The power of social networking platforms as a tool for promoting your brand to a wider audience, resort reputation management and ultimately increasing sales is now almost undeniable, even to those most resistant to change. This isn’t to say though that even now at the start of 2019, almost 15 years since the start of Facebook, that there aren’t still people who view social networks as something new and doubt their significant and powerful usage as a marketing tool.
In fact different versions of social networking sites were started way back in the mid-1990s and the popularity of these types of platforms has grown ever since, particularly with the increasingly widespread use of smartphones across all age groups. With access to ever more powerful smartphones and speedier mobile internet, people are able to update and check social networking apps and share social media content almost whenever and wherever they want.
This year, it is estimated that there will be approximately 2.77 billion social network users around the world, an increase from 2.46 billion in 2017, and that by 2021 this number is set to reach 3.02 billion (Statista, 2019). This corresponds to a majority of the total internet users reached worldwide (3.9 billion) in 2018 (Statista). It is not only the number of people using social networks that continues to rise, but also the amount of time people are spending on these networks. In 2017, the daily social media usage of global internet users averaged 135 minutes per day (over 2 hours), up from 126 daily minutes the previous year (Statista).
While there are a huge number of social networking sites available, including those that were once hugely popular that have since faded to relative obscurity (e.g. Myspace), more country specific (e.g. VK in Russia and Sina Weibo in China) and more niche sites, there are a much smaller number that your resort brand marketing team should focus time and resources on to reach a wide international audience.
Each of the following are some of the most important and popular social networking platforms globally which ideally your resort should be utilising the power of all of them in its marketing strategy:
This is undoubtedly the most famous social network worldwide and by far the most popular (apart from a select few countries in which it is banned). Based on sheer user numbers alone, your resort should definitely be utilising the huge influence and power of Facebook!
In 2012 it became the first social network to surpass a billion monthly active users (defined as users who have logged into FB in the last 30 days), and by the third quarter of 2018 it had reached 2.27 billion active monthly users (Statista). Even more impressive than that is the number of people who log on to Facebook daily either via the website or mobile app which reached 1.5 billion daily active users in the third quarter of 2018, 66% of monthly active users (Statista).
Without an active presence on Facebook, your resort is missing out on this growing audience of billions, spread across almost every country. Despite certain changes at Facebook such as to its news feed that now prioritises posts from connections rather than brands, this social networking giant should still form an intrinsic part of your brand marketing strategy.
Just like with all of these channels, it needs to be utilized smartly to be effective at reaching a wide audience, evoking positive reactions and increasing engagement. This in turn will ideally lead to increasing numbers of followers for your brand Facebook page and increasing numbers of people interested in making a booking.
The most important thing now driving engagement on Facebook is video content, especially videos that are inspiring, funny or practical. The evidence for this comes from a study by Buffer and Buzzsumo who together analysed 777 million Facebook posts from 2018, then narrowed the study down to the 500 most popular posts which had more than 1 billion engagement. More than 81% of those 500 were videos, with videos accounting for 59% more engagement than other types of posts. Images accounted for 18%, with links representing just 0.2% (Adweek).
The great thing for your brand is that your team can create inspiring, funny and/or practical videos based around your resort, location and experiences available to share on your brand page and potentially receive a huge amount of engagement (Reactions, Comments, Shares) which leads to much greater organic growth i.e. the video appears in more news feeds, leading to more fans of your page, higher numbers of clicks through to your website and greater numbers of booking enquiries.
Many people like to make booking enquiries and other questions via Facebook, especially via Direct Message, so your team should be regularly checking and answering these messages as potential guests expect quick responses. Many guests will also leave Reviews which is another important tool for your resort; the more positive reviews, the better your resort will look to other potential guests.
While this Facebook owned photo and video social networking app doesn’t have the same number of users as its owner, its user base is still massive, making it an absolutely vital social media marketing tool. In June 2018, Instagram hit 1 billion monthly active users, with the year on year growth rate continuing to accelerate (Statista).
A key differentiator between Instagram and Facebook is the demographic that uses the app. While Facebook is increasingly being seen as a social networking site for older generations with not only parents, but also many grandparents now having accounts, the demographic that uses Instagram is generally a lot younger. Over two thirds of those using the app worldwide as of January 2018 were 34 years old or younger (Statista).
For resorts hoping to reach Millennial travellers and attract younger guests, Instagram should be seen as an absolutely indispensable tool! According to a research survey of millennial travellers between the ages of 18-33 conducted in 2017 by UK-based holiday rental home insurance provider Schofields, over 40% valued how Instagrammable their holiday will be in terms of how they decide where to go on holiday. This just shows how much value Millenials are now placing on Instagram when they are travelling. Your marketing team should be posting inspiring photos and videos of your resort, the surrounding area and the different experiences available, plus if possible also make your resort Instagrammable with updates and design features.
