Social Media - Friend or Foe? What ROI?

It doesn’t matter if you run a small farm attraction or a national hotel chain, social media is an essential piece of any tourism or leisure marketing strategy. Indeed, with more than three billion people around the world using social media every month, social platforms can help us all to connect with new and existing customers, increase brand awareness and boost sales.

With a plethora of available platforms, however, running a social media management team can quickly become an expensive and time-consuming business unit that’s constantly under financial and performance scrutiny.  So, how do we evaluate if such a significant investment in time and money is worth it? 

Measuring ROI from Social Media

ROI from social media depends entirely on your organisation’s objectives, so it’s important to be clear from the outset about what you want to achieve. Without clear aims and objectives, you have nothing to evaluate performance against at a later date. A few sample objectives include:

 

  • Building awareness. By keeping the objective to one or two specific metrics, such as growing follower numbers or increasing overall post reach week to week, you can quickly determine which channels are the best fit for your organisation.
  • Communicating authority. Setting up robust social profiles that you update frequently with relevant content can build your brand’s authority and ensure your business is consistently portrayed as trustworthy, knowledgeable and approachable.
  • Showing authenticity. Customers aren’t interested in businesses that publish dry, corporate-style social media posts. Instead, let your brand’s personality shine through.
  • Providing customer support. Social platforms can successfully break down barriers with customers. Nowadays, instead of calling a customer service line, many people turn to Facebook or Twitter to plan days out and ask direct questions.
  • Generating revenue. Social media can offer clicks through to your website and online booking system, which can be monitored directly within Google analytics and a revenue stream attached.

Whatever specifics you choose to focus on, social media ROI is the sum of all social media actions that create value and not every organisation will be able to attribute revenue directly to social media… and nor should they as social media value isn’t always measured in pounds and pence. Tethering ROI to such a strict definition can prevent organisations from identifying other ways an investment might be paying off. For example, if your goal is to drive brand awareness, you should measure success against metrics such as audience reach and engagement, not direct profit. If you’re not sure of exactly what to measure, ask yourself what kinds of things you’d like your target audience to do after exposure to your campaigns.

 Practical ROI examples

Looking at our industry specifically, a recent study from Booking.com found that social media directly influences the choices that users make when booking a holiday, weekend break or day out. Indeed, 51% of survey respondents cited wanting to choose somewhere that none of their friends had previously visited to ‘one up’ them on social media. So, finding the next big activity or destination before it becomes too mainstream is essential for the modern traveller… and it’s therefore critical for tourism businesses to promote their brands in more unique and interesting ways on social media to tap into this trend.

Booking.com also highlighted another trend for 2019 - prospective travellers now pay really close attention to practical, authentic information coming from tourism providers on social media and prefer it over heavily edited marketing images. So, with imagery now driving such weight in the buying cycle for travel brands, Instagram is the social media platform that can provide the ‘biggest bang for your buck’.

Apparently 40% of consumers under 30 now prioritise how ‘Instagrammable’ a potential destination is before making a final decision and booking a holiday or weekend break. The Booking.com survey also found that 17% of users paid attention to where celebrities recently stayed and looked for similar accommodation.

To give a practical example of how a travel organisation is tapping into this image trend and directly attributing a revenue stream to the investment, last year Easyjet introduced its ‘Look & Book’ feature, allowing users to search destinations within their app using Instagram photos and, after determining the image’s location, the app then generates potential flights to that destination.

Other travel firms are also integrating some of Instagram's best features into their own apps. For example, Airbnb has incorporated a ‘travel Stories’ feature within their app whereby users can now add video highlights of their experiences at Airbnb properties and then share them within the app. For Airbnb, the end goal is of course conversion and, the more properties that are featured, the more likely others will book to stay. The company can also closely monitor the ratio between a property’s popularity and the number of available video highlights.  

 Summary

Social media is an essential piece of any tourism or leisure marketing strategy, however running a social media management team can quickly become an expensive and time-consuming business, whether this be in house or via external agencies and consultants. As such, it’s important to be clear from the outset about what you want to achieve.

Social media ROI is the sum of all social media actions that create value and not every organisation can attribute revenue directly to social media, even though larger travel companies are now developing new ways to attach direct revenue to Instagram.

Anonymous