How travel advertisers can crack the code of social media marketing

The travel industry has been slow in some respects to unlock the power of social media as a means of reaching prospective customers.

But the two networks arguably at the center of social media, Facebook and Twitter, just may have found the keys that work.

NB: This is analysis by Layton Han, CEO of Adara.

Facebook Exchange (FBX) and Twitter’s tailored audiences product may be the hottest recent developments in digital advertising. FBX, launched in 2012, is an exchange where marketers buy space in real time on Facebook to retarget likely customers.

Twitter’s enhancement of its promoted tweets and promoted accounts programs, which came out of beta last December, is another option to reach in-market travelers in real time.

It’s hard to escape the significance of both platforms. With one billion active users, Facebook controls fully 25% of the internet’s display ad inventory. And with the mass migration of users to the mobile environment, Twitter (which derives 65% of its ad revenue from mobile) represents a likely way to reach them.

And travel brands are among those that should take notice.

A study of US travelers by PhoCusWright found that nine in ten travelers are active on social networks: 73% log on daily (and not necessarily just once) and 53% use their networks to look for deals (22% travel-related). And they post about their travels, more often while on the road (31%) than when back home (27%).

And yet, the study showed that social media sites collectively account for less than 4% of inbound traffic to travel websites.

Cracking the code on social is important to marketers when pretty much everyone’s on it, and spending a lot of time there. Moreover, people have to be logged in to access social sites. It speaks to audience quality when the commitment is more than just browsing.

Both Facebook and Twitter enable travel brands to stay in front of users who have already expressed interest in their brands, targeting them based on previous visits to their sites.

They’re also an opportunity to retarget on Facebook with messages that tie into users’ more general search history. And Twitter’s “tailored” tweets enable a level of customization and engagement that make them a versatile tool for keeping the entire purchase funnel filled.

With either channel, however, travel marketers should be mindful of the external data being leveraged to enable the best results in Facebook advertising. Of particular significance is its immediacy and quality. Most networks work off third-party data, and, frankly, marketers are getting good results.

Still, such outside data is typically dated, versus first-party data delivered in real time directly from the source. Moreover, third-party data implies behaviors versus informs of actual decisions (the traveler who merely priced air fares or researched a destination versus the one who actually booked an itinerary).

Either way, Facebook and Twitter are helping travel brands achieve outcomes that suggest social media will not remain untapped for long.

Several examples to consider:

1. Brand performance

One major global hotel chain’s first foray with Facebook was a campaign to improve its incremental reach and performance in South Florida.

The campaign allowed the firm to reach in-market travelers already identified with plans to travel to the destination while they were on Facebook. It also enabled the retargeting of users who had searched for the hotel brand within the destination area.

Results: A ROI that was 30% above the client’s goal.

2. Bottom line impact

A major financial institution with a co-branded travel credit card advertised via Facebook to reach people who had just joined the partner brand’s rewards program.

Its offer effectively drove incremental reach with this set population, and the campaign surpassed its goal by 55%.

And subsequent to the first month’s test, the company nearly tripled its Facebook advertising budget.

3. Reach and retargeting

During the beta test, Twitter’s tailored Tweets were found to provide significant incremental reach and were often re-tweeted, multiplying the impact of the ad spend.

One airline client got good results not just with retargeting, but with personalized Tweets upselling travelers to better seats 48 hours before the flight.

Similarly, hotels could retarget for bookings, but also promote, say, spa services or restaurant reservations, particularly to travelers already on site with their smart phones in hand.

The rise of social media is one of the most significant trends to impact the global society in this decade. Facebook has set the standard in devising effective ways for businesses reach its audiences in effective and non-intrusive ways – and other platforms are following suit in one way or another.

NB: This is analysis by Layton Han, CEO of Adara.

NB2: Electronic communications image via Shutterstock.

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily reflect those of the author's employer, or tnooz and its partners.



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  1. Hammad Tariq

    Great post! Social media provides much deeper options to target your audience. We have used custom audience lists (from our own email subscriber list) on Facebook ads along with retargeting. We were not on big budgets but ROI was great and it delivered customers. Eventually far better than Google ads.


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