This is a viewpoint by Volkan Cagsal, CEO of Adphorus.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few years, you will have witnessed the rapid growth of social media impacting all aspects of how marketers reach and interact with their audiences.
In fact, more than 3 billion people use social media each month - that’s 42 per cent of the total global population, with 9 in 10 of those users accessing their chosen platform via a mobile device.
To put this growth into perspective, every second, 11 people use social media for the first time. When added up, that turns into one million new social media users every day!
But as travel marketers, should we be concerned about social reaching a point of over-saturation?
Is There An Industry Social Hasn’t Influenced?
Social media has undoubtedly permeated its way into the marketing strategies of nearly every business sector and the travel industry is no exception. The way today’s traveller researches and books their next trip is very different to five years ago. Travellers now have the privilege of instantaneous access to more information than ever across the web and in the form of social sharing sites such as Instagram, as well as crowd-sourced review sites such as TripAdvisor.
People are browsing the internet for travel inspiration and validation from their peers. In fact, over 97 percent of millennials share photos and videos of their travels online, building an influential web of peer-to-peer content that serves to inspire potential guests.
With the prevalence of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, millennials and Generation Z grew up in a much more connected world than past generations did. As a result, the world seems more accessible to them. Whilst Facebook holds the highest level of penetration among social media users in 2018 (60.6%), Instagram is growing the fastest with global users up by a third, and predicted to increase by 13.1 percent in 2018.
This huge drive towards social media has been a game changer for not only travel but also travel brands. Brands have had to adapt to utilise these hugely significant platforms but not only that, they’ve had to use data to ensure that they meet the ever-growing demand for personalised content in a seamless user experience.
The sheer influence of social media on this generation has transformed what it means to be successful in marketing in travel and tourism.
Adapt, Adapt, Adapt
Having witnessed such an explosion in social media over the past five to ten years, is it really realistic to expect this growth to continue or will we in fact hit a point of saturation?
The penetration is proof that social media usage is on the rise all around the world, but apparently is 58 percent away from saturation. Social media hasn’t maxed out its potential audience, and people will keep on converting along with the growth of smartphone ownership and internet access. While each social media network will have its own usage ups and downs, you can be confident that the global community of social media users will just get bigger. What it will require, is for advertisers to adapt to new trends and changes in user behaviour.
Some experts are predicting that users are going to experience a desire for a “digital detox” where they will shy away from their online presence in order to chase mental clarity.
I would argue that the next generations coming through won’t know anything different - social media will have always been and will continue to be an integral part of their lives. They won’t remember a time when you relied on travel guide books for expertise or idle hours spent flicking through travel brochures to influence your next holiday destination, or even the days of teletext last minute holiday offers.
To this generation, the norm will be seeking inspiration from a friend’s Facebook and Instagram posts, securing the best value through price comparison sites, chasing the authentic travel experience from home sharing sites such as Airbnb and relying on peer-to-peer testimonials to influence their purchases.
Social media has and will continue to be ingrained into the travel world and brands are going to need to be more than just social media friendly; they will need to be socially secure.
Top Tips to Adjust and Adapt
- Focus on business objectives
Your social media strategy should focus on your real business objectives, whether that is about driving bookings or increasing your customer’s lifetime value
You should constantly be running experiments for each of your objectives to figure out what works for your brand, and then optimising based on your real business objectives. Data science products will help you do this more efficiently.
Any brand that is still dealing with operational inefficiencies will not be able to keep up with competition and the constantly evolving ecosystem.
You should be focused on following trends in user behaviour, adopting and testing new ad products to reach your target travellers. Today, you should be focusing on dynamic content and vertical video.
Whilst I’m sure we are going to see different platforms become more and less popular with different audiences, what I believe will remain consistent is that people’s attention spans aren’t getting longer, so attention-grabbing and relevant content will break through best. Because travel products, price, and availability are constantly changing, displaying dynamic content is critical for travel advertisers. Dynamic content for travel not only means targeting the right people but also displaying dynamic parameters on the ad and directing travelers to customized landing pages.
The second major trend we are seeing, especially with the rise of Stories, is vertical video. Stories content is growing across multiple platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp, and user behavior is already shifting, so advertisers should be taking action to quickly adapt. An important part of this is investing in easy-to-digest vertical video that captures consumers’ attention.
- Refresh your creative strategy
You should have a creative strategy, that includes creative automation with dynamic information, creative testing, and channel optimisation.
Your social media strategy should be mobile-first.
An ad that is only an ad is boring and disruptive. But an ad powered by great data and personalised content is something your audience will welcome. And these days consumers are increasingly expecting and demanding personalised content. As social media becomes more and more ingrained in consumers' lives, they will become less tolerant of adverts that are not tailored to them.
The marketing industry is moving and changing at a rapid rate and I believe we’re going to see more change in our marketing world in the next two years than in the last 20. Though one thing will remain the same, putting customers first and engaging with them on a personal level on the channels they prefer will always lead to success.
This is a viewpoint by Volkan Cagsal, CEO of Adphorus.
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