Research proves that we rely on independent opinions from family, friends, colleagues and online peers – rather than advertising, editorial or broadcast – to decide which brands to choose. Travellers can also be some of the most vocal and influential groups of consumers, on and offline. The problem, from the industry’s point of view, is that most travel conversations centre on individuals’ experiences, rather than on agencies and operators.
With more than  25 years experience in student, budget and independent travel, STA Travel wanted to discover how to increase and enliven Word of Mouth (WOM) conversations about the professional side of the industry.

An initial audit of WOM around STA Travel confirmed that, while the travel company’s reputation was good, online conversations mentioning its name were irrelevant, repetitive and inaccurate. The majority of online voices were more concerned with talking about the view from their beach hut than the travel company who made the view possible.

The challenge, therefore, was to spread lively, positive WOM about STA Travel; to integrate WOM with STA’s own seasonal campaign themes; and to give travel communities a genuine voice across social media, turning some of STA’s diverse customer base into brand advocates.

We decided to tap into STA’s UK customers. By mobilising this resource, encouraging people to share their opinions and create their own content, a new and powerful groundswell of content was created.

It all started with STAtravelbuzz, a conversational platform which aggregates and amplifies meaningful and positive WOM about STA Travel occurring in social media. The hub includes features on key travel bloggers and forums, linking likeminded STA Travel customers with each other – on their own terms, in their own spaces.

This became the inspiration for the STA Explorers, a diverse tribe of travel and social media pioneers reviewing and creating inspired content around STA’s experiences on their own sites. Offline meets arranged as part of the campaign helped foster a feeling of community, and all their content was signposted to on STAtravelbuzz.

By listening to WOM conversations, 1000heads was able to feed back detailed results and insights as the project progressed to STA Travel, as well as identify emerging opportunities and potential problems. Since the launch two years ago, campaign activities have doubled overall WOM for STA Travel, with STA Explorers responsible for 30% of all STA WOM and driving two-thirds of all the positive conversations.

In fact more than 390,000 engagements were tracked from the WOM activity in five months. Positive conversation around customer service also doubled.

So how is WOM measured? And how far beyond do the measurements go as a quantitative metric? Well, we have what is known as the WOMtrak listening platform, gathering unprompted multi-lingual consumer conversations from social media across the globe. This filters and analyses the data to produce meaningful insight, but we also analyse manually with our team of trained specialists. Not only does it cover quantitative metrics such as conversational share against competitors, but also qualitative data such as attitudes towards the brand.

Since the launch, the WOM campaign has gone from strength-to-strength, with STA Travel receiving a ‘Travolution’ award, and launching the ‘World Traveller Internship’, giving two lucky travellers the chance travel around the world and share their experiences.

So all in all WOM marketing has gone beyond metrics and a new and passionate community of travelling voices has been created. It’s a community that can talk honestly – and sometimes critically – about the brand. Why? Because they know that the travellers’ opinions will be valued, respected and shared.
twn Are you sure that you want to switch to desktop version?