Social media for travel brands: Tips, content ideas and examples
Before people travel the world, they travel to social media. In fact, 10 per cent of Australians cited “holiday, travel & accommodation” as the last thing they searched on social media prior to being surveyed for a Sensis report. This put the category in second place after fashion and electrical equipment (joint-first place, at 17 per cent).
Looking at research beyond Australasian shores we see even more proof. MDG Advertising says that 30 per cent of US travelers turn to social media for travel inspiration, and 40 per cent of young UK users think about how ‘Instagrammable’ a location is before planning a trip.
Travel and social media are inseparable. Therefore, your brand’s message, whether you’re a travel agency or other travel-related business, must must MUST be on social.
But what are the best ideas for travel companies?
Let’s cover the following points:
- Social media strategy for travel brands
- Content ideas to help you get stuck in
- Case studies for inspiration
Part 1: Social media strategy for travel brands
First, set clear goals
Without a clear goal, how can you score?
Without a clear goal, how can you score?
Now is the time to establish why you are turning to social media. Are you building awareness? Promoting a specific campaign? Earning sales leads? This goal should be attainable and measurable – think “increase website traffic by 50 per cent” rather than “become a thought leader”.
Now choose your platform
Social platforms are like airlines – they all do the same sort of thing, but every one is unique (and has its own audience). So with your goals in mind, you’ll need to establish what platforms are best for achieving them. This will mean understanding the nuances of each platform and where your audience likes to hang out.
- Bonus tip: If you haven’t got user personas settled, stop right here and add those to your to-do list. Not sure what we’re talking about? Check out our guide on how to create user personas.
Here’s a summary of the top social media platforms:
- Facebook: Australia’s most popular social media platform (data from Vivid Social). Great for blog post links, videos and paid advertising. Huge range of audience members, from young to older, but recent algorithm changes have made it harder to get noticed.
- YouTube: NZ’s most popular social site (data from Statista). Entirely video-based, with increasing use of long-form video content (over 10 mins).
- Instagram: Third place in both Aus and NZ. Almost exclusively mobile following, so think images that are clear on small screens, as well as plenty of short-form videos that can be understood without sound – many users watch mobile videos muted.
- Snapchat: Fourth place in Aus but still growing in NZ. Huge younger following (ages 13-25, says Marketo). Used for visual content, but should be authentic – think behind the scenes, chatting with customers, hosting contests. Be real, not ‘businessy’.
- Twitter: Has slipped in rankings recently but remains popular for certain uses. Twitter’s ability to rapidly connect users and brands hasn’t faded. Customer support, news stories, and the odd blog post, video or GIF are all popular options. But you’ll likely need to post frequently to be noticed (more than once or twice per day).
- Pinterest: Fourth place in NZ but way down the Aus rankings. Pinterest has a lot of value in travel – create travel lists, destination guides, and photo/video compilations. Check out Lonely Planet in our case study section below.
When it comes to promoting content on social media, @facebook has the biggest audience and the best range of ad products. In this ultimate guide to Facebook promotion, we’ll help you find the ad strategy that best fits your marketing goals. https://t.co/EjEii7UahE pic.twitter.com/wsL6M1Xxan— Castleford Media (@castlefordmedia) September 21, 2018
Next, become essential
Yeah OK, this advice is a bit like telling a gym-goer to ‘become fit’, but it’s a good goal (if a little hard to measure). Your social media platforms must present value to users, and the more they feel they can turn to you for that inspiration we mentioned in our intro, the more your brand becomes synonymous with their travel needs.
Users turn to social media for ideas, and now’s a good time for you to start thinking how you can offer them. Here are a few categories to consider:
- Destination inspiration.
- Local attractions and activities.
- Accommodation ideas.
- Food/drink ideas.
- Stories about other people’s experiences.
You don’t need to stick to just one category, but you must present the best possible value in your area. It might be easier to start with one category and build from there.
Part 2: Travel content ideas
User-generated content (UGC)
UGC does what it says on the tin – users create their own content, which you then host on your social platforms. But not in a thefty, copyright-risky way, more in an audience-participation way.
