Social media is an ever-evolving digital marketing tool that, if done right, can propel your brand into the hearts and minds of the more than 3 billion social media users around the globe . As a travel brand, you have the visual and mobile advantage to effectively connect with and engage these social media users. In fact, an estimated 55% of people like social media pages related to trips they are planning .
However, with 50 million small businesses using Facebook Pages to connect with their customers, how do you cut through all the noise and produce content that will stand out and engage your audience when 2% or less of your brand’s audience will see any given post ?
We’ve deciphered the top trends your brand needs to know to win social media in 2018 and beyond. Over the next few weeks I’ll expand on these trends and reveal how you can use best practices to focus on earning those love, like, haha, wow, sad and even angry reactions on Facebook, drive traffic to your website and social profiles with Instagram stories or strategically master the world of changing algorithms and the rise of social ads. We predict 2018 to be one of the most challenging but innovative years in social media marketing to date.
1. RIP Organic Reach, Pay-to-Play Has Taken Over
With more than 3 billion users and growing, social media has never been so busy, but the golden days of organic reach are gone and proven tactics that used to engage audiences can no longer be relied on. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced plans to change how much public content users will see from businesses, brands, and media, ultimately favouring posts from friends, families, and groups in the news feed. This will make it harder for unpaid content from brands to be seen and means travel businesses will have to pay-to-play on social media or roll up their sleeves and find new creative strategies. Which leads us to the next trend:
2. Micro Influencers Will Be More Impactful Than Major Influencers
As organic reach declines, micro-influencers will become your new best friends in 2018. Who are micro-influencers? They are anyone who is a fan of your brand and can act as a brand ambassador, whether they have 10,000 followers or less than 1,000. They are the guests who have experienced your trips or stayed at your lodge, they’re locals or the community heroes within your destination, they’re your employees – anyone from expert guides to the housekeeping crew. As advertising increases on social platforms like Facebook, people are more drawn to user-generated content than ever and therefore they are more drawn to following people. They want to hear the stories of your employees and your guests, and even your CEO.
3. Go Mobile or Go Home
More users are using smartphones to plan, organize, and post about their travels. Eighty-five percent of leisure travellers use their smartphones while abroad  to look up directions and addresses, look up reviews of tours operators, lodging and restaurants, post photos and videos from their experiences, and find flight deals. Travel brands can best optimize for this trend by ensuring their content is mobile-friendly and creating engaging content and interactions with this in mind.
Twitter now has double the word count, Instagram stories has nearly twice the number of users of Snapchat, and 45% of online users watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos a week . Social media platforms have reached a convergence point with many now offering similar features and an increasing number of appealing options for marketers. While it’s never been easier to post the same content across multiple channels, this isn’t the most engaging practice. Stay tuned for Week 4 as we reveal how you can master the best multi-platform strategy.
5. Welcome to Augmented Reality
Augmented reality (AR) enhances real world experiences by displaying 2D or 3D information such as graphics or sounds that people can interact with. With the release of the iPhone8 and iPhone X and platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram offering a range of AR effects and filters for users to add to their photos and videos, interact with, and share, AR is one of the most exciting trends for travel brands to get on board with and implement into their social media strategies this year.
6. AI is Amplifying Intelligent Customer Care
Having a robot answer your customer inquiries might feel like you’re opening up the floodgate for Terminator, but chatbots could become your greatest ally in 2018. If you’re worried about scaring away potential customers by sounding like a bot, have no fear. Chatbots have evolved to providing immediate but well-crafted, personalized responses and meaningful interactions that engage your audience. Which will ultimately save you time to focus on growing your travel business and offering a valuable product.
7. Live Video Is Keeping Brands Alive
It’s not breaking news that live videos are making waves and earning brands a higher reach than your average video post. The Facebook algorithm favours live videos and will feature them at the top of user’s news feeds as the platform aims to deliver its users what they love. Facebook isn’t the only platform that features live videos either. Brands can use the live feature on Instagram Stories and Periscope for Twitter. With 82% of users saying they prefer live video from a brand to social posts , this trend is sure to skyrocket in 2018.
(Safari Live by Nat Geo Wild)
Want to know more about these digital marketing trends and how to best implement them into your social media strategy? Stay tuned! Over the next few weeks we’ll continue the discussion on these trends and reveal best practices to help you win social media in 2018 and beyond.
Looking to improve your travel brand’s social media strategy? Find out more about how we can help you here.