As the marketing potential of social media continues to grow, many sectors of the travel industry are seeking ways to take advantage of the latest twists in the social-media space.
A recent article in USA TODAY suggests that the travel industry is way ahead of the curve in the use of social media as a business tool for promoting customer loyalty. But why is social media such a great fit for this particular industry?
In the travel industry there is much concern about consumer perception, and there are a lot more options for airlines, hotels and resorts than there are for cable providers or grocery stores. Challenging market conditions have pushed those in the travel industry to look for ways to differentiate themselves from their competition and boost brand loyalty. With the help of social media networks, those in the travel business are broadening their branding efforts (from the beaches to the ski slopes), and connecting with potential clients they may not have reached through traditional advertising methods.
With a growing population of travelers using Facebook and other social media networks to book travel plans, check out reviews and share experiences, social media has become an Internet Marketing power house for the industry. With more and more people going online when making their traveling plans, social media can play a major role in accelerating the decision cycle of consumers.
When planning to travel, the majority of consumers search for the perfect destination. Then, they research and plan what they will take part in while on their trip. If you are a resort or hotel, then travel bloggers are writing about your hotel and potential travelers are reading the reviews (the good and the bad). After conducting their research, they book their arrangements. When all is said and done, they return home to share their personal stories, blogs, photos and videos from their vacation. What do all of the steps in this cycle have in common? In most cases all of these steps are done online, making it vital for hotels, airlines and other travel related companies to be in a position to be visible in the online space when consumers are mapping out their travel plans.
This is where social media comes in. When done correctly, your portfolio of social networking sites becomes useful online real estate to be used to complement a professionally designed and up to date website. But unlike websites, social networks are a “personal place” to discover, share and discuss just about anything. The emerging media gives potential travelers the ability to: discover, research, shop, compare, share, discuss, dish advice, plan and even book from a Mobile device or personal computer. In addition, it has not only become a critical tool to interact with customers, but social media is also a key element that impacts search engine optimization. Resorts and other businesses that take advantage of this hot trend are seeing significant benefits in terms of online placement and revenue.
Encouraging consumer interaction via social networks adds value by providing exclusive content not available elsewhere. For example, The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort’s Facebook Page compliments the resort’s website by giving fans a more personalized platform. The Facebook Page gives this community a place to upload personal photos and videos of their vacation, receive discount updates and package options, enter Facebook fan only contests and sweepstakes, view graphics of the resort and be directed to links to receive specific, detailed information. The custom designed social media site paints a picture of everything the luxurious resort has to offer, while engaging a targeted community in a user-friendly and entertaining environment that cannot be found in a website.
Through Facebook and Twitter businesses can introduce incentives and exclusive deals for those that ‘like’ their brand. United, for instance, has “twares,” fare specials offered exclusively through Twitter, and this past July, AirTran introduced its “Facebook Friday Fares,” which give its Facebook fans one of a kind deals.
Another great example of a hotel that has utilized social media in a cutting edge fashion is The Trump Hotel Collection. According to a recent Marketwire report, the Trump Hotel Collection’s social networking presence currently touches “upwards of a million people a day”.
“It makes sense to tie together our social networking presence with a brand Facebook page since it is the most comprehensive, consumer-facing social network in the marketplace today,” said Jim Petrus, Chief Operating Officer, Trump Hotel Collection.
Up till now, the only ways to book a hotel room was through a hotel’s website, a travel agent or, the old fashioned way, picking up the phone. With the boom of social media, hoteliers can now engage clientele to actually book reservations through Facebook. The Trump Hotel Collection recently expanded its social networking presence to provide another avenue for bookings with a customized Facebook Page. Trump guests can now book a hotel room through the booking widget on the Facebook page. The convenience and immediacy of the Facebook widget has proved to be of value to the legendary brand.
While research indicates that many hotels have already established entry level marketing profiles on popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, too many times these sites become dormant. While the demographic profiles of social media users are a clear match for the travel industry, the challenges faced by most businesses is the necessary time and dedication of qualified internal staff to interact in social media marketing. These challenges hinder the industry’s ability to implement effective Internet marketing strategies that are necessary to manage client reviews, measure results, respond to feedback in a timely matter and communicate effectively with potential customers.
The Net Impact has experience in addressing these needs with a cost-effective and efficient solution to social media marketing. Contact The Net Impact today to learn how we can work with you to build your online presence through social media.