When Facebook speaks, many people in the travel industry (often reluctantly) listen. No longer that upstart social thing for young folk – it matters to one billion or so people globally.
Thus, a marketing expert from within the companyÂ locked the attention of an audience of 300 e-tourism professionals this week for her keynote speech at the Enter 2013 Conference in Innsbruck, Austria.
Aoife Desmond, a team lead for the travel vertical in Facebook said that the travel industry is lagging behind other industries in maximizing the power of the social networking site for marketing messages.
But there are “a hundred case studies” of travel companies with successful Facebook engagement efforts, said Desmond, who is based in Dublin, Ireland.
Cathay Pacific is a shining star
“Cathay Pacific has done a wonderful job of doing word of mouth marketing at scale, using Facebook to spread its message among a small consumer base to great effect.”
Desmond played a short video to tell the story of Cathay Pacfic’s 2011 “Around the World in 80 Days” competition on Facebook. As Tnooz reported at the time, the Hong-Kong-based airline offered users a chance to win a trip to 12 countries.
The winner had to upload a video explaining why they’d make a good brand ambassador. The winner, a guy named Mike, uploaded his videos and blog posts to Facebook as he traveled the globe.
The carrier got the word out about the contest and then the winner’s journey by running Facebook adverts to reach friends of friends, users who could be targeted by age or nationality or gender, to extract every single dollar of advertising spend.
The company took its fan base, which at the time was 124,000 fans, to amplify it to 29 million of their friends.
Said Ali Bullock, digital marketing manager for Cathay Pacific:
“Never before have you been able to tell a rich story to so many peopleâ€¦Amplifying our brand’s value across social networks will lead to long term business results as this demographic grows older.”
The Cathay Pacific example encapsulated themes of Desmond’s keynote.
No whispers on Graph Search
Unfortunately, she didn’t reveal any secrets about Graph Search, the new Facebook tool for mining the activity of your social contact network for insights, which is in beta with selected US users.
It merited a brief slide, in which search was focused on finding out the travel histories of others.
The planned user interface will make it easy to see places, attractions, and hotels a users’ friends have liked, complete with related maps and photos.
This may eventually interact with the new Nearby product on Facebook’s mobile app, which prompts users when you’re near locations that one’s friends have liked.
TripAdvisor as a social model
Desmond ‘s other favorite travel company to cite as a model in social engagement was TripAdvisor. She praised how it has made it increasingly easy to layer in Facebook connections onto our travel experience, so that when using TripAdvisor, we first see places that are personally relevant, based on where our friends have stayed.
This is relevant to using social networks for travel booking influence. Once upon a time, we relied on experts like travel agents and Conde Nast Traveler. Then we turned to algorithm-based search engines.
Soon we, as consumers, sought out the wisdom of crowds (sites like TripAdvisor). Now we’re looking to the “wisdom of friends”.
TripAdvisor has seen it has “increased engagement on its site by 20%” by integrating Facebook into its web experience.
This has relevance to businesses because “social proof is becoming more influential than price. Desmond cited a Travelocity survey that found that if a hotel increases its user-generated review scores by 1 point on average, then it can increase price by 11.2% and maintain market share and occupancy. The same is true for reputation in terms of revenue per room.
Insight into the “millennials”
Desmond touched on a few other statistics to drive home her points about the importance of social.
Worldwide, people ages 18 to 34 — nicknamed “millennials” — are “over-indexed” on Facebook, meaning they are the most prolific in their sharing. Once exception: In Canada, the average Canadian over 50 is the leader in sharing on Facebook. But broadly speaking, that’s a demographic exception.
So what do millennials want? The millennials differ from other segments in that they:
- desire to see and be seen,
- want to cram as much unique experience as possible,
- crave individualism,
- prefer to access the Internet by mobile devices
- are eager for personal recommendations that can contribute to the building of their identity online
What’s true among millennials will soon be true across demographics, Desmond says.
