Just like any brand the travel industry can use social media strategically to boost online sales, expand brand awareness, influence their market, and develop a loyal base of customers and users.
By 2010, Forrester predicts that about 46 percent of total travel sales will be booked online, second only to computer hardware/software (55 percent).
Carl Howe, a director at market research firm the Yankee Group, tells USA TODAY that travel providers recognize social media is ideal for their business for one simple reason – keeping customers actively involved. “Most travel organizations are actually looking for something more than a transaction,” says Howe. “They’re looking for loyalty, and that means a long-term engagement.”
Social media is teaching the travel industry these important facts:
- Social media has moved well beyond casual friend-to-friend connections into the realm of legitimate usage as an important communications channel for business.
- Adding social media to the media mix is a good strategic move for a time-sensitive, highly competitive business, where it can be used to disseminate late-breaking news and make last-minute offers.
- Using social media for its generational appeal – to reach a younger demographic that’s more socially connected – is smart, but not to the exclusion of other media that may have broader applications to diverse age groups. It’s important to know your audience and utilize the specific media channels that they embrace.
- Figuring out ways to leverage location-based services, if they’re relevant to your business, can create new opportunities to drive customers and their friends to local establishments.
Challenging conditions in the marketplace have forced airlines, hotels resorts and booking sites to look for ways to differentiate themselves from their competition and build brand loyalty. Loyalty rewards programs have traditionally been the primary means to do that – however travel providers are now using social media to help revitalize these programs. It’s a great example of an industry that is learning that it can’t stay in the same old place when it comes to staying ahead in marketing and the need to adopt what is working rather than staying with old outdated methods.
The biggest mistakes companies make when it comes to social media are — abandoning accounts, spamming and over-promotion.
Companies often abandon their accounts when it seems that social media is not working for them and this is often because those companies have not understood social media for what it is: a tool with which to build relationships with your audience and convert them into customers.
The use of spammy tactics and using their social media accounts as a way to advertise and to ‘talk at’ or broadcast rather than to listen to and converse with other users. Using the 3 C’s of social media – Connect, Contribute and Converse – to engage, build trust and advocacy is a point that seems to have been missed by most companies.
As many businesses have found out using social media is not just about having a profile and building a following, it is about engagement, listening, building relationships with users who are listening to you rather than broadcasting at you and moving from talking at your audience to conversing with them. It is very much about strategy and intelligent use of these tools to build brand awareness and advocacy which results in higher traffic and conversions.
“Consumers are increasingly choosing the convenience of mobile keyboards and keypads to book their hotel stays. Today, a typical booking scenario for a typical guest may look like something like this. Surf the mobile Web for hotels from an iPhone, check out hotel offers on Facebook, and read guest reviews through TripAdvisor. Book a hotel. Remember that this trip is a special occasion. Return to the hotel website from your office computer to upgrade to a suite and reserve a day in the spa. Reservation complete, all without a phone call.
Recent statistics reflect the Web’s increasing emergence as the booking channel of choice. In 2009, according to TRAVELCLICK’s eTRAK report, Internet bookings increased by 6.6 percent compared to 2008 and now account for 54 percent of all bookings – representing $2 billion in hotel revenue (PhoCusWright). This is the third year of consecutive growth we’ve seen in the online channel since eTRAK reporting began in 2006.“ says John Hach, Senior Vice President, Digital Agency, TRAVELCLICK
Corporate Traveller’s global hotel program general manager Joe McCormack said more business travellers were getting into bed with hotel chains offering iPads in hotel rooms, mobile phone room check-in and pod-style guest rooms. “In the past year there have been a number of new developments in the hotel industry which are making the hotel experience, more efficient, more entertaining and more environmentally friendly,” he said.
We’ve put together a list of the top five trends including :
1. iPads in hotel rooms
2. Mobile phone room check-in
3. Social media websites and online restaurant booking services
4. Pod-style hotel rooms
5. Environmentally-friendly hotel partner programs
iPads are the perfect addition to hotel rooms, they’re small, compact and not as bulky as desktop computers or heavy as laptops,” Mr McCormack said. “Hotels like The Berkeley Hotel in London and The Plaza in New York are offering iPads in guest rooms, while Sofitel hotels in select locations in Europe and the UK are offering iPads to guests at check-in. Sofitel’s iPads are loaded with an application called ‘The Kiosk’ featuring daily newspapers and magazines.
Hotel chain InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has been trialing new mobile phone technology that allows guests to unlock their hotel rooms with their phones. First we had mobile check-in for airport passengers now hotels are providing the same mobile phone capabilities to ensure a quicker check-in process for guests,” Mr McCormack said. “Mobile phone check-in means guests can skip the front desk and go straight to their rooms, where they can swipe their phones to unlock the door.”
The travel industry is perfect for social media for these top reasons:
- it is filled with beautiful location based imagery that engages the emotions of social network users and blog readers
- holiday competitions are guaranteed to fill with entrants and can be used to widen brand recognition
- everyone will need accommodation or a holiday at some time
- more and more people are getting their holiday recommendations online particularly on social sites
- holiday makers are looking for great deals and packages online
- location based applications (like Facebook Places and Foursquare) are creating more awareness of locales and venues and can be used to offer “checkin” specials to users
- more and more people are booking their holidays online
Social networks, social media, online communities and blogs have transformed the way businesses market themselves online. In the new Internet Marketing landscape businesses and their brands continuously engage in dialogues with prospects and customers who play increasingly crucial roles in advocating products and recommending services.
The challenge for businesses is that although the rewards can be rich, the process is fraught with risks. With the weakening of traditional interruptive advertising and the rise of participation, collaboration and engagement, businesses have to know how to distribute their content in a cooporative and collaborative form.
Social Media networking is all about engagement, listening and responding, not about advertising and because of this you need to know just how to market in these communities. It’s about being authentic, responsive and caring, and when you use this recipe to its full potential you will earn the trust and respect that can make your business a household name either locally or globally depending on your goals.
There is a social site to suit any niche and understanding and utilising these online networking and information streams is vital for every business no matter how big or small and the only way to do this is to connect, interact and get involved with the millions of consumers who populate these sites.
Once the travel industry has moved forward into social media used it well and created a loyal band of advocates and fans they will find brand awareness and purchaser conversions will rise exponentially as a result of their efforts.
- Social Media Gains Ground on Travel Experts (readwriteweb.com)
- Forget Calling Home… Social Media Replaces Phone, E-Mail as Way to Keep in Touch on the Road, Sheraton Survey Reveals (eon.businesswire.com)