Published on March 11, 2014
Donna Bryson DU-MKTG4287 Date: March 10, 2014
The focus of this presentation will be on traditional agencies and how they need to embrace social media if they want to grow their business and increase brand awareness. There are two kinds of travel agencies OTA’s (Online Travel Agencies) and traditional bricks & mortar agencies. Many traditional agencies have a foot in the cyber world and the other in a traditional store front. Make Travel More Social 2
Large travel companies such as Travelocity, Expedia and Itravel2000 have significant digital budgets and a team of employees or work with social media strategists to implement their social media programs. Smaller organizations and many agents believe adding a few specials to their Facebook page is a social media presence. The consensus was amongst the industry insiders is that traditional travel agencies and their employees are not using social media to its full potential. They agreed that in order to succeed in today’s world travel agents need to show their value by showcasing their knowledge via social media tools. Social media provides a platform to engage your audience and create brand awareness. Make Travel More Social 3
According to ACTA (The Association of Canadian Travel Agents) there are approximately 4100 travel agencies in Canada. The majority of these agencies are lagging in the in the digital space. The majority of agents in the industry are home based agents where remuneration is based on commission. In order to make money they need to sell. Previously word of mouth, past sales and perhaps a poster in their store front window would drive business. In past years many travel agencies and their agents didn’t know what social media was let alone have a strategy for it. With the evolution of social media it is no longer a “nice to have” but a necessity says Marco Pozzobon, Director of Communications at ACTA. Make Travel More Social 4
The goals of this project are: •Determine which social media tools work best for individual agents vs. larger travel companies (ex: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blogs). •Identify how social media tools can allow agents to identify their audience, ensuring the content they provide is relevant, engages their audience and ultimately helps convert into a sale. •Provide an outline how to create a personal brand through social media tools. Make Travel More Social 5
Gopi Kallayil, Chief Evangelist from Google recently spoke in Dallas to employees at Travelocity. He said he believes that a company can only ignite a message it is your audience that can amplify that message in the digital world. Today’s your audience has an option to tune you out but if provided a value element they will engage. By providing an audience something that entertains, educates or a useful utility, your message can ignite. How can agents ignite a message and have it amplified? This is an opportunity for agents to share showcase their talents. They have a stage where they can educate their audience about destinations or supplier offers. They can also provide a useful utility sharing apps or sites that can help travellers have a smooth trip. Customers can benefit from an agent’s destination knowledge, expert advice and personal attention. Make Travel More Social 6
Social Media Tools If you walked into a local travel agency and asked them about their social media presence many will say “I have my own Facebook page” but when asked if it is for business use only many admit it their personal page where they post specials. Facebook is the most popular social media tool for the travel industry but not always used to its full potential. Travel agencies sometimes think a Facebook page is all that is needed. If you walked into a local travel agency and asked them about their social media presence many will say “I have my own Facebook page” but when asked if it is for business use only many admit it their personal page where they post specials. Facebook is the most popular social media tool for the travel industry but not always used to its full potential. Travel agencies sometimes think a Facebook page is all that is needed. Make Travel More Social 7
Specializing in Content Marketing in the travel industry, Big Ambitions goal is to make their audience “Content Experts”. Based in South Africa Big Ambitions director Natalia Rose said Facebook is the platform most travel companies use but a presence on Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter are also platforms where agencies can feature on. She said Twitter seems to have developed a complaints aspect to it but with the ability to retweet both the good and bad it is tool that needs to be monitored frequently. One tool that has not been mentioned often in the industry is Google +. Big Ambitions believe Google+ a must have, to help improve SEO. If your page doesn’t show in search results how will people find you? Make Travel More Social 8
Ultimately only take on what you can handle but you need to make sure you are in the space that is right for you and your audience. Ian Cleary of www.razorsocial.com made a presentation to help travel bloggers use social media tools to take advantage of social media tools. The goal was to “create & optimize content”. His first suggestion is to try one tool today. Taking one step at a time, master a tool then incorporate other social media tools. Make Travel More Social 9
Agents need to consider how much engagement a social media tool offers when deciding which platform to feature on. Some forms of social media may perform better than others depending on the type of company you are and your audience. Sarah Kennedy Ellis of Sabre Labs made an interesting claim that people are more engaged on Instagram with brands 40 times more versus Twitter and 20 times more than they do on Facebook. Leisure agents may want start test the waters with one or two tools such as Facebook and Instagram. These tools allow agents to easily share beautiful destination photos and share supplier specials. A corporate travel agent whose clientele comprises of business travellers may be more inclined to use blogging and Twitter. With a blog restaurant suggestions in travellers usual destinations could be shared along with tips on making best use of time on the road or how to save on Wi-Fi when in some cities. Make Travel More Social 10
