Why the Travel Industry Should Embrace Social Media

Posted on July 5, 2010 by

These days, with the explosion of social media, travel businesses are ditching their traditional marketing plan and gearing themselves towards the social platforms these days. Hundreds of travel businesses, tourist boards and airline companies have flocked to Twitter and other related sites. One good example is @EasyJet. Gone are those days of desperately calling unreachable hotlines and dealing with frustrated customer service reps. EasyJet now uses Twitter to handle complaints, interact with customers directly and market itself as an active and trustworthy company.

Welcome to the new era of brand-name marketing and social networking on Twitter. In the last 2 years, the travel industry has shifted their marketing direction drastically to catch up with this micro-blogging madness. Social sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other social media site have the need to be updated on an everyday basis. It can get pretty tedious having to change statuses and personal information regularly especially for those who live life traveling. Linking all of the social networks together is the most effective way to stay organized and current.  My Life is one simple accessible site for all social media and can be the most beneficial. It’s easy to log in from you smart phone if you’re in the airport, on a boat or trekking through the jungle somewhere.

Social Media as the New Marketing Tool

During a recent Blog Trip organized by Land of Valencia, Valencia Region Tourist Board, I was enlightened by the discussions we had involving social media and tourism. Several tourism marketing experts envisioned the role of social media and networking as the ultimate marketing tool – and we were there to prove their point.

It was no regular press trip. The Blog Trip’s objective was not only to generate content and hype for the tourist board, but also to promote social media in the new marketing age. Instead of mainstream media channels, our group of bloggers, writers and social media experts would be blogging, tweeting and podcasting all about it.

Joantxo Llantada, organizer of the Blog Trip, shares with us:

This Blog Trip is an evolution of the traditional press trips or fam trips. It’s directed towards active social media users who are influential in passing on their experience to their followers and readers.  It’s an extremely new way of communicating and brand-marketing within the consumer markets, but it’s important to understand that this is the new form of journalism.

In fact, among our group of 20+ bloggers/writers, a few of which have been in the mainstream journalism business for decades and now are also catching up to the digital trend of social-media journalism.

Trials and Tribulations of a Blog Trip

In our discussions, one of the many points that popped up was how the results of these marketing efforts would be measured. Unlike traditional strategies, projects like these are harder to define in terms of input vs output. Instead of using statistics to measure readership, it is a challenge attempting to determine audience outreach from the number of tweets, blog posts and clicks.

Another question that came up during the discussions: Would these social platforms disappear in the long run? Many social media sites have somewhat been replaced by newer ones in the past few years, after the trend died down. Nobody can decide how long these platforms are going to last, but what we can be sure about is that they are going to evolve, rather than disappear. Who knows? In a few years, Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare might be replaced by a program much more comprehensive and interactive!

On the other hand, @Victoriamdq from El Proximo Viaje points out the essential power of social media based on her first-hand experience during a recent press trip. While the other mainstream journalists scribbled notes for articles that would only be published a few months down the road, she was snapping shots, uploading them onto Twitter, blogging and sharing her experience with readers – instantaneously. That alone goes to show how the role of media in the travel industry has changed tremendously.

Breaking News Faster than Mainstream Media

When the recent US Airways flight crashed into the Hudson River, the first news of it broke out on Twitter before any media organization got wind of it. Similarly, first-hand account of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, terrorist attacks in Mumbai and Virginia Tech shootings spread like wildfire on Twitter. These 140-word intense and realistic reports by witnesses and victims proved much more impactful than mainstream media.

Christopher Elliot, renown travel columnist, wrote his thoughts on the microblogging movement and how it has changed travel.

Microblogging could enlighten and empower travelers, who used to be at the mercy of their airline, car-rental company or hotel. Imagine you’re Continental, and a plane-crash survivor has accused you of keeping him prisoner. What if your vast social network finds out about the bedbugs in your hotel room the moment you check in? Or your friends discover the silly surcharges on your rental vehicle before the car-rental firm’s customer service department has any inkling? Wouldn’t that change everything?

How to Use Social Media to Your Advantage

Of the travel giants that have dabbled in social media, @Jetblue, @VisitBritain, @BootsnAll and @c_valenciana have established themselves successfully , and are the few ones who get the power of social media.

Besides offering special airfares on Twitter, @Jetblue is providing prompt and personal services to its clients. Some travelers say that they get faster responses from Jetblue on Twitter than from agents on the phone or at the airport. Tourism boards like @VisitBritain and @c_valenciana tweets on new attractions, ticket discounts and festivals happening in town. @BootsnAll  shares the best travel deals as well as intriguing travel tales and articles.

But not everyone gets Twitter. It’s not just a platform to market products and share monotonous updates. It’s a conversational platform and an excellent communication tool, in fact, one of the most powerful these days.

Wendy Perrin who shares travel tips on her Conde Nast Traveler column, the Perrin Post, tells us what we’re missing if we’re not on Twitter.

I know of no faster or more effective way than Twitter to have a real-time dialogue with other travelers. Personally, I love it as a communication tool because it enables me to have a conversation with readers that’s impossible via email or even this blog. I can answer readers’ questions quickly and easily, in a public way, so that all travelers–not just the individual reader, but anyone who’s interested–can learn from the conversation, join in, and share tips of their own. This empowers us all.

Truth be told, it took me a year to figure out Twitter and understand the whole point of it. I’m still finding my way around, but with thousands of tweets popping up on my screen per second, it’s all just a click away.

