Social media for tourism: the ultimate guide

Are you making the most of social media when it comes to your tourism marketing campaign? Learn how it can help you deliver the best tourism marketing campaigns.

Published September 2021 | Written by Lucy Barrett

Social Media Marketing & Tourism

It’s no surprise that tourism and social media work well together. Both provide incredible visual and social experiences.

These days, you are more likely to find people scrolling through Instagram for holiday inspiration rather than flicking through a travel brochure. That’s why it’s more important than ever that companies use social media for their tourism business to maximise their chance of attracting new customers. 

Why is social media so effective?

Social proof is what people look for when they are in situations where they are unsure of how to behave or what decision to make; they look to those around them for advice. We assume those around us, such as our friends, will have more knowledge about this topic than we do.

With social media, users are seeking this ‘social proof’ in the form of reviews from customers or celebrity endorsements, to provide evidence that this is the product/service they should choose.

Quite simply, social proof is today’s version of ‘word of mouth’. 

Why is social proof so powerful?

Word of mouth recommendations have always been one of the most influential ways to grow a business. Why? Because people trust what their friends say over what a business tells them. Today, word of mouth is conducted via social media.

Consider Facebook. This platform has over 2 billion active accounts at any one time, with the average user having 130 ‘friends’. If just one person shares a post about your business, that instantly reaches 130 of their peers. If that post is shared again, that’s reached another 130, and so on. This becomes ‘social proof’ that your brand can be trusted.

How has social media changed tourism marketing?

Tourism marketing has changed drastically since the emergence of social media.

Customer reviews

Think about how tourism operators used to market their business. Advertising campaigns were their ‘go to’ strategy, but now that social media has given consumers a place to publicly share their experience, both good and bad, tourism companies can no longer hide behind flashy ad campaigns.

With more people using social media to conduct travel research before making a booking, having a positive online presence, interacting with customers and sharing testimonials from clients has never been more important.

Using Facebook for tourism is an increasingly popular way for companies to promote their services due to the recently added ‘looking for recommendations’ function. This feature enables users to ask for recommendations on a range of travel topics from hotels to experiences. If a business is active on social media, they will be able to jump into these discussions to speak directly with potential customers.

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Customer service

In the travel sector, good customer service has always been important. However, the way that customer service is provided has been reshaped by social media.

More people want to communicate with companies online as it is much quicker and easier. Statistics from Sprout Social report 40% of consumers expect brands to respond within the first hour of reaching out on social media, while 79% expect a response in the first 24 hours. It is therefore imperative that tourism operators are responding promptly to client’s messages to meet customer expectations and prevent them from going to competitors.

Why is social media good for tourism marketers?

Brand credibility and trust are key in the tourism sector. Customers book when they know they can rely on a business to deliver what they say they will do. Social media offers an insight into what happens behind the scenes and it paints a picture about what others are saying about a business.

Building brand awareness

Believe it or not, according to Omnicore, 60% of Instagram users said they discovered new products on the platform and 1 in 3 will look at a business’s social media page to find out more about the brand before choosing them. A potential customers’ confidence in your brand and the likelihood of using your service will increase if they see you actively engaging with your online community. With 70% of social media users logging in at least once a day, having an active online presence helps keep you fresh in their minds. This also increases overall brand awareness.

Destination discovery

Social media has almost replaced the travel guidebooks and brochures consumers used to search through when choosing a holiday destination. What’s more, people are now using social media to discover destinations they didn’t even know existed, thanks to scroll stopping images popping up on their news feed.

According to research, 87% of millennials use Facebook for travel inspiration before booking a trip. This means the images you share might just be enough to entice new customers to book with your organisation.

How can travel brands make the most of social media?

Take advantage of the unique features and functions each social media platform offers, from posting videos on IGTV to snapping on Snapchat. Track and analyse your data to discover how successful these posts were in leading to meaningful engagements with customers.

The best social media platforms for tourism are Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but simply sharing the same content across all three channels will not be enough to attract users. Each platform can offer your tourism business a unique way to connect with and engage new customers.

Instagram is ideal for travel inspiration. Creating emotive travel quotes for Instagram, posting photos of stunning scenery or native animals are the perfect way to tempt readers to consider a destination. There are several free sites that can help give you captivating Instagram story ideas for travel to keep your clients interested.

Facebook is excellent for user-generated content, allowing you to share customer reviews, testimonials, interviews and photos so that people can see real people enjoying your services. Remember to always ask the permission of the user before sharing their post.

Twitter is the place for conversation. Often referred to as the ‘micro-blogging’ platform, it is a great place for you to share interesting news and facts about your company or destination. Consider using this platform as a way to join in discussions about travelling and holidays to build client awareness of your brand.

The tourism industry is incredibly competitive and standing out from the rest can be a challenge. Developing a unique online personality that ties in with your brand is fundamental in being the point of difference to your competitors. Be authentic in how you engage with your audience.

Pay attention to the language and word choices you use to ensure you remain consistent. If, for example, your commitment to sustainable travel is what makes you unique, make sure this is prominent across all social media channels.

Remember, social proof is what you need. Having users share your content is key to reaching a wider audience and developing trust in your brand.

Running competitions is a fun way to boost shares on social media and get your online community buzzing, just ensure your prize is tempting for your target market and that your competitions comply with that platform’s terms and conditions.

Using travel hashtags and creating your own hashtags is another effective way to boost shares and drive traffic to your page.

Sharing testimonials from your customers is another powerful way to bolster brand awareness and instil customer confidence. If your client allows, sharing their first name, age and country may be helpful to show your target market that their peers are choosing you.

