Social media can be daunting if you’re not sure what you’re doing or where to start. However, implementing Instagram (IG) usage to your business can help you boost your business and reach new possible clients.
“Travel advisors who do not have a social media presence are missing out on the chance of socially engaging with their audience, clients or potential leads,” says Marielle Kabin, owner of Travelwise International.“In the era of mass amount of information sharing, what social platforms do that is unique to our time is present a stage for anyone to be seen as an expert/connoisseur/professional in their field by how they visually position themselves on these social platforms. You don’t need a news station, a magazine or newspaper to release a press release about your achievements or identify you as the expert anymore, social platforms directly connect users to an audience who become the community of followers that align themselves with your business vision, passion or mission.”
During this year’s ASTA Global Convention, we attended a panel on “Social Media: Implementing Instagram to Boost Your Business,” which was moderated by Kabin and Claire Howard, manager of Communications and Research for American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA). The panel was standing room only, as the allotted tables for 70 travel advisors were full, and there were more advisors surrounding the perimeter of the room. They were all there to learn how to use Instagram to better their business. So, we’re sharing with you a few tips, too. When the session started, Kabin asked advisors to think about what their visual story is, what their goal is. “What do you want to tell, and who do you want to tell it to,” she said to the crowd.
Where to Start
First the facts, over 40 percent of millennials (ages 18-33) consider “instagrammability,” defined as moments in trendy places to take photos to post on Instagram when deciding which destinations they’ll travel to next. That means, post images of trendy destinations, and you might just reach a new demographic for your business.
Kabin says that “Whether or not you are a large agency or an independent advisor, I would highly recommend you start by utilizing Facebook and Instagram. When Facebook took over Instagram in 2012, they have became a powerful combination to easily share and link posts to one another’s platform. I would start with creating a Facebook Business Page to serve as a landing page for your clients to begin their research, then I would open an Instagram Business account. As a side note, you will not be able to open an Instagram Business Account without a Facebook Business page.”
Once you decide what social media platform you want to use, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you’ll have to think about what type of content you want to post.
“Having a social media plan is important for travel advisors to keep up with the latest and greatest technological marketing streams of our time,” says Kabin. “Not to mention that to start an account it is completely free to do. Digital marketing and social platforms have become the modern day sales tactics; that promote to your target audience by engaging and appealing to their desires first, and before providing [them] a travel solution that suites their travel preferences.”
Questions to help guide you plan your social media presence, as suggested by Howard:
- Who is your target audience?
- What does your service or product provide?
- How are you going to grow your followers?
- How are you going to engage with your followers?
- Can you create interesting content to use everyday?
- Will you make your own graphics or hire out?
- How many sales will you incorporate every month?
Now, don’t let this list overwhelm you and make you think it’s too much time to invest. We are going to help walk you through it.
Create a Guide
Before getting started, you should create a Style Guide, which will help your branding strategy. This will help you and other members of your team stay on track with the same overall message.
Your style guide should include:
- Font (size, color, header, subheader, etc)
- Your logo
- Social Media Logo and Bios
- Brand Voice
- Brand Grammar & Terminology
- Social Media and Blog Post Visual Formatting
- Hashtage Usage
- Customer Complaint Response Language
Who Are You Talking To?
Next, think of what your niche will be. We already know it’s those people who are interested in travel. But, will you be focusing on cruising, family travel, solo travel, or luxury travel? The answer to these questions might align with what your interests and passions are. Research your competition; see what other advisors are doing and think of how you can position yourself differently. Think about which niche might be the most profitable for you. Try out your idea. And, remember, it doesn’t have to be set in stone. If it doesn’t work, you can come back and modify your plan of attack. If your agency already focuses on selling a particular niche, then that’s who your IG account should be targeting.
Plan of Attack
Sit back, and think of your Editorial Calendar. This doesn’t have to be too daunting. Think about how often you want to post, on what days, and what types of posts you want to include—destination shots, customer testimonials, promotions, travel offers, etc.
Now, schedule those ideas out on a calendar. Creating a calendar will help keep you on track and keep you from looking for last minute post ideas. Try to plan your Editorial Calendar about 2-3 months in advance. For individual posts, you can plan out 1-2 weeks in advance. To create your Editorial Calendar, use an excel document, your outlook calendar, or try a paid service such as Sprout Social, which Howard recommends.
“Implementing a social media plan would give travel advisors the ability to directly engage with a target audience, allow like-minded people who would like to align themselves with your business model or vision, and helps to build the desire for travel before offering travel solutions,” adds Kabin. “These days no one wants to be sold to, the modern day traveler wants to be inspired by a cause, empowered by a movement, or [they] are looking for an authentic cultural exchange. Social media feeds into those travelers desires by painting the picture that completes their story. Not to mention, it gives them a visual on how they might want to pose when they finally get to their dream destination to make it ‘IG ready’.”
Here are a few ideas of how you can use your Editorial Calendar:
- Daily posts
- Holiday posts
- Promotional Sales
- Travel Offers
- Cross promotions with other companies
- Campaign schedules
- Spotting Gaps in Your Posting Schedule
“Incorporating video will be major extra credit points. According to Social Media Today, video content is 135 percent more likely to reach a greater organic reach than photo posts,” adds Kabin. “Meaning, if you have the ability to make video marketing or record short travel clips, you will see a greater ROI while building your following. More people would rather watch a video that tells them directly when they are looking than read or interpret a picture ad.”
