facebook travel marketing

Facebook: 9 fresh examples of how travel marketers can unlock success

Facebook continues to be a major opportunity for B2C travel companies and direct marketing organizations for national tourist offices.

Last week, we shared ideas from Facebook’s Europe travel lead, Aoife Desmond, who was speaking at the Enter 2013 Conference in Innsbruck. She focused on Facebook marketing strategies.

Today we cover some of Facebook marketing tactics.

We’ll cover case studies from 2012’s successful Facebook campaigns by Best Western, Tourism Australia, Kuoni, and other travel marketers. We’ll start with big brands and move on to organizations with smaller budgets.

facebook travel marketing

1. Look “Down Under” to find the leader in social travel.

In December 2012, Tourism Australia, became the most popular travel page on Facebook. It has 4 million fans—with more than one million likes added in 2012 alone—and reaches 1 million unique users daily. So it is a great model to study.

One tip: Note how Tourism Australia’s header image changes when a user “likes” it. Enhance your page experience the same way. When users click “like” on your brand page, have the page change dynamically.

Check out the app See Australia added in mid-2012 to its page, which mashes up the Facebook social graph with Google Maps, to create a distinctive travel planning tool.

tourism australia

2. Use the latest conversion measurement tools.

Last Wednesday, Facebook enhanced its conversion tools for marketers, meaning more insightful data. This is important because it can be difficult to properly attribute how different parts of a campaign contribute to a sale as opposed to just focusing on the last click that resulted in conversion.

Boosting interaction rates and igniting conversations can be critical to allowing for conversions “downstream” in the channel.

Case in point: In Sweden in 2012, Kuoni Group’s local brand, Apollo, launched a multi-platform campaign, creating a mascot for the brand in the guise of a Bruno-like, Apollo-the-Greek-god character.

The campaign started with video clips online, plus some local TV. Then it promoted the character, called Apollo Sverige, in a Facebook campaign.

The average interaction rate is 4% but the Apollo campaign has been 8.54%, or roughly double, and that lead to click throughs to its site of 5.53%.

More than 80% of users watched video all the way to the end. The share rate was 1%, or precisely 0.96%, which was double Kuoni’s expected rate.

apollo sverige facebook

3.Act “like a boxer.”

This metaphor comes from Justin Reid, destination marketing director for Facebook marketing technology company Betapond.

To “think like a boxer” means a travel marketer shouldn’t try to punch hard in every interaction with followers but instead throw a series of lightweight interactions (jab, jab, jab with content like “aren’t these photos of beaches pretty?”) followed up by the blatantly commercial offer (the hook, to use boxer-speak).

Again, the goal is: lightweight interaction, lightweight interaction, lightweight interaction, and then punch strong with a more overtly commercial offer. All the time, keep your voice and tone conversational yet brand-consistent.

Facebook’s advice is that travel marketers become a good publisher of content that is popular in the newsfeed, because that’s where the biggest return in “earned media” and brand building is.

On December 18, AIDA, the German cruise line, used its AIDA Facebook page to post a cruise offer:

“3-day AIDA Cruise for € 299 instead of € 449. But only good until 24.12.2012.”

It was claimed by 65,498 people within three days, making it AIDA’s most successful marketing effort yet.

In early September 2012, MSC Crociere, another cruise line, posted a similar offer on its own Facebook page, that also sold out in three days, making it the most successful of any of its digital initiative on any platform.

The campaign reached 8 million users. That translated into a lot of “Zuck Bucks.”

zuck bucks

4. Learn from the most profitable Facebook travel marketing campaign of 2012.

In February 2012, Best Western launched a Facebook campaign that became the most effective marketing campaign on any digital channel, ever, according to a spokesperson for the upscale hotel chain.

The campaign, “Be a Travel Hero,” ignited a 20% year-over-year increase in revenue, a number that was in the 8 digits.

Key takeaways: A prize contest based on user-generated content wasn’t just run in isolation.

It was supported and cross-promoted by a series of organic engagements, (such as polls themed around the topic of business travel), and paid, targeted media at the demographic most likely to respond to the advertisement, plus re-targeting as visitors surfed elsewhere after visiting the social network.

Facebook has created a video case study about Best Western’s success, in which Dorothy Dowling, the company’s marketing genius, discusses how the effort was put into effect.

5. Use more images in your published content.

Images can tell a whole story more effectively. Ciaran Doherty, development marketing manager at Tourism Ireland, says that posts with striking images have performed much better for Brand Ireland than ones without images or with weak “stock” photos.

Images communicate at a more powerful cognitive and emotional level. Facebook says that images are 2.2 times more engaging than text, across content categories—meaning, not just in travel content, on the social network.

depart californian return kiwi


6. Creatively re-purpose content you already have.

Many travel marketers already have a decades or more’s worth of messaging in other channels, from billboards to TV to brochures. Get a hold of the files and re-use the content for posts in Facebook.

