Social Media networks can be used to travel company’s advantage just as it can be a disadvantage. By promoting travel services, products and offers directly to followers and potential followers on social media sites, this can increase brand awareness, customer retention, and help to gain new customers, which all inevitably lead to greater profit margins.
Social media has become an integral part of travel marketing. “Because it’s where your customers are,” says BA’s content strategy advisor, Kim Willis. She says: “It’s now an important part of how people plan, book and share experiences about their trips.”
A recent example of social media working for a Travel Company was with Virgin Atlantic. Richard Branson publicised via a press release that Virgin would fly a glass-bottomed airplane travelling from London to Scotland. This turned out to be an April fool’s prank, however, the amount of good publicity it created from just a simple, but effective idea was incredible; the prank was banded about via Twitter.
People that visit networking sites tend to trust those who they are friends with, more than what an advert on the TV says for example, and in a way makes sense; perhaps more travel companies should realise that what they say is not as powerful as what others say about them on social networking sites. Some do already, but there are those, especially the smaller independent travel companies who perhaps don’t utilise the social networking tool as well as they could and give more attention to what it actually says on their website or in the shop window.
How Travel Companies use Social Networking to their Advantage
Reuben Arnold, Virgin Atlantic’s director of brand and customer experience stated “It was phenomenally successful and it had a social reach of 3.5 million, was picked up by traditional media such as the BBC and was even reported as fact in China.” Reuben Arnold also suggested that there was little doubt that they would have ever achieved this level of marketing promotion success through the more ‘traditional’ channels.
Virgin Atlantics head of Creative Strategy, Vivek Wagle added that Social Media has created another way for travellers to decide on their destination, travel supplier, travel insurance etc. Travellers will search and look at reviews on social networking sites and go by what others on there are saying about destinations, companies to use, if there are any discounts, advice on best travel insurance and much more.
Social Media Issues for Travel Companies
Social media is in theory an ideal marketing channel for travel industry companies promoting their products and services, that is at least until complaints start to fly around and potentially thousands can see exactly what the customer is complaining about.
Travel companies do not have this issue when dealing with issues over the phone or via email, but in the world of social media, it’s all in plain sight. This of course can be damaging for travel companies, however, if handled fairly, sufficiently and quickly, there should be no reason for travel companies to panic.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that; issues can be branded about on several websites without a travel company knowing about it, leaving them with no alternative but to not respond to all issues made on those sites. The best way for handling those complaints online however, is to respond to comments made by individuals on the major social networking sites; Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and so on.
Another aspect that travel companies cannot ignore in regards to social networking is that 42% of people who complain via social networking sites expect a response within an hour, recent figures show from a recent report carried out by Edison Research. In response to the results of the survey, Wagle stated: “You can’t fall asleep on Twitter. It requires significant love and attention from our side.”
Direct Marketing in the Travel Industry
On the flip side of social media, are the direct marketing campaigns, which can be just as effective in terms of creating awareness and being able to target certain groups of people through profile targeting; this is a much improved and sophisticated technique as opposed to the random targeting methods used in the past.
Furthermore, direct marketing can work will in conjunction with social media aspects; leaflets sent directly to a past, current or potential customers door can reiterate a message that’s been sent via social media channels, and therefore, helping the message to be stronger and more memorable.
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