3 turn to social media when ‘choosing a destination’, but nearly half of people use social media when deciding what to do on a trip.

…1 in 3 turn to social media when ‘choosing a destination’…

The study makes for compelling reading and the message is clear; if you’re not using social media – particularly Facebook – to promote bookings then you’re potentially missing out on a large and receptive audience.

2) Harness the power of user generated content

It has long been known that user generated content is a brilliant way of capturing the imagination of your target audience. And social media is the home of user generated content; Facebook comments, Instagram images, Twitter updates.

There is no other marketing channel that can harness the power of user generated content in the way social media can. But why is it important?

…40% of millennials were shown to use user generated content when making travel plans.

A research paper published in 2014 by global research company Ipsos found that ‘user generated content is 50% more trusted than other media’ (defined as ‘traditional media and other non-UGC media’). Not only that, but 40% of millennials were shown to use user generated content when making travel plans.

3) Social media offers sophisticated targeting options

The importance of targeting your marketing campaigns shouldn’t be underestimated. By making sure you’re reaching the most receptive audience, and not blanket advertising, you can expect better quality data, a better rate of enquiry and – most importantly – improved ROI. And social media offers some of the most comprehensive targeting options out there…

Facebook, for instance, enables marketers to take the customer data they already have – email addresses and website users, for instance – and turn that into a ‘lookalike audience’. Using this ‘custom audience’, Facebook will then only target users from demographics you know are receptive to your message.

Frankly, social media offers the most granular and comprehensive targeting options of any marketing channel and improvements are continuously being rolled out.

4) Social media can feed into other marketing strategies

Search and email marketing, though effective, are relatively constrained in what they can achieve. Their success is measured in clicks. Social media, and Facebook in particular, offers something different and can be used to achieve a whole lot more.

Using interactive applications or harnessing user generated content, social media campaigns can be used to expand awareness, drive video views, encourage direct sales and – most importantly – acquire new customer data.

Taking our most recent Visit Japan campaign as an example, we successfully captured nearly 12,000 opt-in email addresses in under a month. In addition to impressions totalling nearly 3 million, our campaign hugely expanded the reach of Visit Japan’s email marketing.

5) Social can extend that peak booking season

Interestingly, email transaction rates for the travel industry have been shown to peak not in January, but in February, June and in the latter half of the year.

Tying this in with the ability of social media to collect quality customer data (email addresses) means that your campaign could successfully extend your peak booking season, boosting email transactions in the months following those periods.

The implication of this is that you can leverage the success of your January campaign to boost bookings in less successful months, leading to a lower level of reliance on highly competitive peak months.

Conclusion

It comes as no surprise that holidays are consistently in the top 5 most discussed topics on both Twitter and Facebook. Simply put, users of social media are most willing to interact with and share content they find attractive, aspirational or that has been promoted to them by other users.

…holidays are consistently in the top 5 most discussed topics on both Twitter and Facebook…

This is, ultimately, the reason travel marketing campaigns work so well on social media. Add to that the compelling benefits associated with running a campaign on social media – the power of UGC, granular targeting, etc… – and it’s clear that social platforms are becoming vital marketing tools for the travel industry, particularly at peak times.