One of the bigger issues faced by tour operators in a market dominated – nay, stifled – by gargantuan OTAs, is creating awareness of products and packages beyond loyal fans already actively engaged by brand messaging. Unfortunately for tour operators, particularly smaller ‘boutique’ businesses, resources are often limited, making it difficult to compete for product awareness with giants like Expedia (for instance).
Historically, tactics used by tour operators – large and small – have been driven by digital or physical mailings; a newsletter or brochure by email or post. And while this approach can be successful, its scope for creating widespread product awareness is certainly narrow.
With 38 million active users in the UK alone, the scope for generating awareness on social media is certainly far wider than the tactics described thus far. And though many operators do recognise this, far fewer take full advantage of the relatively low-cost opportunities social media presents for engaging existing and new fans around their products.
Below, we take a deeper look at how tour operators – large and small – can use social media to create product awareness outside their existing fanbase, as well as the ways in which it can deliver a lasting impression on businesses in the travel and tourism sector.
Creating Product Awareness Through Social Media
Social media has had an incredible impact on the way businesses interact with their customers. The nature of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al, means that tour operators now have a cheap way to connect with new and existing fans in a meaningful way.
That is, if they know how…
Approach: Robust Social Media Strategy
While it is true that almost all tour operators maintain some form of digital presence, many approach their social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – in an ad hoc manner. This means that though most operators do have an adequate platform for customer engagement, their channels have – generally speaking – remained small.
The successful growth of any channel driven primarily by content – social media or otherwise – requires an incredibly robust strategy. You can start by answering these questions:
- What objectives underpin your organisational goals?
- Who is your target audience?
- What key messages will resonate with them?
- How can you convey these messages?
- What actions will support your initial objectives?
- When should individual actions be executed for maximal impact?
- How much will it cost?
- How should you measure its success?
Objective: Product Awareness
To demonstrate how effective a tool social media can be for a tour operator looking to generate awareness around its products and packages, let’s take a look at the work we delivered for Rickshaw Travel last year.
Objective – to generate targeted awareness of its independent and ethical travel packages
Tactics – Organic Channel Management, Paid Advertising, Lead Generation Campaign
- 1,883 Organic Facebook Likes
- 340,000 Campaign Impressions
- 6,000 Email Address Opt-Ins
- 2,000 Website Clicks
Adopting a strategy comprising three main tactics, our product awareness work with Rickshaw travel delivered organic channel growth and awareness, wider awareness through paid advertising on Facebook and longer-lasting awareness and engagement through an on-brand lead generation campaign.
You can take a closer look at our work with Rickshaw Travel with our in-depth case study. Click here to find out more.
Lasting Impression: Customer Engagement
As alluded to previously, one of the most compelling reasons for tour operators to maintain an active presence on social media is to take every opportunity to engage with new and existing customers. After all, social media is where your customers are – you need to be there too.
Taking more time to improve your customer engagement and care strategy on social media can help twofold:
The benefit of the first is clear. By engaging with your audience on social media – complaints, user-generated content, positive comments – you can build a personal relationship with those individuals and allay any concerns they may have about your service. This is especially important for an industry so littered with potential customer pain points.
Recognition & Trust
A little-used and undervalued tactic for building brand recognition and trust through social media is using it as a platform to build your reputation. In the tour operator industry, reviews are incredibly important for improving customer acquisition further down the line.
While you may include reviews and testimonials on your website, this is often curated directly by the business and simply won’t have the desired effect. Instead, use social media to encourage and, potentially, incentivise recent customers to leave your business a review on ubiquitous platforms like TrustPilot and even Facebook itself.
Don’t underestimate the power of streamlining this process for your customers either – it’s a simple enough process to integrate the TrustPilot review platform into your own Facebook page as Jacada has done here…
While tour operators are universally present on social media, generally speaking, they aren’t taking full advantage of the opportunities presented by Facebook, Twitter and friends. It is an issue that stems from a lack of robust social media strategy, with social media activity largely undertaken on an ad hoc basis.
Recognising the importance of a good social media strategy is the first step to realising the potential for growing your business has. Ensure your strategy and tactics are addressing the organisational goals of your business; target your key demographics and compelling messaging and implement everything to a strict editorial calendar and you’ll reap the benefits.
Digital Visitor is the UK’s leading strategic agency in travel, tourism & hospitality. For any more information of how we can help, get in touch.