COVID-19 has drastically changed business dynamics for the travel industry. In a year that has seen tourism hit historic lows, a strong social media strategy is crucial to keep consumer engagement high.
Accomplishing that requires navigating an unpredictable social media landscape. New platforms are emerging to meet changing consumer preferences and purchasing behaviors while established ones are introducing new features at whirlwind speed. Meanwhile, the rise of micro-influencers is changing the way brands are marketing across all platforms.
Understanding how to best leverage these new media tools, capitalize on the latest trends and produce the most strategic content is the key to winning relevance. Here’s what you need to know about each of the major platforms as you chart your strategy for 2021:
Over the past few years, Instagram has evolved from a maturing social channel to a must-have visual tool to spark brand interest. As visual marketing continues to gain momentum, Instagram’s variety of new features have allowed marketers to capitalize on the latest social trends. From traditional Instagram stories and posts to the more recent live video capabilities, augmented reality tools, brand new “Reels” feature and more, Instagram offers travel brands a unique opportunity to connect and engage with potential and repeat guests.
These new features are also important to leverage as Instagram continues to roll out the testing of removing “likes” from posts. As this becomes a reality, businesses will need to shift the way they market on the platform and the metrics that they use to measure success. No longer will business credibility be defined by the number of likes a post gets but rather the quality of the posts and the amount of engagement the page receives.
Moving forward, travel marketers will need to leverage Instagram’s breadth of new engagement-focused capabilities for a holistic approach to genuinely connecting with guests and rising above competitive noise.
While Facebook continues to be an effective marketing tool for hospitality businesses, the platform has changed quite a bit over the past few years. Most notably, Facebook has adjusted its algorithm to prioritize posts from friends and family at the top of the feed. This presents a unique challenge for brands who are trying to reach their audience but are not as easily visible as they were before these changes.
To navigate this new algorithm and maximize brand exposure, a marketing plan for Facebook should include a mix of organic posts with paid strategy. With posts now prioritized by the amount of engagement they receive and genuine interactions from Facebook users, executing this plan with good, quality content that sparks meaningful conversations is key.
Twitter remains an important marketing tool for brands to broadcast real-time news and stay in touch with their target audience. However, the platform is less visual than the other channels mentioned, and content should be strategically curated to drive engagement. Content on Twitter is also far more fleeting than other channels, and brands should aim to tweet at least several times a day. To cut through the competitive noise, this content should be interactive, encourage a two-way conversation, and refrain from being overly promotional.
Changes to the platform over the past few years have also presented an opportunity for brands to drive engagement even further. Not only has the Twitter character limit increased to 280, allowing brands to communicate their message in more detail, but recent features such as Twitter Chats and live video capabilities enabling them to interact with consumers in a more personable fashion.
The rapid emergence and dominance of TikTok on the social scene is one of the most notable changes to media in recent years. As the number-one downloaded app in Q1 of 2020, the platform highlights the rise of video as a preferred method of content consumption and illustrates how quickly the social landscape can change.
TikTok gives brands the ability to put a face to the company and reach their audience in a genuine, engaging way. Through what is increasingly known as “Meme Culture,” brands have the opportunity to create content around relatable, humorous and trending topics to garner the most interest. Brands with a small following can easily drive traffic to their platform and win the attention of an audience they may not have been able to reach prior.
TikTok has not completely matured with its advertisement capabilities, although this is expected to change rather quickly. Through newly released updates to TikTok for Business, users have the option to leverage six ad formats to reach consumers in a creative and highly-personalized way. As TikTok continues to rise in popularity, advertising on TikTok is likely to gain more traction.
Ownership of the platform is still in flux, which will likely impact its use as a marketing tool to some extent, so it’s important keep up with the latest changes and adjust social strategies accordingly.
TikTok is not the only platform embracing video. In fact, the use of video in posts and advertisements is becoming a strategic marketing tool to further boost organic reach across all social platforms. According to HubSpot, 81% of businesses use video as a marketing tool in 2020 — up from 63% over the last year. Adding more videos to your marketing strategy is a great way for travel brands to drive engagement and outperform the typical social post.
In addition, using live video through a multitude of platforms is a great tool to get twice as high overall engagement and truly connect with your audience. By putting a face to the company and interacting in real time, going live is a great way to grow your relationship with your audience and build trust between consumer and brand.
Ephemeral content, or media that is only accessible for a short period of time (Snapchat and Instagram stories, for example) is also being leveraged more frequently. Its success reflects a clear shift in consumer preference to short, authentic and easily digestible video clips that give a behind-the-scenes look at the company versus posts that come off as a highly curated advertisement.
Not only is ephemeral content more attracting and engaging, but it also makes it easier for travel brands to get in front of their target audience. With stories positioned at the top of the feed on most platforms, these are much more visible than a typical post that gets buried in the feed due to social algorithms and competing content. For Instagram in particular, a new highlights feature saves and organizes ephemeral videos so that future visitors can continue to view this quality content.
Brands are increasingly turning to influencers to promote their products and services. Aligning your brand with influencers who have created a following of individuals with relevant interests and having them market your brand is a great way to reach these ideal consumers through genuine and authentic content. Unlike advertisements coming from the brand itself, these followers genuinely trust what the influencers promote. In fact, new statistics show that 49% of consumers today depend on influencer recommendations for their purchasing decisions.
Recently, we have seen the rise of micro- and nano-influencers—smaller footprint influencers who are highly engaged with their followers. While these influencers may have a much smaller following than the typical “celebrity” influencer, they also typically have a much more personal relationship with their audience and consequently have a larger impact on their purchasing decisions. Not only is this often a cheaper alternative to traditional influencer strategies, but it may also result in more meaningful engagement with the brand.
The pace of change in the social media universe requires travel marketers to continuously evolve their plans to address emerging social trends and tailor them to the unique attributes of each platform. Keeping up with the latest features, producing stellar content and staying authentic will drive brand activation, attract new guests to your business and build a loyal following of brand ambassadors.