Social media made a tremendous impact on travel over the past decade, and it is here to stay. The main reason is that people buy from brands they trust, which is why posts and referrals from friends and acquaintances, as well as customer reviews seen on social platforms, have become a critical aspect of travel marketing. Travel advisors can build their brand and increase sales with a strong and steady presence on social media.
Here are five top tips from travel advisors who are successfully using social media to market their brand and products.
1. Be authentic.
The most important practice when marketing your business on social media is to be yourself and to show that you are authentic in your desire to help people make their travel dreams come true.
Authenticity is my top strategy,” says Michelle Shrader, owner of Adventures Tours & Travel, an InteleTravel affiliate. “I want to be true to who I am and what I can do for clients. I post about destinations I have been to and those that I am knowledgeable about. I share my experiences in destinations when I am traveling. Potential customers must have a sense of trust in me and a feeling that I can help them plan an amazing trip for them with local recommendations.”
Lesley Sawhook, owner and travel professional, Exclusive Travel Partners, agrees: “Your brand is your identity. First and foremost, you must be able to show potential customers who you are and what sets you apart from competitors. You need to portray who you serve and how you help them.”
2. Find the right platform.
Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, the list goes on and on. But which platforms are best for your travel agency? Facebook continues to be a winner for most, with TikTok quickly gaining ground with younger travelers.
“To start developing your social media brand, you really need to choose the platform that works best for you,” suggests Stacey McEwen CTA DS, Vacations Unlimited, Travel Planners International-Platinum Agent. “I primarily stick to Facebook. That’s where most of my clients are and the demographic of people I book.”
For Shrader, Facebook is also the go-to: “Demographics play a huge part in choosing the best platform for your business, and for me, Facebook has been a great connection point with both clients and potential clients. My business has always been about relationships. Friends that I have on the platform can tag me when someone asks for a travel advisor. Then it becomes a referral and a new connection on Facebook. When clients see me highlight their trip in a post, they will comment, their friends will see it, or they may tag a friend who would be interested in a similar trip.”
Sawhook says: “I have found great success in Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. We have tried Twitter but have not found that it has been as easy to grow or engage with our travel audience. TikTok has also been huge for me and our business this year. I started it in October of 2020 and have grown to over 230,000 followers.”
3. Post regularly and be consistent.
One of the most essential and time-tested foundations for marketing a business through social media is consistency.
“I have found that my content needs to be consistent,” says Sawhook. “I always do my own voiceovers, keep up with the trends, use good music and hashtags. Recently, Instagram and Facebook have started pushing Reels, and we have seen great success with those now, too. I will post the same video across multiple platforms to reach my audience.”
Sawhook goes on to explain: “Social media has been a game-changer for me and our business. When a video goes viral, we have had over two thousand inquiries for a destination within a 24-hour time period. Our company name has gotten out there, we are known as a trusted travel company in travel, and our sales have grown exponentially as a direct result of social media. Social media is our storefront in this day and age, and it's important to show up for our customers daily.”
Shrader says that “consistency is key on any social media platform in order to stay relevant. Posting on a daily basis is necessary. You never want someone to look up your business and find that you haven't posted since 2019! I like to alternate between destination posts, informational posts, and funny travel posts to keep it interesting.”
Social media management tools - like Hootsuite, Buffer, MeetEdgar, Sendible, and Sprout Social - are readily available to help with scheduling, monitoring, and analytics.
4. Post only positive topics and comments.
It can be tempting to boldly voice an opinion on social media in response to negative developments in travel. But don’t do it. Only post positive information.
As Sawhook advises: “I see a lot of travel professionals who will post negative things. That is a big no-no for me. If prices have increased, a storm has caused damage, Disney has hiked prices, flights are being canceled, etc., that is not something I am going to highlight on social media. My goal for social media is for potential clients to find me, gain trust in me, and book through me. They are not following me for negative travel experiences.”
Some advisors also post travel deals, but more are staying away from that these days. As Shrader says: “I avoid posting hot deals and promotions because it feels too salesy for me, it doesn't fit who I am. I want people to know that I can plan that bucket-list trip or a trip they thought was out of reach. I don't ever want them to feel like I only do discount vacations.”
5. Be active in social media groups.
Choosing the right the group(s), especially on Facebook, to reach your target audience allows you to greatly expand your reach amongst consumers who are predisposed to the particular type of travel or niche that you sell. By posting new content and commenting/liking/sharing other people’s posts, your name and travel brand become known to many more prospective travelers.
McEwen has had good success with Facebook groups: “I love Facebook groups. I now have two and they really allow for better and more direct communication with current and potential clients. They give me a place to be creative and fun, while connecting with travelers.”
All the tips provided in this article can be accomplished in-house by travel advisors - it only takes a steady allotment of time and effort. Those who have already mastered the basics of social media might want to progress to the next step of taking ads on Facebook to reach a larger audience. But first, brush up on the best strategies by searching Google or connecting with a marketing consultant.
Most importantly, when it comes to social media, slow and steady wins the race.
FROM THE SPONSOR:
ALG Vacations led the pack this year as they launched their “ Ask a Travel Advisor” annual campaign. This campaign opened the doors for travel advisors across the U.S., giving them customer leads, driving traffic to their businesses, and showcasing the true value a Travel Advisor brings to consumers everywhere. The strength in this campaign centered on social media, travel and celebrity influencers, and the launch of multiple trending social handles. So, get social and find engaging shareable posts, talk travel with prospective customers, and be inspired to create your own content when you follow ALG Vacations® @AskATravelAdvisorALGV on Facebook and TikTok. You can also tune into our ALGV ‘Travel Beat’ Podcast with fresh travel tips shared weekly. Download from your favorite store today!