NB: This is a viewpoint by Robert Patterson, vice president of social media and influencer marketing at MMGY Global.
Since 2008, the growth rate for social media marketing spending has surpassed search, display, email and television marketing.
Consumer adoption of social media has shifted the online marketing landscape and with this change in consumer behavior, marketers have had to re-evaluate their marketing plans.
According to the 2013 Portrait of American Travelers study, 82% of travelers trust recommendations from friends and family, 74% of US travelers have a Facebook profile and one out of three travelers reference social media as a main source of travel ideas and inspiration.
With an increasing amount of individuals communicating, reviewing and recommending products and experiences to their friends and family through social media, online word of mouth is vital to successful organic referrals, leads and conversions in today’s marketplace.
How Facebook influences travelers
Facebook offers travel brands the ability to identify prospective travelers, communicate directly with users, engage with advocates and create branded experiences through advertisements and custom-developed Facebook applications.
Facebook is the most powerful social media channel for travel marketers because of the platform’s purchasing process.
Furthermore, Facebook users are passionate about sharing their travel experiences. In 2012, Facebook reviewed the top stories people shared to their Facebook timelines and discovered that the top story being shared by users was travel experiences.
42% of stories shared to users Facebook timelines were travel experiences, more than double that of the next category.
In the evolving digital marketing landscape, it is clear that consumers want to share their travels with others and tourism marketers need to tap into this consumer behavior to generate awareness, inspiration and visitation.
Typical Facebook marketing goals:
What Facebook products are available
The heart of the Facebook marketing platform is Facebook Pages (How To here). Your Facebook Page is your brand’s store-front and where you will be able to showcase your destination’s most important images, select a vanity URL, list your business details and link to your website.
Facebook Pages also allow you to list upcoming events, map your location and feature photo and video galleries.
Your Page is where you will generate connections and long-term relationships with your brand advocates (residents and past visitors) and attract potential visitors. Building a Facebook Page is simple, quick and free.
Facebook Ads are a paid advertising solution used to attract new fans, amplify your message and expand the reach of your brand.
They also allow you to hyper-target your audience based on a wide variety of triggers such as location, demographics, interests and much more.
The advertising units include traditional ads for brand awareness and to drive traffic to your website, Page Post Ads to promote your Facebook Page, Sponsored Stories to highlight users connections with your Page and Promoted Posts to showcase your Page posts.
To incentivize users, generate conversions and expand co-op marketing, Facebook Offers allow Facebook Pages to provide offers such as hotel deals that can be redeemed online or in person.
Custom Audiences is the newest advertising targeting available and allows marketers to upload an existing database of emails or phone numbers to target users. Facebook Ads are a cost effective approach for generating awareness, engagement and connections with users for your destination.
To develop more engaging brand experiences, tourism marketers can develop or install Facebook Page Apps that will be located on a Facebook Page.
Facebook Page Apps are available from third party application developers or can be custom developed to deliver highly engaging interactions.
Popular apps for destination pages include sign-up forms for newsletters and vacation guides, contests and sweepstakes, co-op programs and integration with other social media channels.
While some third party applications are available for free, customized Page apps will require a web development investment.
Beyond Page apps, Facebook provides Facebook Connect, Social Plugins, Facebook Login and Open Graph as free tools for brands to develop personalized website and application experiences.
How to approach Facebook marketing
In order to properly market your destination on Facebook, you will need to have a sound understanding of who your core audience is by gender, age, geo location and interests.
Whether you have in-depth visitor studies readily available to you or simply have website analytics to work with, be sure to utilize the data you have available to clearly identify your audiences.
Facebook will also serve as a consumer market research tool for your destination to gather user insights, measure content engagement and crowdsource ideas before bringing them to market.
The first step in developing your Faceboom marketing strategy is clearly defining your objectives and goals. As a CVB or DMO your ultimate goal is to drive visitation.
However, consumers are looking to your organization to help them decide where they should go and what they should do. You will need to balance the goals of both your organization and your prospective travelers to be effective on Facebook.
Focus your efforts on generating awareness, inspiration, word-of-mouth, website visitation and online conversions whether they are industry partner referrals, bookings or vacation guide and email newsletter sign ups.
The importance of making your content engaging cannot be over overemphasized. 40% of Facebook users time is spent in the News Feed and the more engaging your content is the more users you will reach, impressions you will generate and the longer your post will be featured in the News Feed.
To achieve your goals and provide value to your Facebook audience, you will need to develop a communications strategy to define your brand's voice, determine your message content and frequency of messaging.
Keep in mind status updates between 100 and 250 characters generate 60% more likes than longer posts. To steer your content strategy, review your web analytics to understand what content consumers are searching for and consuming.
What landing pages are providing the most value to your readers and how can you drive more traffic to them? Make sure to also uncover what web pages you think have value but are not being consumed.
However, don’t limit your content to what is available on your website. Determine the stories you want to tell through status updates, photos or videos. Photo albums, pictures and videos generate 180%, 120% and 100% more engagement respectively.
With the knowledge of who your target audiences are, what information your audiences are most interested in and what stories you want to tell, develop a content matrix to match your consumer segments to the messages you want to relay and the landing pages you want to drive traffic to.
