Facebook has become a place where many travel agents have successfully built a personal brand through posting photos of their travels and in many cases themselves. It has turned into a lead generator, often creating business or sparking a desire to travel in a past client, thanks to a well-placed destination photo or video.
But while their Facebook presence has grown, agents have largely been underutilizing other social media platforms, such as Instagram and YouTube, which because of their inherently visual nature lend themselves to travel products and could be powerful lead-generation tools.
Earlier this year, the travel search website Hipmunk released a study touching upon where millennials get their travel ideas. The data shows the potential of social media platforms other than Facebook: The study found that 44% of millennials get their travel inspiration from YouTube videos, 28% from Instagram.
“Overall, social media within the marketing media landscaping has officially arrived as a major opportunity for our industry for a few reasons,” said Sam McCully, vice president of marketing at Avoya Travel.
Moreover, McCully said that potential opportunities are not limited to millennials, as more and more travelers in a wide range of ages are taking to social media throughout their entire vacation process, from the planning stage right through their return home.
“Is there an untapped opportunity?” McCully said. “I would say absolutely.”
Michael Nobiletti, director of education for Millennials in Travel, a trade group for agents born after 1975, said Instagram in particular should be drawing more agents than it does.
“Instagram is definitely being underutilized, which is really counterintuitive when you think about the very fabric of Instagram,” he said. “Travel is one of the main types of content that’s shared there.”
Nobiletti said the industry has likely been slow on the uptake for two reasons: a lack of time and budget to invest in new platforms and the fact that platforms like Instagram cannot be shown to have a clear return on investment (ROI).
“Frankly, I feel like Instagram’s the new travel brochure,” he said. “People are going there to find travel inspiration. It’s so inherently visual, inherently social. … And yet, without that clear ROI, it gets overlooked.”
Bruce Dierbeck, the director of social media at BVK, a Milwaukee-based advertising agency, pointed out that Instagram offers a value to agents in that when someone is viewing a post it is usually the only thing he or she can see, as it takes up nearly all of the user’s mobile phone screen.