User-generated content is a cost-effective way to source social media posts.
User content is practically made for travel brands. It touches on all the categories above, with big emphasis on number five (stories from other people). Plus it also has the added trustworthiness of being from a user, not a brand.
- Create a hashtag and ask users to tag their photos with it. Repost these images.
- Share user reviews and other stories.
Influencer marketing is where you collaborate with an ‘influencer’ – that is, a person/group with a dedicated following over which they have influence – to amplify your brand message. This could be particularly potent if you’re running a campaign, or want to promote a particular service.
How to use influencers
- Find the right people: Check out trending posts on your relevant platforms to see who is big – Instagram and Twitter are popular for influencer marketing in particular. You can also use Buzzsumo to help you, as it has influencer-finding tools built-in.
- Start building a relationship: Follow the people you are interested in – subscribe to their blogs, follow on social media, and engage with them. Comment on their posts, like their activity, and share posts that will be interesting to your own audience.
- After a time, reach out: Send a polite email with the relevant details. Ask influencers to share your blog posts, or offer sponsorship so they travel to a particular destination and blog about it (and you, as the sponsor).
- Maintain this relationship: Don’t let it drop after you’ve achieved your goal. These friendships could go a long way over time, so keep up good contact.
According to Google’s own data, people are turning to YouTube for travel-related content in increasing quantity, and have been since 2013. Videos can help people with all of the categories we mentioned in our earlier point.
So what videos should you make? Consider some of the following ideas:
- Destination guides – everything a user needs to know about a place.
- Virtual tours – more on this below.
- Drone overviews – could be good to show off scenery from a unique angle.
- Animated explanation videos – little animated videos explaining complex or boring topics (like travel insurance).
- Interviews or mini-documentaries – interview real travellers, or make mini-docos on influencers. Tell real human stories.
Virtual reality (VR)
VR in this context refers to 360-degree imagery/videos that users can view either through a VR headset or on a mobile device (using their fingers to spin the camera).
When it comes to combining VR with social media, virtual tours are a unique opportunity to showcase something fresh and exciting.
- Run a hotel? Make a walk-through video with a 360-degree camera.
- Promoting a destination? Take photos or make a video showcasing the area in VR.
- Own an attraction? Take users through the experience (or at least part of it, to tease them) – imagining ziplining in VR!
Customer support might not be as exciting as virtual reality, but it’s a vital component of a healthy business and social media has made it easier than ever.
Twitter and Facebook in particular shine when it comes to business-customer dialogue, as they both facilitate fast conversation.
Tips for social-based customer support
- Have a team monitoring social media for incoming questions/concerns.
- Respond as quickly and helpfully as possible.
- Remember that it’s all public – this isn’t a private conversation, so any arguments your team gets into online are visible to the world. Your team may require social media training to ensure your brand’s voice is consistent, and your reputation upheld.
Part 3: Case study examples
We’ve sourced some great examples of travel-related companies using social media in inspiring ways. Do any of these sound right for your business?
Tourism Australia – Instagram
Tourism Australia’s Insta is a force unto itself – 3.3 million followers as we write this article. So what’s the secret to their success? Well, the organisation is deploying a few different strategies, and they will all be working in tandem:
- Vibrant, inspiring imagery: Scrolling through TA’s feed is a joy. There’s cute animals, glorious scenery, activity ideas… The marketers behind this Insta feed know what’s visually stunning about their country and have gone wild with it.
- UGC: TA’s feed is a collaborative affair. In their profile bio they have a couple of tags for users to use, and then throughout their feed we see mentions of other organisations, local businesses and real users – many of the images feature quotes from users, too, recounting their first-hand experience with the situation. It makes it very personal, very authentic.
- Good use of Stories: TA has a unique story pinned to their feed for each Aussie state, meaning a user new to the feed can tap on any one to get an introduction to the area and what’s available there.