Now that you have outlined your messaging topics, develop an editorial calendar to organise and plan your communications based on content, day of the week and timeliness of your messages.
Facebook Page Admins can also schedule status updates to be posted to Facebook Pages to efficiently time messages to be deployed in the future.
Once you have begun deploying your destination’s Facebook communication strategy, begin promoting your Facebook Page through your other marketing channels and launch Facebook Ads. Determine the ad units that best support your goals.
Are you trying to generate brand awareness, drive audience growth, engage users or drive website referrals? Consider incentivizing existing users and attracting new users through a contest, sweepstakes or giveaway on Facebook.
Regardless of household income level, consumers have consistently named promotions, deals and discounts as the number one reason they connect with brands on social media. To capitalize on this consumer behavior, successful Facebook marketers leverage Facebook Offers and develop contests, sweepstakes and giveaways that adhere to Facebook’s Promotional Guidelines.
Mobile marketing is the fastest growing marketing trend and Facebook marketers need to understand the importance of mobile when developing a Facebook strategy. 68% of monthly active users access the platform through Facebook mobile products.
When executing Facebook Ads or a promotion on Facebook, ensure that you are targeting mobile users and offering a mobile friendly experience.
Social media never sleeps and neither should your Facebook strategy. Similar to successful search marketing campaigns, to run a successful Facebook platform you need to constantly optimize, develop content and run targeted advertising.
By optimizing your content strategy to ensure that fresh, relevant and interesting content is being delivered into Facebook’s News Feed you provide value to your fans.
To reach your target audiences you need to amplify your posts and promote your brand using Facebook Ads and Sponsored Stories.
Using Facebook’s impressive level of ad targeting, destinations are able to hyper target users by location, age, gender, interests and Facebook connections.
When properly administered, an always-on strategy increases your reach, generates brand impressions, creates word of mouth recommendations from family and friends and ultimately drives qualified traffic to your site.
Seasonal campaign strategy
Seasonal Facebook campaigns are an excellent way to drive awareness, engagement and visitation inspiration during pre-peak or need periods.
By increasing your Facebook Ads budget and timing it with unique and innovative campaigns, your organization can make sure to differentiate itself and gain the attention of travelers planning their next trip or vacation.
To further incentivize your audience and build your following, think about layering in a contest, giveaway or sweepstakes. Create a unique, experiential and one-of-a-kind offer that cannot be had anywhere else to peak the most interest.
When running a Facebook campaign always be sure to collect email addresses and require entrants to like your Facebook Page in order to create opportunities to drive engagement and website traffic in the future.
Also make sure to target your audience appropriately for such promotions to safeguard against attracting an audience that is only interested in winning a prize and instead cultivate an audience that is engaged in your destination offerings.
The challenges of marketing on Facebook
The largest obstacles to successful destination marketing on Facebook are budgeting and staffing.
While building a Facebook Page is free, there are budget considerations including staffing, photo and video asset development, Facebook Ads, Facebook Tab development and promotional contests and sweepstakes that need to be taken into consideration.
Since users are able to engage with your content, post on your timeline and message you 24/7, properly managing a Facebook Page is a time commitment.
Social media users expect their feedback and questions to be responded to quickly, usually within several hours or they perceive your organization as unresponsive.
Tourism marketers who are serious about their Facebook Page need to have dedicated staff to manage social media and/or utilize a marketing agency to provide support.
To aid marketers, Facebook has developed a Page notification system to provide alerts and the release of the Facebook Page Managers application for iOS and Android provides on-the-go management for your Facebook Page from mobile devices.
To address staffing and the shift in how consumers want to engage with tourism organisations, DMOs should review their traditional methods of interacting with consumers and select the mix that meets demand.
If your organization is seeing less call center activity, welcome center foot traffic and vacationm guide requests, it might be time to reallocate funds to support emerging channels such as Facebook.
Your organization may actually be able to save money and generate more interest and engagement by analyzing how your consumer marketing needs may have changed.
Measuring Facebook success
To properly track success on Facebook, tourism marketers need to focus on the performance of their Page’s organic and paid reach, engagment and signals of intent to travel-based on visitation inquires to the destination’s website.
Facebook provides robust analytics and key performing indicators for Facebook Pages and Facebook Ads.
Three key metrics to bear in mind:
- REACH: The number of your target audience you are reaching
- ENGAGEMENT: Interactions with your organic content and ads
- CONVERSION: Signals you have driven consumers further into the travel purchase path through web visits, vacation guide requests and newsletter sign-ups
One of the most popular activities on Facebook is sharing travel experiences. By sharing travel experiences on Facebook consumers are inspiring visitation through textual, photographic and video word-of-mouth recommendations.
Destination marketers have an opportunity to position themselves as a travel resource for consumers looking for travel ideas and inspiration on Facebook. maintaining an active Facebook Page.
To amplify a Facebook Page’s reach and impressions, destinations should utilize the Facebook Ads platform. Contests, sweepstakes and giveaways held on Facebook attract consumers and incentivize existing fans.
In order to track the success of Facebook marketing, marketers need to measure multiple levels of metrics including Facebook Page Insights, Facebook Ads, promotion KPIs and the impact Facebook referrals have on a destination’s website.
NB: This is a viewpoint by Robert Patterson, vice president of social media and influencer marketing at MMGY Global.