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How The Best Travel Brands Engage on Social Media

Unlike its precursors in the marketing mix, social media cultivates dialogue between brands and their consumers. This offers an unprecedented opportunity to connect with consumers at the three key stages of their relationship with travel brands: anticipation, experience, and recollection. Let’s examine each.

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Anticipation
As travelers plan their journey, they are awash in a sea of different messaging coming from even the most meticulously-managed brands: print collateral mailed to their home (as part of a loyalty program’s seasonal push), radio, TV and social media posts dropped into the feed of their preferred platform. The list goes on… Somewhere in this din are messages in harmony with a traveler’s desires; other parts are just noise, distractions.

Today’s travelers look to social media to feed a hunger for experiences. Savvy brands find ways to tap into that hunger by integrating marketing campaigns across internal disciplines. To the consumer, it’s irrelevant what department (e.g. loyalty, public relations, e-commerce, etc.) seeks to engage them. It’s all about the brand. Integrating brand campaigns – for example, tying a seasonal marketing message to a targeted PR campaign, engage the same consumer with the same story on multiple platforms – building greater anticipation for the experience the traveler seeks across multiple sales and marketing moments.

Experience
The authenticity of travel is experience. As travelers fly, drive, and sail to each destination, travel brands are uniquely-suited to connect themselves to the experiences collected along the way. This might manifest as a global hashtag used across a brand’s messaging, and pulling in the experiences shared by travelers to thread a global narrative about the breadth of their offerings. Or it might be a set of editorialized content, offering insight and ideas about a specific destination. The stories a travel brand shares should enrich the traveler’s experience. This fosters a deeper connection between consumers and the brands they travel with.

Through a social media commitment, travel brands have an opportunity to engage and forge that deeper connection. Ignoring a frustrated traveler’s tweets or Facebook comments, or failing to celebrate a traveler’s best moments (e.g. their hash & geo-tagged Instagrams) will sour even a brand’s most passionate advocates. Rather than rushing to use new platform features, travel brands should consider how best to celebrate a traveler’s public display of affection for their experience (e.g. tagged photos, shared in real-time).

Recollection
Once the journey ends, and travelers return home, they want ways to recall their experiences with those closest to them. Facebook albums, #TBTs, and online reviews are a smattering of the ways social media can help them recall their experiences. For travel brands, these are not just ways to connect with their consumers, but are vehicles to build advocacy, claim share-of-voice, and drive consideration amongst those consumers’ social connections. People trust people far more than they trust brands.

Each of these stages exists because of, and in service of, the next. As one journey ends, consumers’ connection to the brands they travel with return to one of anticipation. Travelers instinctively return to this stage, in which they seek inspiration for their next experience. The smartest brands understand this, and understand their role during each stage of a traveler’s journey.

One example of brands making tangible connections to customer experience, we love Dune Jewelry’s approach, which takes the physical destination & creates a tangible experience that travelers carry with them after returning home.

Every industry has its own unique strategies and approaches to optimize and measure results. At Mittcom, we spend a lot of time thinking about each client’s category, brand and budget before offering up the standard social solutions. If your social marketing is more tactical but short on real strategy, connect with Ed Gazarian our SVP Digital and Social, at egazarian@mittcom.com and get some free thinking.