View this post on Instagram
This is an ofFISHcial invite to @lordhoweislandtourism, we hope to see you there! 😃🐟 @melissafindley had a “pretty special experience” at #NedsBeach, “wading in the crystal clear waters, surrounded by Mullet, Wrasse, Garfish Silver-drummer, Spangled Emperor and Kingfish.” This sanctuary zone allows visitors to swim with loads of friendly fish, whilst hand-feeding them with supplied healthy fish food. #LordHoweIsland is an easy two-hour flight from @sydney, but only 400 visitors are allowed on the #island at any one time, so make sure you book your trip well in advance. #seeaustralia #newsouthwales #travel #naturephotography
Qantas – Instagram
Qantas is also rocking the Instagram game, using some similar and some different tactics to Tourism Australia.
Scrolling through the feed you’ll see a mix of aspirational photography like in TA, as well as Qantas-specific promos. Two things really catch our eye here:
- Qantas asks questions: Engagement is a powerful thing on social media, helping your content rank in people’s news feeds. Qantas is sparking engagement by asking questions in many of its posts. Look at the example we’ve embedded below – it asks a question, almost like a puzzle, and as a result it has 69 comments at time of writing.
- More UGC: Our example below also features somebody’s @ handle, as do many of the airline’s other posts. If you read Qantas’ bio, you can see that tagging “#qantas” puts you in with a chance of being featured on their feed. The results speak for themselves.
Lonely Planet – Pinterest
Given its relatively low profile in Australia, Pinterest doesn’t get a lot of attention. However, travel is highly popular on Pinterest, sitting in the website’s top 10 categories with a total of over 3 billion ideas, according to its own stats.
Lonely Planet is one company that’s benefiting from Pinterest’s growing user popularity but low marketer popularity. In fact, as of writing the travel site has 3.9 million monthly viewers!
The cool thing about Lonely Planet’s Pinterest
The Loneliest of Planets is using Pinterest as an educational resource. It collects helpful pins into categorised boards with titles like “Best in travel 2019” and “Gifts for travellers” so scrolling through isn’t just inspirational, but educational.
And it’s not all proprietary stuff, either. Third-party bloggers and other community members feature regularly, adding a UGC and influencer element to their work.
Source: Lonely Planet Pinterest
Delta Airlines – Twitter
There are many examples of interesting Twitter use, particularly with more and more companies starting to either roast, troll or banter with each other (even museums!).
We’ve chosen Delta because its got a good customer support rhythm going, with many customers writing in via Twitter and the company’s social media gurus taking care to be prompt in their responses, as well as helpful and courteous.
Our favourite Delta example…
…is the chain that starts with this Tweet:
Firstly, it’s a gentle troll of a competitor (which, at the time, banned two female passengers from boarding a flight because they wore leggings. Fiasco ensued). However, when a user responded “love the joke but comfort…im 6 foot tall and my knees touch the front seat not too comfortable. Don’t look forward to this flight (sic)”, it could have turned sour – someone was taking the opportunity to complain, as many are wont to do online.
But Delta rose to the occasion. First, they found out when the guy was flying, then they got him and his father exit-row seats so they had more legroom.
From social media complaint to customer service success story. Insert many a clapping GIF here.
Intrepid Travel – Facebook
With half a million followers, Intrepid Travel must be doing something right on Facebook!
We love Interpid’s Facebook because it has a great mixture of content. First, there’s blog posts – most of their articles seem very destination-focused, so followers will, over time, grow to think of Intrepid as their go-to place for location-specific ideas and advice.
There’s also location-specific videos, with captions so they can be watched on mute, and a plethora of vibrant photographs.
- Key takeaway here: Intrepid has chosen its category – destination-specific advice – and produced a wide variety of content to educate and inspire its audience. This is an excellent use of the combined forces of content marketing and social media.
Travel brands have a lot to work with on social media. There’s plenty of leeway to get creative and fun (even a little cheeky), while building long-term relationships with users who grow to learn that your brand is synonymous with their queries.
There are a variety of platforms and content types available for you to play with on social, so get your goals together, sort out a plan and start experimenting!