A Travel Advisor’s Guide to Social Media Success

by Kerry Tice
A Travel Advisor’s Guide to Social Media Success

Photos and videos top the list of the most engaging content for social media posts. Photo: Shutterstock

The results are in and they tell us a large majority of travel advisors are winning at the game of social media. Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed in Travel Market Report’s recently released Social Media Outlook say social media is very or somewhat important to their marketing plans, with over 40 percent reporting they have a formal plan currently in place.

Money is being made, and best of all, lasting personal connections have been formed and are being fostered through multiple social media channels, leading to future sales.

Fundamentally, this engagement is providing the agency community with a viable path to clients that will remain integral to their overall business plan for years to come – or at least until the next best thing comes along.

So, where do you stand in the social media space? Are you inspiring your clients through social media? Have you developed an online personal connection with them that keeps them looking for your latest travel posts and ideas for their next journey?

And, if you aren’t where you need to be, how do you get there?

Travel Market Report spoke with a number of retail travel agents who have met the social media challenge head on, and thrived. In fact, 11 percent of survey respondents reported generating over $100,000 in business during the past 12 months thanks to their social media efforts and 29 percent said they realized sales of at least $25,000. Clearly, these agents know how to tip the scales in their favor. 

Following is a success story of one standout social media travel advisor who is worth learning from, that is, if you are looking to up your game … and we hope you are. 

Theresa Chu-Bermudez, owner and travel designer at Get Out! Customs Travel, LLC, launched her company a mere three years ago in the spring of 2016, but didn’t actually work full-time until the following January 2017. From 2017 through 2018, she has more than doubled her sales and tripled her commissions (booking close to $400,000 in travel within just the past twelve months). When asked what she attributes her growth to, she undoubtedly replied, “branding and social media presence,” with a particular focus on the complementary attributes of Facebook and Instagram, including referrals gained from Facebook posts and social media shout-outs. 

Chu-Bermudez employs a formal social media marketing plan because she said it helps her stay organized and think about her goals for each post. For example, she asks herself: Is this post to generate a sale? Acquire more followers? Create more exposure for the business? Prior to having a formal plan, she said she was “posting by the seat of my pants,” which became stressful and unproductive once her volume started to increase.

The main components of her plan include a combination of Facebook Lives, Instagram stories and posts, and hashtag holidays (i.e. National Hat Day, National Pizza Day, etc.).

“An important part of my social media marketing plan is specifying my target audience so I can gear my content towards them. There are times when I’ll post more often because I’m at a conference, on a fam, or simply traveling in general.”

She is also part of a few professional groups, one of which focuses on the wedding industry in Central Florida and the other on women business owners in Tampa Bay, whereby she and her business have been featured in partnership with their social media efforts. 

“If possible, I may interview a few professionals on Facebook Live who aren’t in the industry to talk about something that travelers may be interested in. For example, I interviewed a professional photographer about how to take the best photos while traveling. This was mutually beneficial since both of us received great exposure.” 

What works best
Visuals (photos and videos), along with valuable content and storytelling, have proven to be Chu-Bermudez’s most effective means of engaging with clients and prospects. “Through my posts, I demonstrate my expertise by providing useful tips, as well as letting people know that I have experience at what I’m selling and that I am well-connected to numerous travel suppliers.” 

Keeping her posts updated regularly helps, too. “Being consistent in my posts allows me to be found on social media more easily. Plus, I always make sure that my voice shines through in my content, which is why I try not to use generic social media posts.” 

Chu-Bermudez makes a point to engage with each and every person who posts a comment or reacts to her post. “The way they engage on my posts gives me an idea of the kind of experiences they are drawn to. For example, if I post a picture of a river cruise experience and someone comments, ‘This is something that I’ve been thinking about doing!’, then I will reply to that comment as well as direct message them [see Travel Market Report’s social media terms glossary for more information on DM]. Then, whenever a promotion happens on something I know those clients would love, or whenever I learn about an experience I know they’d consider, I reach out to them with the details.” 

The number of bookings Chu-Bermudez’s retains from social media differs depending on the season, although she tends to average five large bookings per month from both Facebook and Instagram. She cautions fellow advisors, however, to be patient, noting that it takes some time for social media posts to have an effect, so it’s important to remain consistent and don’t give up.
“I have had clients reach out to me for a booking inquiry who said that they have been following me for a while and were finally ready to start planning their trip. I also had a client who had only booked domestic travel with me reach out for her first international trip. She said, ‘After following you on Instagram and seeing all the international trips you’ve planned, I’m so excited to be able to plan an international trip with you!’” 

In summary, Chu-Bermudez shares her best advice for succeeding with social media marketing:

1. Know your audience and post with a purpose.
2. Don’t get caught up on acquiring a large number of followers on Facebook or Instagram. The goal is to generate sales. If you have thousands of followers, but aren’t converting them to clients or inspiring existing clients to book again, then the fact that you have a large number of followers isn’t a good metric to measure your success.
3. Be proactive in learning how to best utilize social media in a way that works for you. The social media landscape is constantly changing, so make sure to attend webinars, do your own research, and participate in learning opportunities to increase your knowledge.

The Social Media Outlook Study was sponsored by Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises.
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