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 have shifted their marketing direction drastically to catch up with this micro-blogging madness.
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.
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.