Using Social Media to Influence the Travellers’ Journey

Let’s consider some statistics.

These statistics clearly show that travellers turn to social media, in greater numbers than ever before, for inspiration and advice at every stage of the journey process.

It is, therefore, becoming increasingly essential that companies involved in that process – tour operators, hospitality providers and even destinations – should ensure that they are engaged with travellers are every stage of their journey.

But how can that be accomplished?

Inspiration

Key Takeaway: Be ever present in the overarching social conversation.

It’s a well established fact that travel is an ever-popular topic across social media, and particularly on platforms with an image-rich feed. For instance, #travel has – at the time of writing – received over 104 million image shares on Instagram.

That’s a lot of content. And that’s ignoring holiday snaps and page content on Facebook, or envy-making stories on Snapchat. It can, therefore, be difficult for brands, businesses or destinations to get in on the action, beyond what visitors or patrons are naturally compelled to share.

But given that 83% of holidaymakers using the internet for travel inspiration turn to social media, it’s vital that your business or destination ensures it carves its own presence in the overarching social conversation.

That means curating an on-brand Instagram presence, including regular updates featuring irresistible imagery from your destinations, or the destinations you travel to. That means sharing compelling content – again, alongside enticing photography – to an attentively managed Facebook page. That means embracing trends in social media (Snapchat, for instance), to make sure that you get heard above the crowd.

Planning

Key Takeaway: Get yourself front and centre in the planning process.

Social media isn’t just a source of inspiration, however. Users in 2016 don’t simply use platforms to get an idea then immediately jump ship to Google for planning research. Remember, 52% of travellers changed their travel plans based on social media.

Much like capturing the imagination of travellers, to have an influence on their planning process, you need to be front and centre in their minds. Thankfully, most people who ‘like’ a Facebook page or follow a Twitter profile do so having interacted with that business in the past.

The best way to leverage these existing relationships is to encourage sharing of your content, even to the point of incentivisation. Offer the chance of a prize for users who like and comment on your content.

And this sort of approach links up well with Facebook reviews and review sites like TripAdvisor too. You can even integrate review sites, like Feefo, directly within your business’s Facebook page.

Booking

Key Takeaway: Streamline your bookings process and encourage through offers.

Social media has come a long way since the launch of Facebook in 2004. It’s no longer the case that you share content and hope it resonates with your target audience. Content can be targeted, specific objectives delivered and booking processes integrated.

Essentially, you want to make the booking process as smooth as possible. And it should be immediately clear to users and fans how to book through your page or website. Any barriers at all could be losing you money. Of course, some will persist, but others will start  to look elsewhere.

Of course, you can also use social media – particularly Facebook and Twitter, but increasingly Instagram – to share exclusive promotions and offers. At the most basic level you can simply share and promote existing website offers to your followers. But there’s also the option to go one step further and create a ‘Facebook Offer’, which can be used to direct users to the next stage in the booking process and can even be bookmarked for later.

Sharing

Key Takeaway:

This is all about feeding the experiences of your patrons back into the travel planning cycling, ensuring that the trips you’ve provided work to inspire the “next generation” of travellers.

The first step here is easy, simply because 76% of people post their holiday snaps to a social network. But, if possible, it’s best to tie this stage of the process back to your specific offering.

Some of this will happen naturally, with grateful customers sharing their photos with you and thanking you for the experience. But incentivising the process, or even providing a platform for image sharing can bring a welcome boost. This user generated content is one of the most valuable assets your business can get their hands on.

Create albums on Facebook and Pinterest for users to share their photos to, and encourage it organically with regular page updates. This is something Tourism Australia has done to raucous success.

Another approach might be to align your brand with popular hashtags across social media platforms, encouraging users to share their snaps as part of a wider theme. And if you have the resource, you could even work to create a hashtag specifically relating to your business or destination.

Finally, users – particularly fans – love recognition. Don’t be scared to offer recognition to user generated content. For instance, regramming compelling imagery tagged with your hashtag has been shown to be an effective way of generating impressions and increasing followership.

Found this article interesting? You might like to read our Catalunya Tourism case study for a real world example of how strategic social media marketing can help influence the decisions of travellers and holidaymakers.