This article originally appeared on the 3Q Digital blog.
As social media continues to grow exponentially in adoption, consumers will increasingly seek recommendations from their social networks on travel purchase decisions. The influence of customer recommendations on social media channels cannot be underestimated by marketers.
According to PhoCusWright’s Social Media in Travel 2012, more than 75% of travelers use social networks to find some type of shopping-related deal, while 30% specifically seek out travel-related deals. It is clear that succeed in this evolving social ecosystem, businesses travel industry will need to cultivate positive customer experiences that can be translated into efficient marketing opportunities through Social Media.
Below are five quick tips marketers in the Travel vertical for how to use Facebook and other social media to turn your customers into your greatest marketing asset:
1.) Ensure You Are Optimized For Facebook Open Graph Search – Facebook recently expanded its beta version of its Graph Search capability, which presents a massive opportunity for marketers in the travel space. If you have a local hotel, inn, restaurant, or tourism business, Graph Search may help you gain exposure to new audiences. To ensure your page is properly optimized for Graph Search, ensure your location is spelled out clearly on your Facebook Page, clearly describe the type of travel offering you provide as well as the location. Also, continue to grow your fan base, and ask satisfied customers to leave reviews of their travel experience on your fan page which will play into your ranking.
2.) Turn Customer Engagement Into Your Marketing Assets – Travel customers are increasingly looking to social media as a credible source of information when looking to make a travel purchase. In particular, Facebook has emerged the most useful and trustworthy for social media site according to eMarketer.com.
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Most useful and trustworthy social media sites when planning their last trip according to internet users worldwide, January 2013. (Source: http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Travelers-Worldwide-Look-Google-Research-Tool/1009874)[/caption]
Marketers can take advantage of this consumer research trend by posting content meant to engage their fan base, and promoting these engagements through paid ads. For example, a leading global hotel chain posts pictures of their most alluring and captivating hotel locations and then invite Fans to share their experiences at said destination. Marketers in the travel vertical should take advantage of Page Post ads and Sponsored Stories ad units to influence travel customers who are passively and actively using the channel for research purposes.
3.) Encourage Check-Ins, Photo and Video Sharing – According to PhoCusWright’s Social Media in Travel 2012, 52% of Facebook users said their travel plans were affected by seeing friends’ pictures of trips. Clearly, photo sharing on Facebook has emerged as a massive opportunity for marketers in the Travel industry to influence purchase decisions of potential customers. For one, travel marketers should integrate photo sharing into their offline events. Additionally, marketers should encourage check-ins at physical locations at every opportunity. Check in Sponsored Stories can be effective means of Word of Mouth marketing, which Facebook users will interpret as positive affinity towards your brand from their social network.
4.) Delight Customers and Encourage Positive Feedback Throughout the Web – For hotel and airline companies, positive customer reviews have become a critical need for long term success. Most travelers will seek the unbiased opinions of their networks before making a travel purchase decision. Over the past several years, TripAdvisor has emerged as the leader in travel reviews and research, boasting an average of 200 million unique visitors / year, a dedicated user base, and a wealth of user generated content for over 600,000 hotels in more than 11,000 destinations. With Facebook’s integration with TripAdvisor, travelers can see which destinations their network has endorsed and reviewed, bringing social context to their research process. Travel companies should encourage positive reviews on TripAdvisor and other review channels such as Yelp and Zagat.
5.) Re-Engage the Customers Who Have Expressed Interest in Your Brand – According to Forbes.com, 99% of travel customers visit more than one website when planning a trip. This statistic is critically important for Travel Marketers and highlights the need to retarget potential customers who abandon their website visit.
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When planning a trip, how many websites do you typically visit?
Travel marketers should leverage the Facebook Exchange (FBX) to retarget customers on Facebook who have expressed interest in your brand or intent to make a purchase. Customer data should be segmented based on purchase intent, or stage of the buying cycle the customer appears to be in. Marketers should utilize a platform that buys on the FBX to deliver customers a customized, compelling message and a reason to return to your website. Travel marketers can also leverage Custom Audiences targeting in Facebook to accomplish a similar goal. Custom Audiences targeting allows marketers to retarget Facebook users based on offline information about the user captured and stored in the advertiser’s internal database. FBX and Custom Audiences both offer Travel Marketers a cost efficient and effective means of influencing purchase decisions and driving potential customers back to their website for conversion.