Leisure travel is one of the fastest evolving industries in the world. Social platforms like Airbnb, TripAdvisor, and Instagram have made planning, booking, and sharing adventures more accessible and aspirational than ever.
But not all travellers are the same. How do you find out which traveller is the most interested in (and lucrative for) your offering?
Whether it’s older American couples on their first overseas vacation, honeymooners looking for a dream resort, university gap year backpackers, or yoga-retreaters seeking peace and quiet, each have different definitions of escape.
For properties, travel agencies, or experience providers, knowing how who to target and communicate effectively is not easy. Traditional research is not the most time and cost efficient method, and interviewing current customers can create an echo-chamber of missed opportunities.
Here’s how savvy digital marketers use social listening to find out who’s talking, where they’re going, and when in the customer’s planning process to reach them:
Step 1: Set up a broad social listening framework and look for popular sub-themes
Use a social listening tool, like Radarly, to define a set of broad keywords related to your target consumer, but not so broad as to contain irrelevant social media posts.
For example, if we seek to understand leisure travellers, we can start with setting up queries to show us posts that mention #travel, # travelphotography, and #instatravel, that will reveal other sub-topics.
A popular resulting hashtag is #wanderlust. What will we learn about our customers if we explore this keyword further?
Step 2: Identify a sub-theme and sort by geography
When filtering social data under the term #wanderlust, posts by consumers sharing adventures, exotic food, and inspiring destinations appear.
By exploring posts featuring #wanderlust, it is discovered that the hashtag is frequently used by travellers eager to share their latest discoveries, whether an exotic cocktail, a peaceful moment, or a secluded lagoon.
More importantly, we can see which destinations are the most popular for travellers buying such experiences - and due to the common practice of posting after the event, we can also learn about which market travellers call home.
In the case of #wanderlust, there is a high concentration of travellers discussing Phuket and Bali. Both are popular destinations in Southeast Asia for a range of diverse activities, from chilling on the beach at a luxury resort to canyoning in the rainforest.
Phuket and Bali #Wanderlust posts spread across the world, from Australia (741 posts in New South Wales) to the USA (336 posts in California), and back to the Philippines (168 posts). The reach of these posts is extended thanks to the use of #throwback and #latepost hashtags after travellers return home.
Step 3: Compare topics across regions
Social data presents an opportunity of deep analysis. Go beyond identifying buzz words, top travel destinations, and home cities, by exploring other topics that are being discussed in travel conversation.
These topics often include types of accommodation, the most important hotel services, preferred activities, and attitudes and themes associated with each of these.
- Bali-related topics are more spiritual and local: yoga, temple, hiking, culture, and forest
- Phuket-related topics are more luxury-oriented: cliff view, resort, pool, and spa
- Bali has more 300% more posts related to digital nomads than Phuket
- Phuket has 500% less posts related to honeymoons than Bali
- Both destinations include more posts associated with low and middle range budgets, though this may reflect the average social-media-loving traveller
Step 4: Isolate demographics for your topic and region
So far, in just three steps, we’ve profiled our target by investigating the…
- top hashtags used to plan and share
- top destinations as well as places of origin
- key topics of association around these experiences, destinations, and properties
As well as this, more detail on gender, age, and occupation gives us demographic information to match the sociographic information for a well-rounded profile.
Bloggers, teachers and writers represent the main occupational segments, and demographically, 18-24-year-old females (57%) are the biggest audience followed by 18-24-year-old males (26.3%).
Step 5: Identify the right influencers to cut through the clutter
We now have a much stronger understanding of our customer, but the toughest challenge is connecting on a level above competitors. Naturally the best way to do this is via word-of-mouth: the trusted endorsements from people they follow.
In the travel industry, influencers are key, and using Radarly, we can discover and sort influencers by hashtag, topics, and geographic markets, resulting in a detailed list of influencers we can engage to amplify our brand’s message.
Top influencers for Bali include: @balilocal, @balicili, and @mybalitrips, and top influencers for Phuket include: @thatphuketlife and @morethanphuket. The list can be expanded, depending on the specific target we wish to reach.
Customer experience will always be the most important factor – as demonstrated by the recent Fyre music festival catastrophe. But assuming our brand embodies an experience worth talking about, social listening gives us a quick and effective way to identify, understand, and reach consumers in a digital era.
Note: figures in this article correspond to the period of January 1st to May 1st 2017.