Travel agents are complaining everywhere how their online followers are less and less engaged with their social media platforms. Some agents are even closing down certain social handles, and doing less with their newsfeeds.
But for high-end advisors, that might not be a good business decision. According to a recent Luxury Brand Passion Index published by Netbase, a software company that helps companies track social sentiment, luxury brands have great power to engage consumers if they follow a set of principles.
Four top rules are: 1) Listen first, set strategy second; 2) There is room for luxury advisors to stand out online; 3) Volume doesn’t always trump quality engagement; and 4) Beware of the curmudgeons.
The five brands that Netbase deemed the best across these principles and a number of other factors were: Land Rover, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, and Mercedes. Only one travel and hospitality brand, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, made it into the top 10.
What the analysis showed was that claiming share of voice in your niche can drive a solid foundation of social media engagement. But ultimately, listening deeper for the wants and needs of your target market, and delivering content that connects with those wants and needs can greatly enhance engagement.
“A luxury isn’t something that people buy because they need it. They buy it because of how it makes them feel, and consumers are looking to be inspired on social media,” Netbase said in the report. Here are four lessons you should take away from how luxury brands build engagement.
1. ‘Listen’ with two eyes, not just two ears
While travel agents are a busy lot, if building online engagement to capture new sales leads and inspire existing followers/customers to purchase from you is important to your business, take the time to read what your target market and followers are saying online.
“Your consumers are out there, pouring their wants and needs into social. What is your audience passionate about? What content resonates with your audience? And what ultimately motivates your audience to trust your brand? These are the three questions at the top of mind for business leaders, and the best part is, the answers are already out there. You just have to listen,” Netbase said in its report.
While there are tools out there (some more expensive than many agents can afford) that can deliver reports to high-end advisors, you can also leverage some simple free tactics to automatically capture luxury travel consumer sentiment. For example, have you set up a “luxury travel” daily Google alert?
What hashtags are you following? Take an hour a week to review what that content looks like, and write down descriptions of the posts that are getting the most engagement (e.g. video vs. photos, photos with people versus landscapes only).
“People purchase luxury based on emotion. Look for the emotions in the posts of your category,” said Elvis Lieban, Netbase product marketing manager. Lieban advised luxury travel agents to follow the top luxury travel influencers, as well.
2. There is room to stand out
According to Netbase, the top 10 luxury brands accounted for 35 percent of all mentions in their report, compared with 70 percent in other industry categories. “This means that luxury brands have a more distributed share of the conversation with consumers,” Netbase said, which means savvy marketers and smart social tracking close to consumer wants and needs has a greater chance of attracting attention.
You do that by promoting the luxury lifestyle, said Lieban. “Don’t just post a great picture, and say, ‘This is their hotel. This is our special promotion.’ Use imagery and stories about that lifestyle, over time, on your social media feed. The bigger brands are doing a good job of trying to sell that whole experience, the shopping, dining, everything you do while on a luxury vacation,” said Lieban.
3. Volume doesn’t always trump quality
So many travel agents simply pump out posts for the sake of volume. But the Netbase report shows how that doesn’t always work to engage consumers.
According to the Netbase 2018 luxury report, automobile conversations accounted for 45 percent of the share of voice online, and three brands made the top ten. Fashion brands claimed only 2 percent of the online share of voice, but captured five of the top ten spots.
Much of that was because of the types of engaging posts fashion brands used to encourage their followers to see themselves in a piece of clothing, or carrying a certain handbag. For travel, emotional imagery is excellent for enabling consumers to envision themselves in a specific place or doing a specific activity.
“A lot of that conversation is happening on Instagram — a platform not all brands are leveraging well,” Netbase said. So, choose your platform wisely and go for quality, not quantity.
4. Beware the ‘curmudgeon’
Finally, consumer opinions matter, especially in the luxury travel space where experience is so important. Even the singular complaint from that curmudgeon on Twitter who just happened to have a bad experience that they associate with you can hurt your overall brand.
The Netbase report shows how Fairmont Hotels scores high on consumer passion, core aspects of luxury, check-in experience and loyalty program. But on Dec. 29, 2017, @askadamcohen tweeted about a bad experience he had with Fairmont, tweeting at celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, as well.
“Must be the worst hotel we've ever ‘booked.’ I've stayed at over 500 hotels on 6 continents. Customer service @FairmontHotels the world's worst. @FairmontHotels does not care about customer service or its guests. @GordonRamsay #HotelHell.”
Although Cohen has only 1,800 followers, his tweet was retweeted more than 6,400 times. Netbase’s analysis shows how that complaint dominated Fairmont’s online consumer sentiment over the next two weeks as the company apparently didn’t respond to his initial Twitter complaint, and then a second complaint on Jan. 10, 2018.
“@GordonRamsay Still no resolution with @FairmontHotels #HotelHell @FairmontHotels - Please have your corporate office reach out.”
Respond privately if someone tags you in a complaint, and see if you can resolve the issue offline. If you are successful, ask the customer to mention the resolution on a new social media post.