Once you have established who your target market is, seeking our travel influencers with established followers who match your target audience is an effective way to reach a larger audience. Watching influencers on IGTV talk about their experiences with your brand will provide further social proof your company is respected.

While no one enjoys reading negative feedback, the good news is this can be turned into a positive opportunity to learn and improve your business. You must monitor all of your social media channels and respond to feedback promptly to show customers you care.

There are some great online tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer which will help streamline how you receive messages across all platforms to make it easier and faster for you to respond.

Understand which channels your target markets use

Brand credibility and trust are key in the tourism sector. Customers book when they know they can rely on a business to deliver what they say they will do. Social media offers an insight into what happens behind the scenes and it paints a picture about what others are saying about a business.

What is better for tourism – Twitter or Facebook?

The answer depends on your target market.

Establishing which platforms your target audience most uses will help you create content that resonates with your ideal customer.

For younger customers, sending snaps on Snapchat of what is happening behind the scenes helps give your followers a peek at behind the scenes footage that’s occurring at that moment.

Those who prefer to Tweet may value interesting facts or news about your service and may want to be engaged in discussions around travel in general.

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Increasing engagement on social media

On Facebook, live streaming is given priority in news feeds, so consider going live regularly to interact with your target audience. Consider live Q & As to interact with your user base quickly and effectively.

For Instagrammers, using this platform to share incredible holiday snippets in Instagram stories or sharing a video through reels on IGTV will entice your followers to learn more.

LinkedIn is a great platform if your company caters for business travellers. Sharing useful travel information here would be helpful for them to see you as an ‘expert’ in this field.

Regardless of the platform you choose, make sure users can easily find where and how to contact you to find out more information or to make a booking.

Creating content for your travel brand

The most influential travel social media content should be topical, relatable for your target market and ideally, seasonal. Sharing images of the lavender fields in Tasmania when they are in bloom, for example, creates a sense of time urgency with your customers, encouraging them to book before the season’s over. Marketing agencies can provide you with social media advice to help you plan relevant content campaigns to deliver the best travel social media campaigns.

The key to delivering a top social media strategy for tourism is to show your customers you can meet their needs at every step of their journey.

For those thinking of a getaway, a free ‘sample itinerary’ would help to entice the reader to consider a particular destination. If the customer has already booked, provide them with valuable resources to help during their trip, from a list of the best restaurants in that location to personalised guide sheets. Remember to keep your target market in your mind – if your ideal customer is a young family, be sure that all your resources and content relate to family-friendly activities. 

Research shows that social video generates on average 12 times more shares than text and images combined. A video can offer a virtual tour of a hotel, destination, experience or it could even be an interview meeting the locals at your destination. Videos are a great way to allow customers to be immersed in what that experience would feel like, which is a powerful marketing strategy.

Keep your target audience at the front of your mind

When creating content for social media marketing, we can’t stress the importance of keeping your customers top of mind quite enough. Your audience are your number one priority, rather than your products and services.

Be specific

Think about who your ideal customer is – and be detailed. If your target market is young male travellers, ask yourself a series of questions, such as:

  • Are they aged 18-25 or 30-40?
  • Where are they from? Do most come from England or are they Australian?
  • Are they single or married?
  • Do they have a high or low income?
  • How would they speak? Would it be formal or informal?

By really working out these finer details, you can create content that will speak directly to your target market. After all, there is no benefit of highlighting expensive hotels if you are targeting budget travellers.

Solve their problems

Once you know who your target market is, you can really get into the minds of your consumer to consider what their concerns or hesitancies may be.

What might be stopping them from choosing you? It could be concerns over cost, or perhaps safety at a particular destination. Once you have identified these issues, you can create content that shows your target audience you have considered their needs and have answered their queries without them needing to ask.

For example, advertising a weekend break highlighting that all food and drink is included is perfect for targeting budget travellers.

Tools to make your tourism social media marketing more effective

You may be spending a lot of time generating content, but if you don’t know what’s working and what isn’t, what’s the point? This is where tracking and analysing your data is crucial.

Scheduling tools and support

There are various sites such as Hootsuite, Buzzsumo and Buffer that can help you understand how your audience engages on social media. Learning what content led to bookings, what time of day is best to post and getting ideas of what to post will help you plan a successful marketing campaign.

You may also consider consulting a travel and tourism marketing agency for social media advice to help you stay ahead of the game when it comes to new features and updated algorithms. This can save a significant amount of time and provide you with peace of mind knowing that your company will continue to deliver the best tourism marketing campaigns for the budget you have available.

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Use social media travel apps as an additional platform

In addition to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, there are travel-specific social media apps being used by travellers at different stages of their booking journey. Apps such as Foursquare, allow users to search for recommendations based on their preferences and current location. Alternatively, apps like Travello allow travellers to connect with other travellers in the same location. As a tourism operator or travel service provider, it is useful to know how these apps function so that you can continue to maintain a presence across all social media channels to be there for every step of a customer’s buying cycle.

Virtual reality apps have also had a surge in downloads recently. With most of us stuck at home during the pandemic, these apps have allowed people to experience new destinations from the comfort of their sofas. These apps are expected to continue growing in popularity as it gives users the ultimate ‘try before you buy’ experience. They have already been incredibly popular for hotel marketing and this is expected to continue.

The power of social media marketing

Social media has the power to help your travel brand reach over half of the world’s population, but how you use it is the key to your success. 

Delivering content tailored to your target market, sharing customer reviews and showing customers you care by responding promptly to their comments and queries are fundamental to a successful marketing campaign.

Whether you already have an established social media presence and want to improve or are completely new to this way of marketing, the team at Mankind Digital can help your business stand out from your competitors. Speak with a social media marketing expert today.

Published September 2021 | Lucy Barrett

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