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If content is king, then social is definitely queen. With a fast growing digital society that loves to post and boast, social media has become a fundamental tool in a content marketer’s kit.
And for the travel marketers, social has been a gift. Done well, a great campaign can far outreach any traditional marketing activity in terms of audience and influence.
Social, no longer seen as a bolt-on channel, has become an integral part of travel marketing, from PR, reputation management to customer engagement. And in many ways, it's also the voice of the brand.
Virgin Atlantic’s director of brand & customer experience, Reuben Arnold says: 'Social media helps us demonstrate our personality and what we’re about'.
There is a plethora of platforms to choose from, and the travel brands that recognize this and those that tailor their content accordingly are winning-out.
Engagement is also different on each channel, according to Airbnb’s head of creative strategy Vivek Wagle:
Twitter excels at real-time responsiveness and feedback. Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest have the advantage of conveying stunning visuals.
Here I’ve taken a look back from the last year and selected six of my favourite social travel campaigns from across different platforms:
VA asked its Facebook followers to create and post a virtual postcard of a destination they’d like to go to, or are going to, on their timeline. The “Where’s my head at?” campaign worked on two levels.
Firstly it was about giving fans inspirational and aspirational content to engage with, and something to boast about to their network.
Secondly, it had a marketing function, that of showcasing all the unknown destinations that Virgin Atlantic Airways flies to. The social reach was great: it generated more than 2,700 holiday postcards which were seen by a quarter of a million Facebook friends and family.
The brand's research earlier this year found that social media, in particular Facebook, combined with online technology such as smartphones, is making us more spontaneous.
In response it changed the focus of its posts to inspire spontaneity amongst its followers and invited fans to “Take the plunge. Step into the unknown. Break your routine” and “try something new”.
Taking this a step further it launched a “Love living last minute” campaign to find Britain’s 'spontaneity champion'. Fans have until the end of November to create a video and tell Lastminute why the deserve the £50k prize.
Since April this year the level of its fan engagement has grown 300% year on year.
Capitalising on its large Twitter following British Airways put the power of this social channel to the test this summer. It sent travel blogger Paul Steele to Rome for the day armed only with travel tips tweeted by followers.
In the 12 hours he was there, BA received more than 1,600 twitter-tips and Steele visited 13 recommended locations, places that most guidebooks never talk about.
BA said it witnessed an increase in travellers booking trips to Rome as a result of this campaign.
Kim Willis said:
This was an exciting way of bringing a destination to life, while involving customers in the process.
Expedia upped the ante this summer with its #TYI (travel yourself interesting) Twitter campaign. Inspired by its recent research that found people who travel are more interesting than those that don’t.
It was on the hunt for the most mundane tweet that it could send around the world to spice up.
As an example it hijacked @RealMattLucas’ “Ugh. This water’s all wet!! tweet and sent it on an adventure to South Africa where it was ripped apart by two hungry lions.
Airbnb launched an innovative Vine campaign this summer inviting its global community on Twitter to send in six-second Vines that reflected the spirit of Airbnb’s philosophy.
Launched in August the initiative instructed its world-wide followers, over a period of three days, to shoot specific scenes for its four-minute film. It compiled the best Vines, ones that captured the essence of the company, from more than 30 film-makers to create the fun and quirky “Hollywood & Vines” mini-movie.
It received widespread attention, generating almost 300,000 views on YouTube, and received a lot of love from its fans.
East Coast Trains
East Coast Trains' head of marketing, Natalie Cowen, admits that there’s less brand affinity with rail travel as 'it’s more about service'.
Yes, it has a Facebook strategy but East Coast has focused its attention on targeting the 2m business travellers, from up and down the mainline route, on Linkedin.
It has created a bespoke content package aimed at engaging and sharing information with these potential passengers. It has encouraged a two-way dialogue with this group to find out how East Coast can make their working lives easier.
Launched two months ago the campaign has increased its followers from 700 to more than 4,000.