How Social Media Saved the Travel Industry [Infographic]

While it might seem hard to believe, the travel industry has exploded in 2016 thanks to social media.

How platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, apps and websites shaped the travel industry is a topic we are going to cover today.

But before that, some relevant stats from last year’s reports.

What 2016 Looked Like in Numbers for the Travel Industry

The tour and leisure activities industry has become a multi-billion USD market. In Europe alone, tours and entertaining activities account for over 40 billion USD, while in the US, there are over 67,000 businesses accumulating approximately 20 billion USD revenue. Travelers are more inclined to spend on sightseeing and experiencing the local life than to shop and party, which makes this segment the 3rd largest of the travel industry, after air and accommodation. 

There is a rising demand for balance between early and last minute bookings and offers. Millennials are part of the segment consumers who do not like to wait, and usually book their travels one week or less prior to departure (19%). 30% of millennials also worry that costs will rise, and therefore are more inclined in booking right away. 82% of US travelers are more tempted towards domestic trips as primary vacation. 59% of travel related searches belong to people aged 35-64. Main reasons for traveling in 2016 included relaxation, adventure, time with family, friends and rewards for the hard work and results.

Last year was a "year of adventure and new experiences", according to TripBarometer’s 2015 predictions. 69% of all-age consumers planned to experience something new, and 17% wanted to solo-travel for the first time. 1 in 5 global travelers have visited a destination because they saw it online in a TV show. With only 31% of travelers booking based on previous experiences, the majority of them embraced the idea of new, lesser-known and unique destinations.

Adventure and novelty were key marketing messages used by travel companies to attract their customers. 

How Social Media Impacted the Travel Industry in 2016

According to Tnooz, 95% of respondents interviewed in a TrustYou survey stated that they read online reviews before booking a trip. TripAdvisor user stats say that 1 in 5 users will almost always check reviews before deciding on an attraction. Out of these, Australians (82%) and Generation X (74%) are more inclined to check other opinions before trying.

More than 200 new user reviews or messages are being posted on TripAdvisor every minute, and over 6.2 million businesses in over 128,000 destinations use Trip Advisor.  
A new term has become quite popular: "bleisure". Inspired by nomads and people who travel and work remotely in the same time, the new trend addresses a mix of business and leisure, embraced by technological advances.

Last year has also brought a new perspective on the "mobility" of the industry, with traveling becoming more mobile. It seems travelers just can’t escape technology and are always connected to the online world, independent of location. Increasingly more people use Instagram and Snapchat to find attractions and destinations, empowered by the personal messages and burning hashtags.

Maps, flights, Uber – in one word, information at just one click away. Consumers enjoy the perks of gig economy giant Uber in major cities around the world, especially when "bleisuring". However, experiential travel is in high demand, as well.

For people seeking adventure, marketers are realizing they need to give travelers a taste of experience, as pictures and videos are no longer satisfying the hunger for authentic travels. A movement which has given way to adventure parks, set-up beaches and more, in order to keep consumers hooked and interested at any given time. 

Two types of travelers have emerged from last year’s travel boom: the "money rich, time poor" and the "money poor, time rich". The first, who wants to have everything planned ahead of schedule, booked, and dealt with, in order to save time, without caring much about budgets, and avid user of the hashtag #richkidsofinstagram.

The latter, defined by the average millennial who wants to gain as much of an authentic experience as possible, in a state of total "time insensitivity", but who does not have the money to afford luxury, an avid user of #hostelfriends and AirBnB. Each in their own worlds enjoying a different type of travel experience.

Social media isn’t just Facebook. With 2.5 billion global users by 2018, and introduction of Messenger functionalities for all major social media platforms, we can only imagine how impactful platforms will become. Twitter stats dating from 2014 reveal that 44% of consumers are more inclined to learn about a new travel brand by using Twitter, 27% will share positive experiences, creating buzz for travel brands and over 39% of users access the platform during their travels.

Gen Z use of Instagram is on the rise, while for the same segment of consumers, Facebook is on a steady decline. To add more, 5 out of 6 millennials connect with companies on social media and expect perks. 97% of millennials will share pictures during their travels through Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat.

Newly launched flight search TripSeats reports in their infographic that 68% of travelers are happy with social media ads and consider them to be effective in the decision-making process. Millennials again seem more open towards providing an aid to the industry, with 83% of them being open to provide their travel data to companies. More stats are available below.

With these stats in mind, it does seem like "the world is just a click away". To where from here?

Infographic

Anybody Out There? 5 Ways to Build the Right Online Audience

Personalizing online content often means creating stories that make people feel connected to a business or product. However, while it may be easy to make up stories that help people feel connected, creating an audience might be a bit more difficult.

Creating online content is like standing on a stage at a talent show. The different audience members like different kinds of acts. Some prefer music while others want to watch magic. The internet is similar to this since you are trying to draw in a multitude of diverse interests.

Finding ways to grab people’s attention can seem difficult and frustrating. However, with the right approach, any business can create a new audience, the key is to create a musical magic act.

Make your website mobile friendly

Most people read website on their phones or tablets while they’re on the move. Making a website mobile friendly is one of the easiest ways to create an audience for your product or service. In addition, Google made mobile-friendliness a ranking signal in April 2015.

  • Find a conversion platform
  • Use mobile plugins
  • Use a web design that is responsive to mobile

Use the right hashtags

Customers looking for products are going to be searching under hashtags. Think about the diversity of your customer base. FM Digital Group suggests marketing to multiple demographics can expand customer base by thinking of different categories of hashtags that can help.

For examples, just because you are a nail salon doesn’t mean that your manicures are just manicures. When tagging the designs on Instagram, go beyond the traditional nail art tags and decide how to market the actual designs. Think about the cross postings that hashtags can give across multiple social media sites.

