TRAVEL & HOSPITALITY:

RUNNING A FIVE STAR SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY

Social media and travel pair better than an expensive Bordeaux and a perfectly seared filet (although that pairing will be shared on social as well). With every adventure, consumers have the opportunity to capture and share their experiences with their friends and family through their personal social accounts, whether it’s a perfect photo, vibrant video, or captivating caption. Travelers love to humblebrag while sharing their adventures on their favorite social networks, giving an insider view of all aspects of their getaway.

On the other end of the spectrum, travel and hospitality companies have a tremendous opportunity to expand their business through the proper alignment and integration of their social media strategy. Whether you’re an airline, hotel, destination, or anything in between, you’ve got something special to sell – escapism. You’re not selling bathroom cleaners or a checkup at the dentist. You’re selling something sexy. You’re selling a dream, an alternate universe, a time, place, and feeling – an experience that people crave. The travel and hospitality industry is exciting by nature. Travel brands have the opportunity to capture consumers with content that will keep them engaged. Create and share truly captivating content and you’ll inspire consumers to dream about escaping with your brand.

ASPIRATIONAL

People love to travel. Travel is one of the top 10 trending board topics on Pinterest, there are endless blogs dedicated to the topic, and there are 113,945,209 posts (and counting) on Instagram with the hashtag #travel. It’s no secret that people take advantage of social media platforms to post about their travel wishes; posting their travel daydreams on Pinterest boards, photo blogging about the places they one day wish to see, and posting links on Facebook with lists of the best places to visit in the world. Social media is an incredible medium for posting aspirational content and sharing it with your community; it’s a way of stating “I wish I was there.”

Now it’s up to your brand to step in and say, “This could be you.” If you can accomplish this through your visual storytelling, you will have the audience at the edge of their seat, ready to choose your brand as their next destination. All you need to do is provide the bait and allow the consumer to make an emotional connection. It’s important to provide travel-hopefuls something to dream about, this is your chance to hook them with posts about what makes your travel/hospitality brand so special. This is your chance to give people a reason to actually consider taking a vacation. Take advantage of the capabilities of each unique platform and give consumers an eye-full of what could fill their days instead of their daily mundane routine.

INSPIRATIONAL

So you’ve caught the consumers’ eye with an aspirational focused social strategy. You’ve got someone believing, “I want to be there.” Consumers at the top of the funnel, looking to travel, search for inspiration and ideas on social. They use social as a means of gaining ideas and perspective from friends, travel experts, and brands to help in selecting their next escape. Use social media to show the details of what your brand offers, and keep them inspired to travel. Utilize the blogging feature of your website and write descriptive content about what you offer that sets you apart from the competition. Get people excited and inspired through amazing photography, captivating language, and brand stories.

Social has transformed the relationship between customers and brands, giving customers direct access to their favorite brands. It’s now customary for consumers to live tweet flight delays or missing luggage and instantly reach thousands of people. As social media has moved customer service into the public eye, travelers’ expectations of brands have risen as they expect instant personal assistance and customer care. Advanced social listening tools allow companies to tap into the compliments and complaints so that they can react quickly. This kind of engagement can go a long way in improving a brand’s reputation. Inspire with your reputation.

Consumers will definitely be checking out your brand’s online reputation on sites like Trip Advisor and Yelp to get information on the best and worst of what to expect. It is said that one unsatisfied customer tells at least five others. In the age of social media, that number has multiplied into the thousands as online communities give a bigger voice and a greater reach to the average consumer. For these consumers, the shift has been empowering. For businesses, the sentiments are mixed. Online reviews can be great when customers are singing your praises, but difficult when they are voicing concerns.

MOTIVATIONAL

Once a consumer is hooked on your content, it’s your job to seal the deal with, well, a deal. Social media offers the perfect platform to drive conversion. Turn a consumer’s thoughts from “I can’t wait to go there” to “I’m going there” by weaving offers into your social content. Keep the two-way communication rolling by asking questions within your posts and by hosting contests that will motivate viewers to keeping coming back to your social brand pages.

Motivate through influencers.

Social media has changed the way consumers make decisions by taking what is being said about brands out of the hands of businesses and into the hands of their consumers. When it comes to making travel plans, consumers are seeking guidance from their peers before making a purchase. Leverage those consumers who have already loved experiencing your brand as advocates and brand ambassadors. Inspire and motivate them to tell your brand story. Encourage them to leave feedback on their favorite travel review site to help push your brand to that coveted five star status. Lose too many stars and you’ll start seeing a dip in revenue. Be sure to track and respond to review site comments and especially complaints. Top brands know that gaining back a star on Yelp translates to a 7% to 9% increase to their bottom line.

Travel brands innately possess the holy grail of social media: amazing visual content and tons of user-generated content (aka UGC). Brands need to identify the stories they want to share, what makes them unique, and what resonates with their target demographic. Whether utilizing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or Pinterest, companies with the most successful social media strategies surround their customers with aspirational experiences that inspire and motivate.

Author Jenna Vandenberg

Director of Social Media - Jenna has spent over fifteen years managing the marketing efforts of Fortune 500 brands across traditional, interactive, and social platforms. Her client experience spans the tourism, retail, technology, healthcare and automotive categories with clients managed such as Macy’s, The New York Times, Hewlett-Packard and Ford.

More posts by Jenna Vandenberg