Since the advent of technology and social media, the traveler’s journey has become is very different than it used to be. Those traveling no longer rely on guidebooks compiled by ‘experts’ with out-of-date information or even paper maps to navigate their latest destination. Instead, travelers now have the privilege of instantaneous access to information across the web in the form of Buzzfeed guides, TripAdvisor reviews, and travelers’ Instagram photos depicting their latest vacation. This real-time access to relevant tips and, often, crowd-sourced information, has ultimately changed the way travelers approach planning a trip — from inspiration to booking.
Additionally, consumers no longer decide on a destination, research what to do or where to stay, and then purchase the required tickets. Instead, their path to travel, both purchase and experience, has become nonlinear. They turn to their friends, coworkers, and influencers within the expanding social media world to find travel and vacation inspiration, and even deals to support their newly discovered destination.
According to a recent survey from Adweek, 52% of Facebook users dream about vacation when on the channel, even when they aren’t planning a specific trip. This is due to FOMO. the fear of missing out, which is especially a common feeling among Millennials. When asked, 69% of millennials regretted not taking a last minute trip due to their #FOMO. This is why user-generated content has become a popular source of inspiration for modern travelers and often impacts the initial decision to make a trip among the younger generation. Due to the authenticity of user-generated, or earned, content there has been a transformation in not only the travel buying process, but also in the post travel experience. From users discovering new destinations, deals, and places to stay through Instagram, to how vacationers are sharing their travels visually through a number of other social media channels, it’s time for travel marketers to take note and leverage this trend. The importance of travel content via social media is proven by a recent survey that found, 87% of Millennials on Facebook said they use the social media site for travel inspiration, while 20% use Twitter and Pinterest.
On Pinterest, over 1000 boards have ‘travel inspiration’ in the title. The majority of them are not destination specific, but instead provide the possibility of a successful trip through inspirational imagery and travel tips. The customer uses this social tool to explore, discover, and then decide if they like a travel idea, and then take the time to research where they can go to have the experience they desire.
According to another Adweek survey, almost half of vacationers are more likely to hear about a new travel company or destination on Twitter than anywhere else. They may not be searching for that information specifically, but they are exposed to it in their feed. Knowing this, it’s possible for brands to capitalize on the popularity of social media to inspire future travel.
Not only that, but all of these metrics demonstrate how influential user-generated content on social media can be in the travel decision process, and gives valuable insight into what activities and destinations are trending among online users.
To take advantage of the power of social media to inspire people’s future trips, brands need to:
- Encourage the use of a branded hashtag: Experiences increasingly carry more prestige over items. In an Eventbrite survey, 78% of Millennials stated they’d rather have a desirable experience over a desirable item, though this change is also moving to other demographics. In short, travelers will share their vacations online and to capitalize on this, brands should, encourage the use of a branded hashtag in these posts. This promotes your brand and increases engagement with a searchable hashtag. The importance of this is evident in the case of Texas Tourism, where we helped the brand promote its the #TexasToDo hashtag to new visitors and residents. The result was a 33% increase in return visits to TravelTexas.com since the launch. Learn more about Texas Tourism’s success in their case study.
- Inspire travelers during the vacation: While on a trip, 60% of travelers, and 97% of Millennial travelers, share their travel photos. User-generated content not only impacts the planning stage of a trip, but also the trip itself. With real-time images shared during events, travelers will often be inspired to attend an event or attraction they hadn’t planned before their trip. To guarantee your company is part of the possible trip narrative, encourage travelers to share their images with incentives. These don’t have to be expensive or difficult to implement. For example, your brand can promote the use of the hashtag with signs around your property and offer a discount for those who share.
- Encourage travelers to share post-trip: Most people don’t spend a long time traveling, but they do spend a lot of time thinking about or planning their next trip. Travelers gain inspiration weeks or months before they begin to plan their trip in earnest. Consider connecting with past travelers and inspire them to share their images to social media with email or social media outreach campaigns to inspire newcomers. A contest or giveaway, such as a free stay, will boost the amount of content created with your hashtag. It also keeps people talking about your brand, putting it at the forefront of their travel plans.