As for the growth in social sharing, 63% of generation X travelers share a daily status update while on holidays, and a third of baby boomers are doing the same, according got Jacob UHT’s rebooting of travel report. emarkter report march 2011 traveling with generation “next” US
Desmond says those stats accord with Facebook’s internal data. She says they also support “Zuck’s Law”: Every two years the amount of sharing doubles. Plus, Facebook is available at every element of the travel cycle, from inspiration through the journey itself, making it unique among branding platforms.
Social advertising tips for travel companies
Desmond used a photograph of a dinner party, where everyone is sharing stories around candlelight, as a visual metaphor of the social conversations travel brands need to contribute to. How can your branding messages be taken up by the dinner party and take a life of their own?
“To grab the attention of these consumers, marketers have to figure out how to fit into social conversations rather than stand out against them. Travel brands that make an effort to get to know their followers and contribute to the conversation are those that will have the most success.
We’ve seen that those who have had the most success are those who are good at telling stories — those who are good at adding value to the consumers they’re targeting, rather than be try to be all over conversations or actively engage on Facebook in a way that seems hyper-commercial.
There are four main steps to this:
- integrating your platform with Facebook.
Travel marketers should care more about the quality and relevance of their fans, not about the number of their fans.
“When I previously worked at VisitScotland, I was part of aÂ campaignÂ that won an award for meeting its target market cost effectively.
“The key to the success of that direct marketing campaign was that I knew I was looking for “culture explorer” to meet our objectives and for return on investment (ROI). I would not meet my objectives if I were trying to appeal to anyone except baby boomer into culture who read Nat Geo and play golf or liked hill walking and don’t need lots of sun on their holidays.
“And when you look at Facebook, you can target with 90% greater accuracy on narrow targeting versus 35% online average, by demographic, including estimates of disposable income.”
As for engagement, travel marketers ought to aim to create lightweight interactions over time to build relationships with fan base. There’s a real opportunity in having a really sound publishing strategy. You want interactions with consumers that’s based on momentum, not quick hits.
One thing to note is mobile. About 40% of time spent on Facebook is spent in the newsfeed. That’s we’re 65% of all likes and where 39% of comments happen. So your branded content is likely to beÂ consumedÂ between 40 to 150 times more in the newsfeed than on your brand page.
So it’s important that you’re targeting the right consumers.
Furthermore, research by NeurofocusÂ has found that the engagement on Facebook is higher in a statistically significant way than on other channels.
It tested a 30-second video across multiple channels, like broadcast and websites, and found that the emotional impact of a message was 7.2% was better recalled after viewing.
One reason may be that people are, across all channels, media meshing — such listening to the radio while surfing the Internet on their tablet — and so you want to use the channel that has the most emotional resonance .
The average frequent traveler has 309 friends on Facebook, which is a huge sphere of influence. This is important for influencing. The voice of a friend is about five times as powerful as the voice of an advertisement, according to studies.
If your content is popular, it counts as “earned media.” You’ll expand your page reach 5.4x times more than users relying on paid media
That’s because for every story boosted by “likes”, the content benefits from a viral effect that is earned, meaning Facebook’s algorithm will promote that popular content across networks more broadly in a virtuous cycle.
Fun with statistics
More than half of Facebook’s growth in the first half of 2012 was on mobile, with mobile usage soaring 67% year over year.
Desmond quoted mobile travel spend data from PhoCusWright‘s US Online Travel (12th edition) survey, which found that 16% of total online travel spend and 7% of total travel spend are done on mobile devices.
The potential for mobile sales is huge, says Desmond. For e-commerce in general, those using the mobile app are twice as likely to book faster and the average basket size is usually larger than for web-only purchases.
About half of Facebook’s billion users have used the mobile and app versions. Internal surveys say Americans and Germans users of the Facebook app are on it an average of 8 hours a month. That means about 32% of all time spent on mobile apps is spent on Facebook. (The rest must be on Zynga games.)
One other small thing to note: Desmond’s slide show called out HotelTonightÂ as a model to watch, the only travel app so highlighted on screen.