Social Media Marketing - Trends for 2011

In this post, Head of Digital Marketing, John Newton, considers emerging trends in the way that the Travel industry is using social media and offers a few predictions along the way.

ClickThrough have recently been asked to share our views on the how social media will change the Travel industry over the next few years. The short answer is that social media will have a profound effect on the online strategy of many industries, which include the Travel market.

However, here are some more specific thoughts:

1) Facebook has set itself the aim of becoming the ‘operating system’ for many consumers, and this aim looks, in some cases, to already have been achieved.

We believe that it’s vital that Travel brands build their Facebook fan pages just as they first did their email database 15 years ago, and that they recognise that the interoperability of Facebook with other platforms (either social, CRM or ecommerce) provides them with the basis of a long term consumer relationship conducted through one major platform. Almost all social media campaigns will have Facebook as a required element.

2) Although the iPhone has made the smartphone popular, Google Android has made it affordable. The adoption of Google Android by many mobile manufacturers means that Android Travel Apps will become a major part of the buzz around Travel destinations.

Location based apps such as Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter Locations and Facebook Places (see our Location Marketing white paper) enable Travel brands to engage Travellers (either through real or virtual rewards, or other means) in evangelising about their brands and locations.

3) Although when it comes to social media users are congregating around Facebook, there are also emerging Travel-centric social media vertical platforms. Bumped.in, Exploroo, ontheroad, Tripit, ShareTrip, TravellersPoint and Driftr are all social networks dedicated to Travel and Travellers.

These platforms allow consumers to share travel plans, update others whilst in the processing of travelling and even get real-time travel tips from other users in the vicinity. Travel is a ‘big ticket’ consumer item, and like the Automotive sector, consumers are passionate about sharing when things go better (and worse) than expected.

We believe that utilisation of these Travel-specific social media platforms will play a part in the social media plans of some Travel organisations in the next few years.

4) Consumer reviews will continue to play a crucial part in Travel industry purchases. In the PowerReviews ‘Customer Reviews and Online Shopping Habits survey’ this summer, customer reviews were viewed by 70% of people as having the highest impact on buying behaviour, closely followed by community forums, Facebook wall posts and User Videos.

We believe that finding ways to leverage true grassroots consumer opinion, and leveraging this to business gain, is going to be a major ambition for many Travel companies over the next few years.

5) Some Travel companies may decide to move away from the ‘superbrand’ as a focal point, and instead move towards developing bespoke social content for individual locations and hotels including more blogs for individual properties. Travellers and long term residents may well want to become part of this movement.

6) Consumers like the way that they can access their entire social circle so easily through social media platforms, and this has an implication for Travel retailers, and other brands too. Some consumers are already rejecting email and forms as a means of contacting customer services teams, and are instead choosing to take their business elsewhere.

Tools such as getsatisfaction have helped consumers get the answers they need quickly, but some consumers will expect to be able to use the social tools that they are already using on a daily basis.

Travel companies should expect consumers to use DM (direct messages) on Twitter (e.g. @HyattConcierge on Twitter) and Private Messages on corporate Facebook accounts more frequently to handle booking related issues, and be prepared to train their staff to be able to use these tools.

7) The economy continues to bite on both sides of the Atlantic. Consumers will continue to look for travel bargains, and especially late deals.

Companies that are able to offer same-day Hotel and Travel deals (in conjunction with their revenue/yield Management teams) for unoccupied rooms, leveraging the ability that social media provides for brands to obtain high search engine rankings for short periods of time for specific phrases, will be able to capture more last minute trade.

This is a big ask for the industry, but realising the potential of this hyper-late micro market will help to squeeze every last drop of revenue out of Travel inventories.

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About the author:

John Newton has 14 years of strategic marketing experience across Online Display, Search Marketing and TV and Outdoor Advertising, in companies which include Yahoo!, ITV and TNS Global. John has written on blog monetisation for Web Designer magazine and was the editor of ClickThrough’s two books. John is a CIM Chartered Marketer.