Comment: How to use social media to sell holidays

Comment: How to use social media to sell holidays

Snapchat’s Ruth Arber says brands must immerse consumers in potential travel experiences to win business

When does the holiday start for you? Arriving at the airport and gliding through duty free? Or when you step onto the stairs and get hit with that welcome whoosh of hot, humid, foreign air? Perhaps it’s sitting at your desk at lunchtime on a rainy Thursday in March, scrolling through travel websites on your phone.

For travel brands, the so-called dreaming phase is as vital as any of the other parts of the customer journey that follow. Enticing the customer with promises of sapphire seas or frosty slopes is where sales are won, but today’s equivalent of the Boomer dreaming phase – when it was all about popping to the travel agent for some brochures to thumb through – doesn’t cut the mustard with Gen Z and Millennials. Established online tour operators are functionally very helpful when it comes to comparing prices, sorting flights and getting itineraries arranged, but as far as inspiring wanderlust, they’re lacking.

Snapchat brings the stages of search, dreaming, inspiration and engagement all together into one, singular travel platform. At Snapchat, we’ve seen more than 5 million conversations from Snapchatters asking for top tourist destinations, along with more than one million planning visits to Disneyland and other theme parks, but some also simply use it for researching, planning and asking general questions.

Here are our key insights into attracting Gen Z and Millennial customers with social media.

Tip: Promote experiences over destinations
Social media plays a huge role in how people discover new locations. Even the reason for travel is changing, shifting the importance from the destination to the experience you’re likely to have once there. It’s not Chamonix versus Courchevel, it’s the number of heart-stopping black runs versus heliskiing opportunities.

The social media experience is richer in every way. Social media has helped individuals share their experiences and gain inspiration from others, giving travellers confidence and education on destinations before they book.

Using a search engine, you’re going to get mostly factual information. Searching Florence will give you pictures, hotel names and the cost to climb the Duomo. Using social media, you’re going to see videos from local enthusiasts, snippets of food courses, a treasure hunt for buchette del vino (wine windows) and a glimpse of unique experiences you simply couldn’t search for. It’s an immersive, multi-sensory experience.

Tip: Match content to the platform
Platforms like Snapchat are great for engaging the younger traveller, aged 18-34, which can be hard to reach on other channels. You need to speak to this group in a way they’re used to. Snapchat is all about chatting with friends. That’s because those friends heavily influence purchasing decisions.

Six out of 10 Snapchatters decided to go on their last holiday after a friend told them about it

As a brand, you need to look at what content is being shared and how. Snapchatters post an average of 50 times a day; when they’re on their way to the airport, at the hotel, at the beach. So you need to adopt that mindset and behaviour – and understand how to use short-form video to demonstrate experiences, learn the nuance of vertical video formats and customise the creativity to make sure it’s the right format for the right platform.

Tip: Marry inspiration with information
Be sure to add practical information to inspirational content, including location tags so users can find it. For example, on Snapchat, it’s easy to search for a location on Snap Maps – a digital map similar used for navigation – so users have the ability to dive into a city or location and view all the public "snaps" (pictures or videos) of that location that have been shared. It gives the travellers a really good sense of what it’s actually like to be there and there’s nothing stopping brands being a part of that action. Posting their own Snaps, showcasing what the specific area has to offer, to remain front of mind.

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