In the past, tourist organisations depended heavily on travel trade and more traditional channels such as print and television advertising campaigns. Whilst a traditional campaign may still have its place, failure to engage in a serious social media marketing strategy will impact negatively on your market share.
When you consider that Facebook currently has 1.71 billion active users each month and Tripadvisor contains 350 million reviews and opinions, it is obvious that social media in tourism has become a major disruptor. It is vital for tourism operators to develop a social media strategy which generates effective word of mouth promotion.
The appeal of platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tripadvisor is their immediacy. If you plan to create a Facebook page and update it once a month, this could actually harm your business. Past and potential customers want to see new posts and responses almost instantly, requiring a dedicated commitment to regular engagement for those using social media in tourism.
Followers of your social media sites look forward to interesting content about what is currently happening. If you are having particularly stunning weather or someone famous is filming in your neighbourhood, a photo with a few carefully-chosen words can generate immediate buzz. Similarly, if you are holding a special promotion that only lasts a few hours or days, social media is the best way to spread the word.
Find out the most common sites for posting reviews of your business and read them religiously. A study conducted by Cornell University showed that businesses which respond to reviews in a timely fashion can boost brand reputation and increase revenue. The study concluded that optimally you should respond to about 40% of reviews. Most importantly, you should promptly respond to negative customer feedback in a genuine manner.
Businesses also benefit from actively seeking reviews. The Cornell study showed increased rankings on social media sites for businesses that welcome and encourage customer feedback. Being in the top rankings on sites such as Tripadvisor translates directly into increased business. Sites such as Tripadvisor use recency of reviews as part of their algorithm so regular input from customers is essential for those using social media in tourism.
Make Customers the Hero
Design your social media platforms to be as interactive as possible. Allow customers to engage and create content by posting photos, adding comments and participating in forums. Potential customers respond to authentic stories that are told by people who have visited a place. Social media posts can act as holiday inspiration for potential visitors or “seal the deal” for those who were already considering a particular business or destination.
Tourism Australia provides an excellent example of how user-generated content can drive business. A 2015 survey showed that 82% of followers said that they were more likely to travel to Australia based on this page. A significant 17% had made travel bookings based on a post that had appealed. In the latter part of 2016, Tourism Australia’s Facebook page shows more than 7 million followers. With a single set of fan photos producing tens of thousands of likes, shares and comments, this is clearly a part of your marketing mix that cannot be ignored.
Consistent Brand Story
Using social media effectively involves more than simply setting up a Facebook page or Twitter account. You should:
select social media platforms which best match your image and target demographic.
identify platforms most commonly accessed by your customers.
integrate your social media activities with your traditional marketing practices.
make sure that your social media pages are mobile phone friendly.
Setting up or engaging on social media accounts should reinforce your brand story. Just as you use slogans, logos, images and language to create a particular impression for a traditional campaign, your social media interactions should be consistent across platforms. You will send mixed messages to potential customers if you give detailed responses to negative customer reviews on one site, yet simply use emojis to indicate your feelings about a photo a customer has posted on another. Treat social media marketing as an integral part of your overall advertising strategy rather than a bolt-on extra.
Embrace the Social Media Revolution
The social media landscape has brought dramatic changes to marketing options in the tourism industry. Your traditional communication and marketing channels still have traction, but, you must embrace social media and make it part of your long-term marketing plans. If you are using social media in tourism, take the time to master your platforms in order to produce positive outcomes for your business.