Social media’s influence on purchasing decisions is on the radar of a multitude of industries, and the tourism industry is no exception. A recent study from Booking.com found that social media bears weight in the choices users make when the time comes to book a vacation. 51% of the respondents cited wanting to choose somewhere that none of their friends had previously visited. Finding the next best place before it becomes too popular and loses its novelty is critical, however social media helps solve this problem by providing a platform to discover unique destinations around the world.
One of the other trends Booking highlighted for this year was that prospective travelers would pay closer attention to practical, authentic information coming from tourism providers and prefer it over stylized images. With images driving such weight in the discovery stage for travel brands, there are two social media platforms where industry players should place their primary focus.
The Instagram effect
There are a lot of things people do for the ‘Gram. Choosing where they travel is no exception. One survey found that 40% of consumers under 30 prioritized how Instagrammable the potential destination was in driving purchasing decisions. The Booking survey found that 17% of users paid attention to where celebrities stay and look for similar lodging.
Last year, Easyjet introduced its Look&Book feature that allows users to search on their app using Instagram photos and, after determining the image’s location, Easyjet generates potential flights to that destination. This feature certainly taps into the way users are now researching and booking travel, even if pictures may not be the only criteria just yet.
Other travel firms are looking to take some of Instagram's best features and integrate them into their native app. Airbnb has added a “Travel Stories” feature to capture consumers in a way that’s similar to what Easyjet has done with Look&Book. Users can add video highlights of their experiences in Airbnb properties and then share them within the app. For Airbnb, the end goal is conversion. The more properties that are featured, the more likely others will book stays in those respective properties.
Hotel chains are also seizing on Instagram’s potential, especially in the dreaming phase that we previously highlighted with the new app from TripAdvisor. Spanish hotel industry publication Hosteltur boiled down the secret to successful Instagram strategies for hotels to the following elements: empower their identity, connect users to destinations, make it easier to communicate to travelers, manage the profile in a professional way, and of course, distribute the product (in this case, the hotel or hotels) well. Each of the brands referenced in this list takes a distinct point-of-view that carries into their brand identity with a value proposition that best fits their audience. In particular, Soho House’s honing in on lifestyle imagery in each of its properties from New York, London, Chicago, and more makes people want to book right then and there.
And what about e-commerce? In an interview with Adweek, Vishal Shah, Instagram's head of product management, discussed the recent addition of action buttons on Instagram Business profiles. These action buttons now allow users to perform transactions without leaving Instagram, converting the platform into a place where business gets done instead of just a place for it to get discovered. While most of the current adopters of this tool are focused on restaurants and entertainment, travel is starting to come on board with this feature.
Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, has announced its intentions of making its Instagram Stories advertisements more transactional in 2019. While its initial attempts to foster these bookings in the past on the Facebook platform fell flat because users did not engage, today’s outlook is different. With Instagram, the engagement level with the app (as well as the WhatsApp messaging service) could prove to make these plans more feasible in the future. Despite that, Facebook has yet to announce new direct booking features specifically for the travel industry. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to nail discovery on Instagram but does see the opportunity in providing the customer experience and trust to facilitate those transactions. As such, you'll undoubtedly want to pay attention to this in 2019.
Pinterest is making an active effort in helping travel marketers improve their performance. With travel one of its most popular categories people browse to look for information, there’s a lot of insight we can gather from them. They've even coined a term, travel planner, to describe those who, in the past three months, have either actively searched for or made travel purchases. Their own data claims that 76% of them make purchasing decisions based on the travel content they see on the site coming from brands.
Underneath the travel planner archetype, they’ve created five different personas: “the Group Vacationer, the Culture Chaser, the Spa Sojourner, the Adventure Lover and the Eating Explorer.” They’ve also associated keywords with each of these personas to help advertisers pinpoint the drivers their targets are seeking.
How does this translate into performance? In an interview with PhocusWire, Pinterest global head of vertical strategy for travel, tech, and telecom Nicolette Harper cited a marketing campaign they worked on with Carnival Cruise Lines that saw a 14% click-through rate increase and a 71% reduction in its cost-per-click.
If you’re looking for campaign inspiration, Pinterest can help you there too. In the latest Pinterest 100 list, Pinterest reveals its most-searched terms across many categories, with travel and food among them. What are people looking for most in the travel category on Pinterest? Less traveled islands (a 179% increase in searches) and abandoned castles (a 142% increase) are two of the most-suggested terms. If you’re looking to highlight part of your gastronomic offerings, the food category can offer some insights. Searches for homemade jam increased 829%, along with a 186% increase in oat milk searches. These can be sources of inspiration for your next campaign.
Social media is key to discovery
The lesson we can gain from these examples on Instagram and Pinterest is that social media’s transformative power is in the discovery stage that is becoming all the more pivotal. And soon, we may see social media emerge as a place where people not only browse for inspiration, but also complete final transactions. While Instagram and Pinterest are not the only platforms reaping the benefits of this new way of purchasing decisions, the impact is undeniable. When 97% of millennials have posted videos or images from their trips on their social media, this world is an oyster for travelers looking to find their inspiration, and for brands looking to catch them in the right place at the right time.
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