The importance of Instagram to advertisers, especially those hoping to target younger audiences continues to increase. For example, a recent study issued by the financial firm Cowen in which they surveyed 50 ad buyers “to identify the primary platform they would use for a new branding campaign” found that 61% of respondents looking to target consumers aged 13-34 chose Instagram as their primary choice. There is much evidence to suggest that younger demographics are increasingly watching less TV, so an ever more important way to reach these consumers is through social networks, especially Instagram.
From its very inception, Instagram has been a visual tool originating as an app to upload and share photographs which has always meant it has been ideal for travel brands as travel is generally very visually inspiring. People love to share photos of their travels and are inspired by the photos of their friends, families and the brands they follow on Instagram of where to head to next. Your resort should definitely not miss out on this, especially with all the tools that Instagram has added since it began such as videos, live video, Instagram TV (IGTV) and Stories, with 400 million million daily active Instagram Stories users as of June 2018 (Statista).
Twitter began back in July 2006 and like Facebook and Instagram has evolved a lot since it was first started. At one point it even seemed Twitter could become as large as Facebook in terms of global users and profitability, but this has proven unfounded as the number of monthly active users has levelled off in recent years at around 330 million users (Statista). While there were some who began to question whether Twitter could stay relevant, it has proven to remain one of the most popular social networking platforms worldwide for both individuals and brands.
There is also now an increased optimism around Twitter as a useful marketing tool for brands as its users are again becoming more engaged on the platform, plus there is increased usage among young people (CNBC). Much of this seems to have been driven by new features and changes that have been added to increase engagement and make the platform more interesting, in order to compete with competition from Facebook and Instagram.
New features and tools added in recent years include the ability to add four photos to Tweets and tag up to 10 accounts on the photos, the ability to add stickers to photos, Polls, Live Video streams, longer Tweets (now 280 characters instead of 140) and longer videos (2 minutes 20 seconds for most users). Of course, these are all tools that your can and should be using on the platform (as well as hashtags and emojis), to make your Tweets more engaging, increase followers and drive traffic to your resort website.
Twitter is absolutely fantastic tool for reaching huge numbers of potential new customers, that should not be ignored. If your brand is going to use Twitter though, it should certainly not just use it as a place to share links from Facebook or Instagram but should be used as a platform in its own right, with users that expect inspiring, funny and practical content too.
People also turn to Twitter when they want to keep up with the latest trends and real-time content which your resort should tap into. Many customers are also increasingly turning to Twitter when they want a problem or issue dealt with, or a question answered in real time from brands, instead of phoning or emailing. Your resort should make sure there are team members who are ready to respond to these questions or complaints over Twitter rapidly, in order to increase the positive sentiment around your brand.
Video on Twitter, like the other platforms is also especially important and a key element that your resort marketing team should be using when deciding what content to add to Tweets. If you were in any doubt about this: “Tweets with video attracted 10x more engagements that Tweets without video”.
These videos don’t need to be professionally filmed, big budget productions either with often the simplest videos which have generally been filmed on a phone, often gaining huge numbers of views. This is especially the case with funny, inspiring or useful videos that get incredible numbers of retweets and views. As a travel brand, this is perfect as people love to be inspired as to where to visit next and often follow travel brands and influencers on Twitter.
While not strictly speaking a social network, being first and foremost a service that allows you to upload and stream videos online, it has many of the same elements of other social networks such as the ability to engage with videos with Likes, Comments and Shares. You can also Subscribe to the channels that you enjoy, either those from individual creators or brands which your viewers should be encouraged to do.
While YouTube has had some of its thunder stolen by Facebook which is continuing to update and improve its video uploading and watching options as the company continues to evolve with the massive rise in online video consumption, YouTube still remains a hugely popular service.
Having been created back in February 2005 and acquired by Google in October 2006, YouTube is the premier video streaming service on the internet and is second only to Google itself in the list of top most visited websites in the world (Alexa Internet). According to YouTube, “over 1.9 Billion logged-in users visit YouTube each month and every day people watch over a billion hours of video and generate billions of views”, and “more than 70% of YouTube watchtime comes from mobile devices.”
As the popularity of viewing videos online continues to grow massively, especially on mobile devices, YouTube is only predicted to become more and more popular as a platform. Sensing the threat from Facebook, Instagram and others, the company has continued to add new features, such as Stories and Chats, which is having a positive effect with viewer interactions such as Likes, comments and chats growing 60% from 2017 to 2018.
