Based on my experience managing social media channels for travel companies on a freelance basis, here are my top tips for social media marketing success:
Don't neglect Instagram or Snapchat
Let's be clear; Facebook and Twitter are still important marketing channels. For example, Facebook has the largest user-base by far with over one billion monthly active users and is especially effective for brands looking to target the older generation since its fastest growing audience is aged 55+. And Twitter is fantastic for relationship building, as well as tracking and connecting with people talking about your brand or industry.
But, travel brands should also utilise additional channels if possible, including Instagram because of its visual-nature, which is perfect for travel inspiration. I always discover destinations that I want to visit through Instagram (The Blue Lagoon in Malta is a recent example!). Snapchat is another great tool too, especially if you want to engage with a younger audience.
Monitor and respond to people talking about your brand or product
A great way to connect with your target audience and generate sales, is by monitoring what your customers or potential customers are saying about you or your product on Twitter and Instagram on a daily basis.
It's one of the most obvious ways to find the right people to follow and engage with. This includes travel journalists and bloggers, many of whom are active on Twitter and share coverage opportunities on a regular basis.
Take part in travel-themed Twitter chats
I take part in travel-themed Twitter chats on behalf of all my travel clients and I encourage you to join the conversation, too! My favourite is Travel Talk on Twitter every Tuesday (9:30 AM/PM GMT), where travel fans and brands come together to share travel wisdom related to a specific theme. It's a natural way to build relationships with travel fans and bloggers, as well as great brand exposure. Just make sure you don't share overly promotional tweets during the chat.
Social media is called 'social' media for a reason. Some customers prefer to communicate via social media, especially at the beginning of the sales process when they have questions about your holidays or would like to order a brochure. And because of the instant 24-hour nature of the internet, customers demand faster than ever responses on social media - if they don't get them, they may use a competitor instead.
It's one of the reasons Facebook introduced the "Very responsive to messages" badge of approval for top-performing communicators. I am constantly checking my clients' page notifications and always aim to respond as quickly as possible. Even from personal experience, when a brand responds quickly to me on social media, it impresses me and I usually make the sale.
Disconnect your social media channels
I know some businesses connect their social media channels (tweets to automatically post on a Facebook timeline, for example) to save time but I don't recommend it.
For example, automatically sharing your tweets on your Facebook page will mean the text will show Twitter handle tagging, and not tag the correct Facebook pages. Each channel should have its own purpose and differences.
Of course, a lot of your content can be re-purposed for different social channels, but I don't recommend sharing the exact same message in the exact same format on each channel. If you want to save time with your social posting, use a tool such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social to schedule content in advance.
Experiment with video and live streaming
I’ve already noted in a previous blog post how audiences are increasingly using social media to experience events as they happen and interact with people there, despite not physically being there. I recommend that travel brands meet this growing demand for real-time, live interaction by experimenting even more with video content and live-streaming.
For example, a tour operator that will be in Rio for the Olympics could live-stream from the city using Facebook Live or Twitter's Periscope to give audiences a taste of the atmosphere. I recently shared ‘live’ video content throughout one of my client’s Danube river cruises and the posts received the highest level of audience engagement that month.