You can use videos on Instagram while your on a trip as a regular IG post, or share as your IG story as you travel along a destination. These can be saved as a Highlight for your audience to view at a later time. A good idea can be to save them by destination, or type of travel experience such as “Adventure in Mexico,” or “Culinary Experiences in Canada.” The options are endless.
Content Creation & Posting
Now, it’s time for the fun part—creating your content. Creating content for just travel, is too broad of an option. You have to narrow it down. This is where your niche comes in. Create content geared towards specific niches such as wedding destinations, family travel, or even luxury. Kabin told the crowd at the conference to “focus on the emotional travel experience of families” if they choose to showcase family travel. Showcase your expertise as a travel advisor and trip planner. The more consistently you post, the more top-of-mind you will be to your audience.
To help ease the workload of remembering to post daily, or weekly, depending on what you decide should be your schedule, automate your social media posts so you don’t have to worry about it daily.
A good option, and one we use as well, is Hootsuite. This platform allows you to bulk schedule your content and also create analytic reports. And, as your team grows, you’ll be able to create additional accounts for others to take part in the scheduling and posting.
Buffer is another option. This platform offers the same services as Hootsuite, but has a more user-friendly interface.
Each of these platforms allow you to see what content is trending with your audience on each social media platform. They both also allow you to take a couple of hours a month, to schedule your reoccurring posts, promotions, and more so it doesn’t have to be one more thing on your daily to-do list.
During the ASTA panel, advisors were told that it takes users nine times of seeing your brand on social media for them to even want to interact with it. The majority of time users don’t click on a brand because it’s unfamiliar to them. Keep in mind, that even if you have 100 followers, it doesn’t meant that all of those followers are seeing what you’re posting. They also advised that you should not post the same exact content on all three social media channels. “Because there are different audiences on all three channels,” you should curate posts based on what works best for each social media channel.
Analyzing Your Content
The work is not over once you post. Now, you have to monitor your post and engage with your audience. As Howard puts it, “The key to social media is actually being social.” You can’t post and forget about it. You have to see what your audience is saying about your posts.
Analyzing your content and the way you are strategizing is a continuous effort. Make a note to check-in to see your analytics weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Your analytics is easily accessible from each social media platform, and can also be reached from whatever platform you’re using to schedule your posts—Hootsuite or Buffer.
When you make note of these areas, you can see if you need to tweak the time your posts are going up, or the day of the week.
Here are a few tips on what to look for in the analytics:
- Most Engaging Day and Time on Each Social Channel
- Hashtags That Direct Traffic to Your Social Profiles
- Most Engaging Content Posted (Pictures or Videos)
- Most Engaging Locations (States, Cities, Countries)
- Links Clicked
- Captions That Resonate With Your Audience
“The key to being successful on social platforms is to be social. It is a fun visual space for like-minded people to engage, collaborate and be inspired by others that appeal to interest,” says Kabin. “Have fun with it, be creative and aim to show off your personality! Of course there are suggested ways to go about posting, creating content or adding hashtags, but it’s more interesting to be unique and consistent than anything else.”
When using hashtags, the ladies suggested to look for hashtags that have 250-500k seconds of lifetime. Or, you can hire a social media manager to help you figure out what hashtag works for your business. They can also help you create a social media engagement plan for your business.
Another tip is, if you worked with a tour operator, use their hashtag and company handle when posting. They might re-share your post, which will put you in front of their entire audience as well. During the ASTA panel, advisors were told to create their own hashtag for their agency. This will help build your own community of people, and will give you an opportunity to become viral by using a well-established hashtag. You’ll gain followers, build brand awareness, and grow your following. You can share this hashtag with your clients and ask them to use it during their travels, it will expose your agency to their own personal networks, and give you the opportunity to re-share their content to your followers, too.
Helpful Hashtag Suggestions from Travel + Leisure:
Travel Hashtags to Use in Every Instagram Post: #Traveling, #Travelers, #Traveler, #Exploring, #Explorer, #Wanderer, #Wanderlust, #TravelBug
Instagram Hashtags for Solo Travelers: #SoloTravels, #SoloTravelGirl, #SoloTravelDiaries, #SoloTravelStories
Instagram Hashtags for Female Travelers: #DameTraveler, #TravelingLadies, #TheTravelWomen, #WomenWhoExplore, #WomenWhoHike, #WomenWhoTravel Instagram Hashtags for Family Travelers: #FamilyTravels, #TravelingWithKids, #FamilyTravelTribe, #FamilyTravelMoment
Instagram Hashtags for Your Location: Be specific, like #LosAngeles, #California or #London, #England; or try a few variants like #ItalyStyle, #Germany_Insta
Instagram Hashtags That Will Get You Featured on Big Travel Accounts: Use the company’s hashtag. For example, Travel + Leisure followers add #TLPicks to their photos so they can be seen by them and maybe give them a repost.
Now, you are armed with everything you need to create a successful social media plan, as well as tips for how to use IG to help bring you new business. Check back next week for tips on using Facebook for your business.
For more, check out one travel advisor’s tips on implementing social media in the feature, “Using Social Media Strategically: It Works If You Work It.” And here are “50 Tips for Travel Agent Success.”