Earlier this year, Air New Zealand also recycled archived images it had used in previous, non-digital campaigns for its Depart-a-Californian,-Return-A-Kiwi campaign. Content repositioning it from billboards into newsfeed you have archived content let you take the low hanging fruit.

Lufthansa has also creatively re-purposed content to create Facebook news feed content, especially by posting images of its aircraft from over 50 years of archival history to great effect on its Facebook page.

To prioritize, use this content audit template from John McGrory.

facebook content audit

7. In 2013, your second top priority for social media should be promoting mobile activity.

Smartphones and tablets are where the users are headed. So do two things:

First, make sure your information is appearing correctly in Nearby, Facebook’s new mobile tool. Usage is dramatically increasing for this tool, among travelers.

Second, If you have an app, use your Facebook page to promote it. For example, European metasearch site Skyscanner has had a lot of downloads of its app by doing this.

Encouraging your users to adopt your mobile solution should be “job 1” in 2013 because mobile users are bigger spenders and more impulsive. Whether you know it or not, your company is in a race to claim mobile usage leadership before your competitor gains dominance in the mobile space first.

There’s an early leader advantage, and the slot for mobile leader in your vertical is probably up for grabs.

8. Match your databases to Facebook’s.

Last September, Facebook launched Custom Audiences, which allows marketers to run more precisely targeted advertising campaigns.

Since then, it has been continually improved, making it easy for marketers to map their own customer relationship database with the data on a company’s Facebook brand fan base or potential customers.

You can also retarget website visitors by using Facebook’s Exchange tool. The social network says users are tyically retargeted within one hour of being on Facebook, so the lag time is short.

For instance, Hotels.com recently integrated offers based on what its fans’ friends had relevantly posted.

Other brands have targeted their puchasers on Facebook through paid advertising, on the theory that past customers were qualified for repeat business and advocacy of the brand.

9. Think engagement, not just conversion at the last-click.

For example, the travel brand “Places to see before you die” has 50% of its 420,000 fans engaging with it (people talking about it, sharing, liking) constantly.

Why does that matter? Because that engagement level means Facebook’s algorithm will make sure any commercial offer they make will be amplified to the widest array of users as possible, organically, for free and in a message format that users are receptive to.

Don’t be intimidated by 50% engagement, however. Facebook’s Desmond says 10% active engagement is great and worth striving toward.

Use multi-attribution to know which channels work and to avoid last-click attribution, which distorts the whole picture.

Graph Search, currently in beta testing in the US, has the potential to help further with marketing efforts, if it doesn’t create a user backlash over privacy.

Travel stories are already the most-shared stories (42%) on the social network, compared with other life events like moving (18%) and starting to date someone (10%). The amount of information shared on Facebook doubles every year, according to “Zuck’s Law.”

You can become a part of that online conversation, no matter what your budget size is. You can be the local champion in your niche market.

NB: Image of tourists at Eiffel Tower is courtesy Villa Marketers. 8) For more tips, see its article “Statistics Reveal How To Market Vacation Rentals On Facebook & Inspire 52% Of Travelers To Book

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Sean O'Neill

About the Writer :: Sean O'Neill

Sean O’Neill had roles as a reporter and editor-in-chief at Tnooz between July 2012 and January 2017.



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  1. Steve Vadocz

    Very interesting article Sean.

    Images sell, there is no doubt about it. I think the Tourism Australia FB page is really the best example on how to use Facebook and engage users.

    Beautiful landscapes, cute animals, some funny images and that all with great brand design with high focus on quality.

    That with act ‘like a boxer’ equals very successful social media marketing.


    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      Yes, Tourism Australia deserves its success. They’ve clearly given a lot of thought and effort into their approach to Facebook.


  2. Andrew Schorr

    Great article, Sean. Really nice high-level overview on what’s working on FB. Thanks!

  3. Fred Perrotta

    Good post, Sean. I really liked #3 “act like a boxer.” This advice also applies to sequencing content.

    Don’t just post random content then insert a commercial message every 10th post. Use the free content to build up to the paid stuff.

    About to launch a new business travel product? Post information and stats about the problem you’re solving. Get your followers to buy in and agree with the pain points. Then introduce your product, which solves them. Watch the sales roll in.

    The reputable “make money online” bloggers are great at this.

    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      Super points, thanks. Especially: “Use the free content to build up to the paid stuff.”

      • Rachael

        I also really enjoyed point #3 “act like a boxer.” I haven’t heard this comparison before and I intend to use it!
        Also love the AIR NZ example, although perhaps I am slightly patriotic, they have fantastic marketing campaigns.

        • Sean O'Neill

          Sean O'Neill

          The “act like a boxer” metaphor comes from Justin Reid of Betapond.

          I agree with you about ANZ!

  4. Bali Floating Leaf

    I picked up a few ideas here as well. Not sure if we’re ready for all of them, but it sure is a step in the right direction. Nice post.


  5. Joshua L

    good tips.

  6. Eamon

    Interesting case studies!

  7. Matt Zito

    Hi, Sean great article I picked up a few nuggets.



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