If your resort is not publishing content regularly on YouTube, it is missing out on an absolutely huge potential audience, who are accessing the service in the comfort of their home and out about, on a variety of different devices such as mobile, tablets, desktop and TV. In fact there are some predictions that YouTube is becoming the new TV with more than 180 million hours of video to smart TVs and TV-connected devices each and every day!
YouTube is the perfect space to showcase the features of your resort, the destination it is based and the experiences guests can expect to have there, especially as travel related videos are some of the most searched for on YouTube and Google (where YouTube videos are also displayed in results).
As part of your resort marketing strategy, LinkedIn might not initially spring to mind as an option, but you should definitely change your perception of this business and career focused networking platform. From the platforms mentioned earlier, it was created first and is one of the oldest social networking platforms still in operation, having started way back in 2003. What is impressive, is that there has been somewhat of a revolution happening at LinkedIn recently which seems to have been fairly strongly tied to its acquisition by Microsoft in June 2016.
Recently the network has been seeing rapid user growth, reaching 575 million registered members last year! Additionally, while it remains a place for more serious conversation and thoughtful posts, it is becoming a powerful tool for marketers, especially with the greater emphasis on videos content.
Now individuals and brands can upload video content natively to LinkedIn, rather than just sharing links to videos from other services such as YouTube. These videos stream automatically and are gaining huge amounts of engagement on the platform and it is increasingly being noticed by brands as a legitimate place to advertise on.
As well as the introduction of native videos, LinkedIn has also been adding a wealth of new features to drive engagement, increase the amount of time users spend on the service and the amount of posts they post and share.
A big change for brands on the platform that has recently been introduced has been the updated company pages with cover photos, follow buttons, contact buttons which can be linked directly to your brand’s website, linked hashtags and vastly improved analytics. All of this, added to the ability for marketers to now target ads on the platform has lead some to suggest that LinkedIn is now the “hottest B2C platform in town!”
Other Social Media options:
The five platforms mentioned above, are probably the most important social networking sites and apps in the world for your resort to be using if it wants to reach today’s connected global audience. Of course there are many more that you could consider which are also being used highly effectively by travel brands and have many millions of users such as Snapchat, with 186 million daily active users in the third quarter of 2018 and Pinterest which reached 250 million monthly active users by October 2018 (Statista).
Social media isn’t just related to social networking sites and apps and can also refer to many other important apps, websites and forms of media that have a social element. This includes messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Line, Photo sharing sites/apps like Flickr, blog posts, podcasts, review sites like TripAdvisor and more.
If your resort had to only concentrate its marketing efforts on one social networking platform in 2019, then it should probably be Facebook, due to the sheer power of the platform and number of users across the globe. This certainly shouldn’t be a choice that your brand should be making though!
Usage of almost every major social networking platform and social media as a whole continues to rise dramatically year on year, as millions more users join these websites/apps annually and spend increasing amounts of time on them sharing and viewing content, from both individuals and brands.
By contrast, fewer people, especially younger generations are watching television, listening to the radio or reading newspapers/magazines. If you want to reach consumers and potential guests where their attention now lies, it should be through the digital devices that people are increasingly glued to.
While it is advisable that your resort maintains a presence on all of the major social networking platforms to gain as wide a reach as possible, your resort could be looking to target a certain audience, in which case your marketing team may want to prioritise certain networks over others. For example if your resort wants to attract a younger age range of travellers, then more emphasis should be put into Instagram and YouTube marketing, for families and older travellers your team might put more emphasis on Facebook marketing and for business travellers your team should utilise LinkedIn and Twitter to a greater extent.
With access to the demographics and preferences of your guests, your marketing team can personalise and target its strategy to reach the right demographic groups far more effectively. With posts on social networks, blogs articles, videos and other forms of digital marketing it is much easier to analyse what works and what doesn’t, in order to make continual improvements and fine tune the process.
It should also be said though, that people, especially younger generations do not want to be sold to directly, hence the rising popularity of services like Netflix and Spotify Premium which offer ad-free experiences. Your resort marketing teams must create engaging content (videos, photos, blog posts, competitions, podcasts, live video, gifs etc.) which draw people in organically, rather than trying to bombard them with ads which will just repel them and make them unfollow your brand.
It is especially crucial to invest in video and to personalise the way you deal with your followers and guests on social media. People want to feel like they are listened to as an individual, rather than just treated as another statistic to sell to.
In terms of which social networking platforms to
Ultimately you should view social networking sites as an amazing opportunity to be able to listen to sentiment surrounding your brand, engage more directly with your guests and potential guests, improve brand reputation and bring in more business.
By Simon Turkas