Travel marketers worry a lot about their social media strategy. But the brands with the most successful campaigns are the ones who are among the first to experiment, say experts.
Success -- defined as engagement, traffic, and mentions in media outlets -- comes to brands who act first, not necessarily to the ones who take the longest to come up with the most perfect or surprising idea.
This week's proof of that rule is Rocketmiles, a Chicago-based travel technology startup that has raised $8.5 million in funding and claims to be "serving hundreds of thousands of customers at this stage."
It is the first travel startup to run a social media campaign using Vine, which lets users create six-second videos that play on a continuous loop.
The Vines have high production values, such as one that features sharp underwater images of a Czech snorkeler in Palau.
In Rocketmiles' Vacation Faster campaign, travelers are tempted with the chance to win 100,000 United Airlines MileagePlus in a contest.
The startup will do some standard paid ads on social networks Twitter and Facebook and will reach out to a segmented audience on its mailing list.
Its willingness to have a sense of humor about the promotion makes it distinctive from most travel marketing video. For example, one Vine is of a Swedish skier owned by a double black diamond.
Rocketmiles co-developed the concept with United. It is purchasing the miles for the contest prize from the airline, which is promoting the contest through its own channels.
Vine, a service from the creators of Twitter, is about a year old and has 40 million member accounts, though you don't have to be a member to see a video someone else has created.
When a traveler comes across a Rocketmiles Vine and clicks it, they'll see a brief message inviting them to enter the contest by visiting a website.
How did Rocketmiles come up with the idea? Last September, co-founder Jay Hoffmann reached out informally to a select few travel/social thought leaders to ask one question:
What's the single most clever / memorable social media promotion or campaign you've seen in the last 18 months?
The responses generated led to brainstorming that led to the idea of integrating Vine into the marketing. Says Hoffmann:
Our designers are working on making "goal attainment" a bigger part of our user experience.
When we talk to our customers, the 25 million worldwide who fund vacations via their loyalty accounts, most of them have something in mind.
They want to go to Las Vegas with their college friends, are planning a spectacular honeymoon in Cinque Terra, or sending their daughter on a graduation trip to New Zealand.
These folks do things that might otherwise feel extravagant amidst the ordinary student loans, mortgages, college savings accounts. We aim to make it all happen faster.
If we know that our customer wants to get to Cinque Terra, we can remind her that it was 68 and sunny in Vernazza today, and that she is only about 5 bookings away from Chianti on the terrace overlooking the Ligurian Sea.
Rocketmiles lets consumers -- mainly, American business travelers -- earn airline miles by booking a curated set of hotels (such as only about 35 in a major city like London).
The company says 14 loyalty programs are participating, such as Aeroplan, Etihad Guest, FlyingBlue, Qatar Qmiles, and Turkish Miles&Smiles, along with "thousands" of hotels.
After launching in 10 cities a year ago, it now has global coverage. It says customers typically earn about 7,000 miles per booking, which means for an average two-and-half-night stay. (See the Tnooz company profile here.)