During the history of the human race, we have been pilgrims, wayfarers, explorers and pioneers. Our feet and minds have carried us far. We migrated out of Africa and spread across the planet in search of food, fortune and, sometimes, just the horizon. As we traveled, stories were created, told and shared. Our minds seem wired for both travel and narrative.
That’s why few industries are as perfectly situated for social media marketing as travel.
Travel is absolutely perfect for social media marketing
We have always shared our travel dreams and adventures with others. Early on, travel magazines, brochures, home movie projectors and Polaroids were the media of choice. Now, the game has gone digital, but the themes are largely the same: “I love to travel. Where should I go? What should I do? What should I see?”
Travel appears to be one of the most described topics on social media. If social media is where the people are—it is—and if people love to talk about travel—they do—then it makes sense for travel companies to creatively market on social media platforms. High profile travel companies have not been reluctant to join the fray. Yet, it’s hard for any of us, large or small, to measure our success. Right now, most measures of ROI are intuition rather than math. We are all still seeking the appropriate “how to’s.”
Do social media marketing well and you generate thousands, even hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic followers, evangelists for your cause. Do it poorly and you spend a lot of money and time only to convince yourself social media marketing doesn’t work.
Some travel companies have mastered the art
Two of the best examples of social media marketing in the travel industry are G Adventures and Intrepid Travel. What is immediately apparent about both of these companies is the high degree of time and energy plowed into their social media strategies. More impressively, it is equally obvious both of these fine travel suppliers intimately understand their clients. The people-centric nature of their strategies is the secret to great social media marketing. If you look closely at the social media platforms of both companies, what you see first is a passion for all things travel related. Simply put, they inspire. It is only secondarily you see their “products” embedded in the conversation with an unobtrusive grace. The enthusiasm of their followers is what floats the boat, not their product line.
If a consumer believes that a company or service is authentically inspiring, they will gravitate to it, support it and even promote it to others. However, if they perceive it as inauthentic, they will shun it as one more noisy imposition—a part of the marketing and advertising clutter through which they must daily wade. The social media teams of the best practitioners of social media marketing in the travel industry are keenly aware of the nature of good social conversation: listen more than you talk and, when you talk, say something interesting. They position their company ethic in such a way that people rally around it, converse and tell others.
Passion and inspiration are key for success
The best practitioners treat social media marketing as a long term exercise in farming rather than a hunt for big game. Their followers are there for the emotional gratification of inspiration, not to be marketed to. It really is that simple. And that hard.
Enthusiasm of the magnitude necessary to succeed at social media begins with a company ethic totally in tune and responsive to the wellspring of passion for travel. The social media masters at G Adventures and Intrepid Travel tap into the passion of others and nurture it through attentive conversation. The images they choose to populate their pages and the posts they send on their way are all about inspiration.
The “product” line of Intrepid and G Adventures remains in the background as a manifestation of the inspiration their social media platforms generate. Travel product is not front and center, but embedded in the conversation as an example of the way in which the passion and enthusiasm can be realized in the lives of their followers.
While the context may differ, the fundamentals of marketing are the same in social media as they are in face-to-face encounters. As our friend Nolan Burris reminds us, that’s why they call it “social” media. Be a good conversationalist, be a good listener, show interest in people and they will like you. If they like you, they are more likely to do business with you.
So there is the formula for success in social media and travel marketing: inspire people and then show them how to better live the inspiration.