TPI Home based Agent Carl Henderson works hard in promoting his Tahiti niche via Facebook. He has had great success in promoting himself as a Tahiti specialist on Facebook with sharing images, travel tips and special offers. He conveys his followers the extent of his knowledge. He has converted likes into sales. He feels his Facebook page provides better engagement than Twitter. He keeps his Facebook page focused on business. www.facebook.com/tahitibycarl. It is strictly work related. Having control of your social media content is a must and you would only want clients to see your professional persona not your personal comments and images. Make Travel More Social 11
Another way to reach out to your audience is by blogging. Sharing your travel experiences provides another avenue to connect with your audience. Blogging about your trip to Jordan, cruise through Greek islands or a week long familiarization trip to Bali may entice your customers to book their dream trip. If your travel agent has been to a destination they are viewed as knowledgeable and often trustworthy to direct a traveller to best spots and avoid unpleasant surprises. This could something like mentioning a small café that has the best latte to the best place to exchange your cash at the best prices. Make Travel More Social 12
Once the decision has been made in what tools to use the next step is to develop a cohesive plan that is intertwined with the company’s goals. Should an agency or an agent start to incorporate multiple social media tools into their marketing plan, the use a tool such as such as HootSuite can help manage online content as it allows multiple posts on different tools and provide the ability to monitor. Big Ambitions believes agencies should expect to spend approximately 3 hours a week on social media with it being checked a few times a day to ensure inquiries are responded to and news, offers etc., are being cascaded through the social media channels. By scheduling time to work on social media each week the likelihood of falling behind on posting content is reduced. Make Travel More Social 13 Managing Social Media
How agents can identify their audience with social media tools? Putting a huge amount of effort into social media can be pointless if you are not providing content that is relevant to your audience. The information shared on your social media tools must be something your customers or readers are likely to find useful, engaging and ensure it is relevant. Big Ambitions reminds agents that social media posts are ultimately down to what your customer wants. She advised “You cannot afford to be narcissistic and feed them info on Dubai because you love Dubai when they have no interest in the destination”. You need to do your homework identifying who are your customers, what do they want and how can that content convert into a sale. Make Travel More Social 14
In order to provide appropriate content, researching your current client base is a starting point. What are you selling? What are they calling for? Then use tools such as google analytics, measure other advertising efforts and if possible use outside firms to source information. An example would be using information from a company such as Environics. With Prizm C2 Segmentation Environics can provide demographics of your audience with the submission of a postal code. Make Travel More Social 15 Demographics
By using the analytical tools provided by Twitter and Facebook you can see who are those people liking your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter. If a company is able to support a Facebook contest a company such as SuperLikers can also assist in identifying your fan base. They can be used for a variety of different sized campaigns. There are a few costing modes but for smaller firms there is only a cost for the amount of users you acquire. This type of program can not only be used for brand awareness and customer loyalty but you can collect data form the customized registration form contest entrants. Perhaps engage in a contest where they need to sign up and answer 3 or 4 questions to receive a voucher for $50 off their next trip with you but limit of number of available coupons. Make Travel More Social 16
Tools like www.Alexa.com or www.similarweb.com can provide information on visitors to a particular site. Demographics, time on page, and its ranking amongst other websites in Canada. Make Travel More Social 17 Sample results for Travelocity.ca
Should Twitter be one of the social media avenues pursued, TweetReach is a tool that can check past tweets provide analytics on your Twitter account. The site can check up to 1500 tweets in the past week for a cost of $20US or if your organization wants to keep on top of Twitter you can check current or future tweets with an unlimited volume from $84US. Make Travel More Social 18
How to Create a Brand with Social Media? Travel agencies and their agents must look at what is shared through social media as their online resume. They need to sell themselves and their skills though the content they provide. Big Ambitions believe content is key. “Every photo, update and tweet – has to speak to, to 'move' the target audience so that they feel compelled to engage” says Natalia Rosa. Social media is not a one size fits all. Each market has its quirks and interests therefore and a copy/paste strategy will not give the results that a throughout well planned strategy would have. Make Travel More Social 19
