I spoke about the future of social media at yesterday’s travel trade event, Experience Latin America (June 6 at CCT Venues Plus, Canary Wharf) and thought I’d highlight what was discussed for those who were unable to attend the event.
Based on my experience managing social media channels for travel brands, one of the main trends that we’re seeing is audiences increasingly using social media to experience events as they happen and even interact with people there, despite not physically being there.
For example, Facebook, has addressed this trend by focusing heavily on video content - eMarketer recently reported more than eight billion video views every day on the channel - and has also built upon this with 360 video, which lets you choose which angle you watch from, as well as the live-streaming service Facebook Live, which enables brands to interact with viewers in real-time.
Facebook has also announced plans to develop a social virtual reality feature; the idea that eventually you’ll be able to join friends across the world – on holiday, at a festival, etc – without moving from your sofa. Let’s be clear: social virtual reality, as well as video, 360 video and live-streaming, will never replace the feeling of travelling in real life. However, all of this is allowing consumers to immerse themselves in a destination in a way that has never been possible before and it presents an exciting opportunity to travel companies.
Just a side note about Facebook; there’s often talk about its demise but I believe it will continue to dominate. It’s still the world’s largest social network by far, with one billion monthly active users. It’s true that teenagers are spending less time on it, but the largest majority of profiles still belong to people aged 18 to 34 and its fastest growing audience is age 55+.
Instagram and Twitter are evolving in a similar way to Facebook. Instagram recently reported that the amount of time its 400 million users spend watching video has jumped by 40% over the last six months. It has reacted by introducing ‘Videos You Might Like’ - timely videos from across its global community as a personalised seamless viewing experience - as well as video apps, such as Boomerang.
Twitter is also trying to be more visual in an attempt to boost its fairly stagnant user numbers, with its live-streaming service, Periscope, and by announcing it will lift its 140-character limit later this year. It has plans to live-stream more events that would traditionally have appeared on TV, too.
This growing audience demand for timely, interactive content is one of the reasons why I believe Snapchat has grown at such a rapid rate. It’s now the most popular social channel with teens and young millennials in the U.S. and its video traffic in incredible - 4 billion videos per day, according to International Business Times.
What’s interesting about Snapchat is it’s the closest social media channel to emulate real life, meeting what could be a growing audience need for more authenticity and privacy. A snap or conversation had, and shared, disappears shortly after it’s over.
Another trend worth highlighting is the use of messenger apps, such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, which now have over or close to one billion active users. Communication that may have happened before via phone, email or a Facebook timeline, are now moving to these platforms.
So, what does all this mean for travel brands and how can they stay ahead? Here are my recommendations:
- Meet the growing audience demand for real-time, live interaction on social media by experimenting with video and live-streaming. For example, a tour operator that will be in Rio for the Olympics could live-stream from the city to give audiences a taste of the atmosphere.
- Don’t turn your back on Facebook. It’s increasingly popular with the older generation and is focusing on adapting to younger audience preferences.
- But embrace Snapchat, especially if you want to reach a younger audience. It has the potential to be the dominant force one day, especially if it can maintain authenticity. The platform currently has no algorithm that decides who sees which snaps, so brands can enjoy a direct line to the inbox of their fans - but that may change in the future.
- Consider utilising messenger apps, such as WhatsApp, as new customer service channels.
- The demand for interaction and shared experiences is one of the reasons why we’re seeing the continued growth of the sharing economy and crowd-sourcing platforms. Thankfully, all travel companies can be part of this information sharing by using social media in the right way; making sure you have representatives with the right personalities and knowledge managing your social media accounts and interacting with current and prospective customers online.
- Subscribe to the blogs of all the social channels so you’re the first to know about important updates.