Why Pay to Play is the #1 Social Media Trend You Need to Know

Bannikin | February 15, 2018

A couple weeks back, I revealed the top 7 trends your travel brand needs to know to win social media in 2018 and beyond. These trends, if done right, can propel your brand into the hearts and minds of the more than 3 billion social media users around the globe [1].

But as social media trends are accelerating as technology advances –it can be hard to imagine keeping up ‘the wins’ as an obtainable goal. The truth is, for small travel brands to keep pace with the big dogs, they’re going to have to adapt. Without millions to invest in your digital marketing plan, where do you start?

Here’s why social media trend #1 is a game-changer for travel brands and the best practices your brand can implement into your social media strategy today:

Social Media Trend #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 newsfeed. 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.

Currently, there are now 6 million advertisers on Facebook (plus 2 million on Instagram), in March 2016 there were 3 million [2]. So, for an effective Facebook strategy, understanding your competitors and your audience has never been more important.

How do you best cut through all the noise and outperform your competitors?

For one, Facebook is planning to remove dark posts. These are unpublished page posts that you can set-up to only show as a sponsored post in people’s news feeds and other placements without appearing on your business page. For example, if you’re running a contest to giveaway a trip and the prize is only available to residents in the U.S., you can set-up a sponsored post to only appear in the news feeds of this target demographic and avoid having followers from other regions see the ad on your business page.


If Facebook removes dark posts, this means all posts will appear on your business page, including paid campaigns. The results of this will be fascinating for marketers as you’ll be able to view all campaigns being run within your niche and analyze your competitors.

How do you create an effective social media ad that will stand out?

Avoid the hard sell. Paid social media posts should read the same as organic content with a similar tone that is entertaining and educational. Consumers can see right through ads that feel contrived or set-up and this is where travel brands can get creative. The images and copy should feel natural, more like a friend recommending an incredible destination from their own personal experiences than a sales pitch.

Travel brands can best optimize this by creating paid social content that sparks a two-way conversation with their consumers rather than talking at them. If you keep paid content conversational, it’s more likely your audience will perceive your brand as approachable and genuinely enjoy engaging with your content – even if it’s an ad.

Who is rocking this? @See Australia. It’s impossible not to get excited each time the Australia Tourism Board posts new content. The tone used in both their organic posts and paid social media ads is seamless. They are experts at leveraging user-generated content and each post feels timely, conversational, and consistently fun and informative. Take a look at their comments which are full of followers posting photos from their own adventures and engaging conversations between Australia.com and consumers who are excited about the destination.



How do you start with paid social media? Follow these 3 best practices:

 1)   Start small with your ad spend and increase it as needed. Since you’re paying to be seen by your audience, the goal isn’t necessarily to have a huge budget to compete with the big dogs but to spend the right amount on content that you know your target audience finds engaging and to use specific targeting to reach them.

 2)   Experiment with how to best target your audience. Facebook ads offers more features than ever to push ads towards your target audience. Research your audience’s interests and pages they’d like, track who is visiting your website and how much time they’re spending on each page or target users who are similar to fans who already like your page. Use A/B testing to see what works best to reach and engage your desired target demographic. For example, if you’re an eco-friendly live aboard in the Galapagos you may focus on targeting users who are interested in National Geographic, Planet Blue, Shark Week or Gear Patrol.

3)  Pay close attention to your competitors to better understand your community and create a strategy that will allow your brand to stand out, get your posts seen and create engaging content your audience looks forward to seeing in their newsfeed and will leverage those dollars spent on paid ads, making each click, like and conversion worth every cent.

As travel brands aim to get more creative and paid social media reins queen in order to be seen, it’s clear that leveraging user-generated content and collaborating with social media influencers will be on the rise this year.

Next post I’ll cover why micro influencers will be more impactful than major influencers and how to best implement them into your social media strategy.

Want to know more about 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 the top 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.

[1] https://thenextweb.com/contributors/2017/08/07/number-social-media-users-passes-3-billion-no-signs-slowing/#.tnw_Oi2CUuNd

[2] https://adespresso.com/blog/top-updates-facebook-monthly-need-know-now/