Helen Cole, Account Executive at Tourism said the tourist board’s top three goals in social media is providing inspiring content, engage their audience and provide informed content. With these goals they are looking at their social media followers to become their brand ambassadors. These same goals can be used by a travel agency. Their customers can amplify their message and become their brand ambassadors sharing photos, travel advice and promotional offers. Make Travel More Social 20
When building brand keeping a consistent message is necessary to ensure the audience understands what the company represents. The most common way to build brand awareness is through banner ads. There are some inexpensive options on Facebook and options via other social media tools. The cost of running ads needs to be part of the company’s marketing budget. Approaching suppliers such as tour operators and other suppliers can help defer with cost with co-op marketing funds. Present a plan, goals and how it will benefit the supplier by partnering with you and it can often provide companies access to additional marketing funds. Make Travel More Social 21
Some would claim that blogs are passé. In the travel industry, the blogs are an excellent way to showcase consultants’ knowledge and experience while creating brand. Susan Forint is a blogger who turned a hobby into a part time job. Her love of design and architecture was featured in her blog posts. The quality of the content and her passion for design caught the attention of CIL Paints. They offered her, the opportunity to blog for their company. Agents can turn their love of travel into a venue to share their experience and expertise. To keep the posts fresh they can reach out to their suppler partners or clients to be guest bloggers sharing their experiences. Make Travel More Social 22
It takes time to develop the persona of a brand over social media and the most effective way to do this is slowly and organically says Natalia Rosa. Presence in social media and buying a large number of likes will not benefit a company if they are not the right followers and as a result it won’t generate the sales leads. While content on social media needs to be entertaining, useful and relevant, it also gives the audience the opportunity to engage with the firm and if possible engage with each other. When asked if social media helped in his personal branding travel agent Carl Henderson responded with “definitely”. He has had some very positive comments and emails from some followers. One follower saying she doesn’t know Carl, but would never trust anyone else to book her Tahiti trip when the time comes. It was all just from her following Carl’s Facebook page. Key components of keeping a plan once it is in place include execution. A calendar of scheduled posts with content will keep an agency or agent on track and ensure there is fresh content and ensure there is and ongoing presence in social media. The travel industry changes on a dime requires some flexibility in the post content or running additional posts. Make Travel More Social 23
Support for Agents Agents don’t have to look far for content. Suppliers such airlines, hotel chains, tour operators, tourism boards, trade associations like ACTA, have an immense amount of content that travel agencies can then in turn use on their social media feed. They can help support an agent’s effort with trade specific sites with great information on destinations, products and toolkits. These companies create a large amount of content that are shareable. Make Travel More Social 24
The Association of Canadian Travel Agents (ACTA) uses Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and believes that agents also on these platforms can share the content created by ACTA. This trade association promotes regulatory information, lobbying initiatives and advocacy information. Director of Communications, Marco Pozzobon advised they use Twitter typically to retweet or share interesting media coverage and ACTA allied members to keeping the travel agent community in tune with ACTA suppliers. ACTA is creating the “Toolkit”. It is a collection of resources a travel agent can use to promote their value to the consumer. This includes print and digital resources like post cards, bag tags, ticket jackets, banner ads, and a dedicated micro site to “promote the value of the ACTA travel agent to the consumer”. Make Travel More Social 25
Tourism Boards also create an incredible amount of content that agents can share. Tourism boards post videos, links, blogs, must see lists that can be used by agents to share in their social space. On Facebook tourism boards utilize destination photos and relevant travel experiences, this type of information that agents are inclined to share with their customers. Following airlines, tour operators, hotels, airports and news agencies social media feeds will keep agents in the know. The information sourced from these feeds will help social media content fresh. Make Travel More Social 26 Travel Trade Content
In conclusion, there are a number of cost effective social media for agencies and agents to use. Looking beyond Facebook, having a plan, focusing on a specific brand message and using agents’ experience and knowledge along with readily available resources will help in creating a presence in social media. Company’s need to keep at top of mind that a company ignites an idea but an engaged audience in social media are the ones who amplify it. Make Travel More Social 27
References McNamee, Julie McNamee. (November 7, 2013). Factoid overload – Sixty things you should know about social media in travel. Retrieved from http://www.tnooz.com/article/social- media-tips-travel McCleary, Ian. (September, 2013). Social Media Tools for Travel Bloggers. Retrieved from http://www.razorsocial.com/social-media-tools-for-travel- bloggers/ Interviews (Susan Forint, personal communication, January 31, 2014) (Natalia Rosa, personal communication, February 26, 2014) (Marco Pozzobon, personal communication, February 24,2014) (Carl Henderson, personal communication, February 23, 2014) (Helen Cole, personal communication, February 15, 2014) Make Travel More Social 28
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