How Tour Operators Can Use Social Media in The Travelers’ Journey

How Tour Operators Can Use Social Media in The Travelers’ Journey

Social media usage is blowing up – especially amongst today’s digitally savvy consumers.

Instead of visiting these sites at particular points in time, consumers are flocking to social networks on a daily basis. It has simply become a part of their daily routine. In fact, consumers in developed countries can spend up to 7 hours a day on social media (Eye for Travel).

So it’s no wonder that social media has also become the go-to solution when travelers are stuck for things to do at a particular destination.

As more people share their recommendations and experiences through sites like TripAdvisor and Facebook, these platforms have evolved to become reputable sources of online word-of-mouth.

But to leverage this word-of-mouth effectively, you have to look at the bigger picture. Here’s how you should be engaging with travellers through social media at each stage of their journey.

1. Dreaming

At this stage, travelers are dreaming of what places they should visit and imagining where they could go.

The facts:

  • 36% of online travelers visit social networking sites to influence destination selection (World Travel Market)
  • 34% of Asian leisure travelers are actively looking for social recommendations and feedback on ideas via social networks such as Facebook and TripAdvisor (Tnooz)
  • One out of three US travelers reference social media as a main source of travel ideas and inspiration (2013 Portrait of American Travelers Study)

What you can do:

Fish where the fish are. Be present on those websites that are being used and participate in the conversation. This includes not only sharing your updates but listening to what’s being shared in your industry – and what customers are saying about you. You should be responding to every mention of you.

2. Planning

These travelers are done dreaming – they’ve made a decision about where they’re going. Now they must plan their trip. This involves how and when they’re getting there (transport), where they’re staying (accommodation), and what they will do once they arrive (tours and activities).

The facts:

  • 52% of travelers use social media to plan a trip (Eye for Travel)
  • 71% of Asian leisure travelers consider personal recommendations for a trip “very important” in the decision-making process (Tnooz)
  • 44% of Asian leisure travelers are watching videos about a destination during the research phase (Tnooz)

What you can do:

Encourage social media sharing, and perhaps offer incentives for doing so. For example, you’ll give them a free piece of merchandise like a keyring for Liking and Checking In to your Facebook Page.

For bigger actions – such as posting reviews, videos, and photos to TripAdvisor – you can offer a more valuable piece of merchandise, like a free t-shirt.

3. Booking

Now that they have passed the information gathering stage, travelers know what they want. It’s time to make it official with some online bookings.

The facts:

  • 59% of Asian leisure travelers want to book travel products “whenever they can” and “wherever they can” (Tnooz)
  • 80% of travelers are more likely to book a trip from a friend liking a page rather than responding to a traditional Facebook ad (Eye for Travel)

What you can do:

Travelers don’t want a clunky booking process. The easier you make it for them, the more bookings you will get. Allow bookings on your website via mobile, and directly from your Facebook page (Facebook boasts the most amount of users by far). Your online reservation system should support this (if not, ours does). There is also something called Facebook Offers that allow Facebook Pages to provide offers like deals that can be redeemed online or in person.

4. Experiencing

This is when your customers are at your tour or activity and are sharing their experience with their social networks.

The facts:

  • 42% of stories shared to users’ Facebook timelines in 2012 were travel experiences, making it the top story being shared by users (Tnooz)
  • Holiday pictures are the most shared content on and after vacation (Tnooz)
  • 70% of social media users update status/share photos while on holiday (Eye for Travel)

What you can do:

Make it easy for customers to share their experience. You can even do it for them! Take a couple quick photos and videos, and tell your customers that you will post them online on your website and social media sites. This will make it simple for them to share it on their personal pages. Your customers will undoubtedly go back to Facebook to reminisce their trip, so create a Facebook album that they can refer to.

Maintenance is key

Considering the travelers’ journey will put you in the best position to capture their attention no matter where they are in the process. But remember that social media is not a ‘set it and forget it’ activity. To get it right, it requires a commitment of time and effort – you need to maintain each channel to keep engagement going strong.

For more tips on social media for tour operators, download our free ebook on the subject:

social media for tours and activities