Are Travel Marketers Wasting Their Time on Social Media?

How surprising is this: In the second half of last year, fewer that 1% of visitors arrived at a hotel or travel booking site, "via a social media link or a link shared by by a friend. So reports

Does this mean hotels are wasting their time chasing the Holy Grail of Twitter and Facebook?

Could be. We love our friends' photos and status updates, the report goes on to say, and it's very true that social media platforms and channels do develop loyalty.
The contests do lead to deeper branding, but, it seems, all that presence and activity don't lead to proportionately to increased bookings.

What does? It seems to depend on the industry. IMedia Connection, a marketing site, reports  that science, business, news and entertainment visits prompted by links from other sites (blogs; social media sites) jumped from 9% in August 2011 to an average of 32% in August 2012."

But the  "voice-of-customer surveys" also shows that the same kind of connectivity growth did not apply to the hospitality/travel  business, especially hotels. They lag behind. In fact, the number of visits that come from search engine results or typing in a URL ranged between 55 and 61% - vs. the 1% of visitors arriving at a hotel or travel booking site by way of a social media channel or link shared by a friend.

The apparent conclusion of the study is that "social media noise" matters less when booking a holiday or a hotel, than the "informed" or "perceived impartiality" afforded by key word searches and personalized research.

Interestingly, as iMedia point out, other industries like the automotive industry also benefit less by social media presence and more by targeted, SEO searches.

Again, how come? It seems car buyers are not especially concerned with keeping up with the Smiths, an imperative implied implied in social media. Price, budget and specifications matter more than what friends say.

But by no means should the travel industry step back from its investment in social media.

It needs to be aware that spending to optimize SEO, may be as good or better an investment that courting bloggers or counting too much on social media's clout. As we have said, an integrated approach is critical, where each marketing dollar support the other, especially, it seems, in travel.

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Comment by Kaleel Sakakeeny on October 21, 2013 at 9:01am

Thanks, Phil, for taking the time to comment and insightfully.

Yes, TripAdvisor seems bent on controlling the entire travel cycle. But I was also very interested in your comment, "the business we are in (PR) is adapting and playing the traditional role in influencing...".  What does that mean, I wonder? :)

And relative to the diminished significance of SEO searches, I don't know. There has been a lively Ed Wetschler -inspired thread on this topic in FB that might be interesting. But, again, many thanks, and stay in touch!


Comment by Phil Butler on October 21, 2013 at 2:28am

Hi Kaleel, A nice roundup here. Our data is showing SEO dropping off as a primary conduit to direct bookings. Meanwhile, the supportive channels that lead to direct bookings, appear much stronger of late. TripAdvisor, for one instance, has morphed into more of a social platform for independent hotels, than the OTA-like site we grew accustomed to. As for marketers, your perception is correct in that SM is not a good direct marketing channel. People being social HATE being sold to. PR, the business we are in, is now adapting and playing its traditional role in influencing social response.

SEO, the role Google ads and the SERPs play? As mobile takes over where the desktop once ruled, we're looking at what my friend Brian Solis calls "Generation C", or a wholly connected consumer trend toward SM and direct interaction with ALL business. Integration, as you aptly suggest, is fundamental now for selling anything. 



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