Last week I spent an afternoon researching new business opportunities – specifically small to medium-sized UK-based travel brands that aren’t using social media to its full potential. Although I’m busy, I have the thirst to take on an additional project (I manage social media channels for brands on a freelance basis).
I looked at the social media channels that belonged to around 30 tour operators. While there were some brilliant examples, I’d say that around 75% of these companies weren’t using the channels properly – i.e. to effectively generate buzz and sales – and I doubt they’ll be making much of an impact with what they’re currently doing.
I think that perhaps social media marketing is still an after-thought for some companies. That they don’t fully understand its potential and how to use it properly to drive awareness and sales. It’s seen as something that brands ‘must do these days’, without actually measuring the impact of the activity and the level of exposure it’s providing.
I’m always shocked that this is the reality, but then I must remind myself that I am so immersed in all things social media daily, while that’s not normally the case for a Managing Director or even Marketing Manager of a business. I understand that lack of budget or resources can impact things, too.
So, let me help! Here are four of the most common mistakes that I noticed during that afternoon researching travel brands’ social media channels:
Some brands only share sales message on their social media channels, including web links to their holidays and offers. It’s important to share the right mix of sales messages, as well as interesting content that goes beyond clearly selling your trips, hotel, flights, etc. You want to create an inspirational channel that genuinely appeals to your target audience.
For example, one of my tour operator clients specialises in holidays for solo travellers so I share a mix of their trips, as well as interesting travel news related to destinations in its portfolio and features that celebrate the single life and solo travel.
Share the right type of content, and the results can be phenomenal. Just today, I looked at the statistics of a Facebook post that I shared last night for another of my tour operator clients that specialises in holidays to the Nordic countries, and it has already reached over 15,000 people and generated over 400 reactions, comments and shares organically. The post was a beautiful image-led press article about watching the northern lights from Sweden’s famous Treehotel, linked to one of my client’s holidays.
Forgetting the power of video and live-streaming
Many of the social media posts being shared by some brands that I analysed were image-led. Beautiful visuals of destinations and hotels still generate a high level of audience engagement, but video and even live-stream video content through Facebook/Instagram Live or Twitter’s Periscope, can be even more powerful. I recently joined one of my tour operator client’s trips in Norway and shared live video on its social media channels throughout. This content saw a higher than usual level of audience engagement, including over 1,000 people watching a live-stream of a whale watching boat trip.
Video and live-streaming enables your target audience to taste your holidays in a way that wasn’t possible before. And you don’t need a fancy video camera – I filmed everything on my iPhone. The business of travel presents amazing opportunities for gathering such content. For example, there are probably countless opportunities to show off your holidays during familiarisation or inspection trips, or can you ask your tour leaders or suppliers to help contribute ‘live’ content?
Don’t forget to be sociable on social media. I noticed customer reviews on brands’ Facebook pages that had no response. It’s always good to show that your company cares about its customers by responding to reviews, especially anything negative (even if it's unjustified). I also saw some brands asking their target audiences very few questions. Always aim to engage and drive conversation with your customers or potential customers. Before I share any post on behalf of my clients, I consider the wording of it to make the reader feel involved and to encourage them to engage with it.
This is incredibly old news but brands must invest in some regular advertising on social media if they truly want to build their channels. I could tell that some of the travel brands that I looked at didn’t advertise. Without it, it can be difficult to reach and grow your audience (unless you’re ultra-famous like Beyoncé). I always set up and deliver a range of monthly Facebook adverts for all of my clients – usually a combination of advertising that increases page likes, drives sales leads and promotes selected posts - and it doesn't have to be expensive. There are now countless ways to advertise on Facebook and it can be rather overwhelming, although thankfully there's support available including online training provided by Facebook or talk to me for help!