Social Media Crystal Ball Travel IndustryChances are, if you’re regularly reading my #traveltuesday posts you’re a traveler, you’re dreaming of traveling, or you work in the travel industry in some capacity. If you fall into the latter category, you may have wished a time or two that you could somehow see into the minds of travelers in an effort to deliver the very thing they desire most. Sure, research, polls and statistics are all very valuable, but what if you had a crystal ball that told you what would-be travelers and trip-planners alike were thinking this very moment? What if you could wow them with service beyond their expectation by displaying valuable insight? What if I told you, you can?

Let’s start with your current stage in the social media monitoring journey.

  • If you’re already monitoring your brand for social mentions, that’s an excellent start to a social strategy
  • If you’ve stepped out into monitoring your industry as well and are comfortably understanding your competition on the social web, then I’ll say “good job” once more
  • If you’ve begun to pinpoint social conversations with a tighter focus to gain deeper knowledge with your prospective customers, then please be sure and share your comments below as this post is about exactly that

Where do you fit in?

Blindfolds are not your Friend

We know that people take trips, book vacations and fly all over the world. Understanding the motivation of your next guest or passenger could be a ticket to gaining more people looking for the same service. Rather than assuming that there will always be people taking a flight with you or booking your honeymoon suite, it’s best to never assume that you will continue to have the greatest idea for the bulk of the people you are targeting. If you worked in a clothing store, you wouldn’t wear a blindfold while making a recommendation. Being able to see the shopper, judge their style, their shape and size help you make a quick suggestive sell.

But how can you ‘see’ your future guest via social media? You don’t need to look in the eyes of your potential guests to learn what is best to suggest. But you do need to watch for key conversations.

Why Do Travelers Travel?

In this social age, people are increasingly happy to share information. Not only are they putting their itineraries out there for friends and family to view, but they’re offering it without prompting. Many social sharers are just as happy to answer a question about their motivations. While asking is an obvious option, try listening in on the conversation first.

Are friends discussing the need to escape a cold, snowy winter? Are colleagues talking about how they will spend their one free evening while out of town together on business? Travelers have different reasons for traveling and as a result, their needs will vary. Although that 2 for 1 special to Cancun flooding my Twitter feed is a great deal in theory, it may not fulfill my needs. Listen for the need and mix it up a little.

Targeted Listening

Your competitor is happy to know that a family of four wants to take a cruise. They are proud that they found this first-time cruising family via social conversations. However, there are a plethora of keywords to listen for to really outdo your competitor.

Noticing a conversation about wishing to one day see glaciers and breathing in the crisp air of the north is your key to engage in conversation about Alaska. You probably have a cruise that suits the needs of a daydreamer-turned-traveler. Or listening to two friends talk about their amazement with scuba diving may lead you to offer your knowledge on great places for first timers, adding of course the services your hotel offers in conjunction with the local dive school.

Travelers don’t always have a plan to take on the world one passport stamp at a time. Like every other consumer-led industry, even a traveler needs a gentle nudge or inspiration. Why let someone else do the nudging when you know the best kept secrets of a little known beach closest to your most tucked away resort?

No one ever liked a Pushy Salesman

Social media is not an excuse to flood fans and followers with ‘look what I can do!’ Even when listening thoughtfully for a unique way you can help a tourist, remember that they’ll love you more if you just be their friend. Smile at them, laugh with them and take a moment for two-way story sharing if you have the bandwidth. They’ll remember you longer and regard you higher – and be more likely to appreciate your offer for a discount on tickets to that cool new show in your Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

Proving that you’re listening and especially that you value the uniqueness of each prospective guest to your services will earn you the attention of planners.

Taking it a step further still, you can ask:

  • Is your customer a do-it-yourselfer?
  • Do they prefer to have an agent make all of the arrangements?
  •  Would they like to plan it with the planner?
  •  How active is your customer?
  • Are they good with a map?
  • Or are they directionally challenged like me?

Understanding the motivations, the needs and the unique desires of potential travelers will help you stand out and hopefully earn the business of the people you engage with when they are ready to book that next adventure.

Travel business: How are you using targeted listening to interact with your guests and reward them with a unique experience?

Traveler: How have you been wowed via social media by a travel company who heard your needs and delivered something that felt especially targeted to you?

Jenn Seeley is a Community Engagement Specialist who uses social media for recommendations on sights to see while traveling with Radian6. Tell her why you love social media for travel insight (or what she should see in Vegas next week) @Jenn_Seeley.