Choose the right social media channel

Different social media networks offer different audiences and opportunities.

  • Facebook has the broadest range
  • Twitter works best for moving information quickly
  • Pinterest’s users are primarily women and works best for DIY projects, fashion, exercise, beauty, photography, and food
  • Instagram which is entirely pictures and video works best for food, art, travel, fashion and other products that are visually appealing
  • Tumblr is mostly young people with half its visitor base under 25, but if your product is a niche product, this where the audience lives

Find your influencer

Influencers vary by business, but each can become your brand ambassador. In your industry, think about the voices. Building a relationship with one of them might be the best way to build an audience.  This strategy takes time. To make it work, you need to build a genuine relationship based on mutual respect and understanding. If it’s not real, neither the influencer nor the audience will stick around.

Read what others are talking about

Be involved in the conversations that others are having about your industry. Follow up on your competitors to be just as involved as they are. Competitors are just other people with the same audience as you. This means that the customers you want to engage may be engaged with them. By analyzing where your competitors find their audience, you can find your own.

Building an online audience sounds daunting. However, in the same way that the musician at the talent show is able to get the music fans to applaud a good show, so can you become capable of establishing a name for yourself.

Image source: Pixabay

The Visual Business: Instagram Insights and Curation Tools

According to RuthAnn Wiesner, "if content is king, then Instagram is its own castle". As to why Instagram matters that much for business, here is a list of reasons compiled by Socialbakers:

  • 300million monthly active users (MAU)
  • 75million daily active users (DAU)
  • Top 25 Instagram brand profiles receive 110 times more engagement than on Twitter
  • Over 1Billion Likes Daily
  • 3,600 new photos shared every minute everyday

Instagram Insights for Business

The visual platform itself is proving to be a good marketing tool for marketers and brands alike. As of August 2016, Instagram announced its release of Stories, aiming to take a swipe at Snapchat´s successful video messaging tool. In short, a platform that features plenty of opportunities for small and medium-sized business and just about any brand looking for a return on investment for their efforts.

Getting Your "Insta" Stories for Your Business

To get it up and running you need an "insta" business account. You can create one from scratch or upgrade your personal one. To upgrade, click the turn wheel icon in the upper right section of your profile and hit "switch". Warning: personal accounts can’t benefit from Stories at the moment.

Benefits of Insta Stories

Is there anything else besides the fresh social marketing perspective? You bet!

Stories allows your business account to be easily discovered by followers and non-followers. You also get access to Analytics, which gives a better insight to what works and what converts across your visual strategy.

Insta Tips and Tricks

It’s all about creating engagement and a sense of community with your followers. To do that, you need to transform your Instagram business channel into a visual storyteller. Here is what you can consider:

  • Show personality
  • Less is more: keep it 80% non-business and just 20% products/services
  • Have call to action elements
  • Follow back and engage
  • Comment on other users’ photos
  • Tag customers for contests and celebrations
  • Use hashtags
  • Say thank you
  • Don’t over-abuse the Direct Messaging options J

The Greatness of Community

Additionally, photograph events and capture video with customers interacting with your products and services. Do not forget call to action elements such as life hacks, product reviews or suggestions for upcoming product launches, promotions and giveaways. Implicate your community members!

Getting Help from the Popular Kids

Follow back, engage and comment with #influencers of Instagram. Tagging users is a great conversation starter, however don’t overuse it.

There is no limit now for using hashtags, but don’t overdo it either, as it sends out the wrong message. Alas, keep the hashtags relevant. Don’t use only the hashtags that get massive clicks, but also the ones that get less, but more targeted traffic.  

Harnessing the Power of Instagram Photos

Instagram is all about the "instant" visual: image, video and now story. How you choose to tell your story is more relevant than you think. This blog post from Yotpo showcases the uniqueness of "insta" stories:

  • Instagram photos convert better than other types of visual content
  • Instagram pics also convert because customer trust photos from previous customers
  • Using Instagram has a positive effect on increasing e-comm conversion and engagement
  • Instagram photos can be used in marketing materials
  • Using Instagram photos allows you to repurpose valuable content, integrate user-generated content

Additional Practices and Curation Tools

To get a grasp of how existing businesses are succeeding, first check the Business Instagram page. Proceed by giving a chance to either of these curation tools to help you filter through stories, or to create better, more appealing stories for your insta business.

VSCO

This is an Android and iOS photo-editing mobile app with high quality filters, with a free download button. You can use this part social network and photo editing platform to really set yourself apart from the rest.

Snapseed

Available on both iOS and Android OS, this is more than just your average photo editing mobile app. You can fine-tune photos by applying effects with a brush instead of filtering the entire image. Extra: save groups of filters as a template after the initial use, and reuse them Shakira style, "whenever, wherever".  

Boomerang

This is an in-house Instagram goody, which allows you to create 1-second videos with no audio. Essentially super short GIFS that loop back and forth. Vinederful, in a way.

Before You Go…

Bottom line: Instagram is more than just a photo-editing & social sharing tool, proving that businesses can convert and strategize through the power of visual. One perfect example of insta success is National Geographic. Thanks to a large network of photographers their images never fail to tell a great story.

Not sure about your own Instagram marketing strategy? This infographic illustrates elements you can integrate for higher success rate.

Google Display Ad Dimensions 2014

Source: Techwyse

Roxana Nasoi
Roxana is an online community builder and marketing consultant with 8years of experience in startup branding, community building (former Elance.com ambassador, between 2012-2015) and marketing consulting for Fortune500 companies. You can read her blog, SERPlified, and connect with her on Twitter (@roxanasoi). She enjoys traveling, dancing tango, running and reading good books.
Roxana Nasoi