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Read more about Blog Trip F1 on WhyGoSpain, BootsnAll’s Spain travel guide where I’ve just taken over as features writer. Follow my journey through the region of Valencia, with details of quirky activities and hotels in the area.

Follow my updates of the Valencia blog trip on Twitter @WhyGoSpain or search the hashtag #blogtripf1.

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About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is the co-founder of WildJunket. As a professional travel writer with a special interest in offgrid destinations and adventure travel, she scours through the world in search for a slice of undiscovered paradise. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Guatemala, swam with sealions in the Galapagos and built a school in Tanzania.

20 Responses to “Why the Travel Industry Should Embrace Social Media”

  1. IsabellesTravel July 5, 2010 5:47 pm
    #

    Great article Nellie!

  2. jcvdude July 5, 2010 5:59 pm
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    "Many social media sites have somewhat been replaced by newer ones in the past few years, after the trend died down."
    Social Media is not trend. It is the new platform of delivery for information and entertainment . Years ago TV & radio were 'perceived' as trends when they emerged; but they have existed for years, and generations were shaped & defined by them'. ComScore June 2010 reports that YouTube saw record viewership in May with an all-time high of 14.6 billion videos viewed and that each individual viewer is viewing more videos. http://bit.ly/a8qVnH. YouTube is now 5 years old and nothing has come close to replacing it. In fact, with it's technology and Google, it is likely going to replace TV.

  3. Migration Mark July 6, 2010 4:45 pm
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    Excellent insights into social media and the world of twitter. After taking a while to get the hang of Twitter and figuring out the uses, I now also consider it to be the fastest form and sometimes one of the most effective ways of communicating online now.
    I like that media cartoon, it really is social media madness these days!

    • admin July 7, 2010 1:56 am
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      Yeh no doubt about that – in the past, traditional journalists were slightly harder to contact – only ways through email and phone. Now with the use of social platforms, communication is just instantaneous and miraculously fast!

  4. cruisemuse July 6, 2010 2:29 pm
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    I 100% agree with your statement:"It’s a conversational platform and an excellent communication tool." Twitter for example shows the ability to connect small groups as well as much larger networks. Princess Cruises is experimenting with different methods of social media. They just hosted a press junket on one of their cruise tours in Alaska. The participants tweeted and blogged their experiences in real time. I compiled some interesting data and observations pertaining to that campaign on my blog if you are interested. The travel industry must and will continue to test new social media strategies, especially ones that better engage the consumer.

    • admin July 7, 2010 1:53 am
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      Thanks for mentioning the excellent example of a success story, the Princess Cruise’s tweetrips. I’ve been observing the effects of the recent press trip, and can evidently see a big hype created through the tweets and blog posts generated from the junket. These results definitely prove that it is an effective strategy to engage potential consumers and promote their products. I sure hope more travel businesses will jump on the bandwagon and follow suit!

  5. Laura Byrne Paquet July 6, 2010 3:52 pm
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    Fascinating post. I think social media will become just one more voice–albeit, an important and engaging voice–amid the many other kinds of media. People worried that radio would replace newspapers, that TV would replace radio, and that the Internet would replace TV. Yet they all continue to co-exist, because each offers a useful and unique way to communicate. I love the immediacy of Twitter, but I also love reading long, well-crafted, reflective articles in publications such as The Atlantic Monthly. And I think there will always be a place for both types of writing.

    • admin July 7, 2010 1:58 am
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      Well said! I definitely have to agree with that – I wasn’t sure at the beginning, but you’ve definitely cleared my doubts. There will always be a place for both types of writing as long as we continue to crave for knowledge! Be it radio, TV, internet or the modern-day social platforms, they will continue to co-exist.

  6. wizardofwords1 July 6, 2010 4:21 pm
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    Enjoyed your blog post and nice to know that destinations are now considering blogs, Twitter and other forms of SM as viable and desirable publicity. It's about time, as I've no doubt that at least 50% of the travelling public reads blogs and other online resources before making their travel plans. And others read blogs et al as a form of recreational reading. So it's all worthwhile and effective.

    • admin July 7, 2010 2:01 am
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      Yes it’s about time! I’m glad that the travel industry is catching on to this trend, and I hope the trend is here to stay. You’re right in saying that blogs, online resources and social platforms are equally successful in reaching a big group of audience. In fact, I think they are reaching beyond mainstream media, and influencing even more people than we imagine. These days, 14-year-old teenagers are all communicating via social platforms – they are the next generation and if this is the way to reach out to them, then it shall be.

  7. Melvin July 12, 2010 2:39 pm
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    Nice one! & you know what… I didn't even find it through Twitter! Strange, I know! I stumbled it with StumbleUpon.com :)
    It will be very interesting which way Social Media will go in future… for sure it will be massive & it's fun to be a part of it!

  8. Helen July 13, 2010 3:02 pm
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    As someone who is recently getting into Twitter, this blog was very insightful. Thanks

  9. Corve DaCosta July 16, 2010 5:10 pm
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    I think more and more businesses are accepting and investing in social media. It is about time. This makes for good reading.

  10. savvyroundtheworld July 20, 2010 6:03 pm
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    nice article.. Just too many social media sites to keep up with!

  11. sneakersstilettos June 30, 2012 5:25 am
    #

    Social media is an amazing way to get exposure. Thanks for sharing your post

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