It’s official: the travel industry has embraced social media.
Blogger press trips, Twitter campaigns and Facebook discounts are now central to the marketing strategies of tour operators, hotels and tourism boards. Marketers are using social media to spread positive buzz, reach new customers and enhance their brands.
To help you sort through the online chatter and find the most relevant travel-related stories, we’re launching a weekly analysis of social media news on Downtown Traveler.
Keep reading to uncover this week’s most effective campaigns, upcoming events and videos that are heating up Twitter.
TOP TRAVEL VIDEOS
First tweet from Mount Everest
Twitter is humming this week with Mount Everest news. On May 5, climber Kenton Cool sent the first-ever tweet from the top of the world’s tallest mountain. Shortly thereafter, the English mountaineer made the first-ever 3G phone call from the summit.
“Yes, sweetheart. We’re here and we’re on top,” he tearfully announced to his wife before plugging his corporate sponsor, Samsung.
>> Learning: You may not have the budget to sponsor an epic adventure like Everest, but picking a likable (and expressive) traveler for a brand sponsorship will help your campaign go viral.
Time-lapse videos showcase destinations
Fortunately, there’s a more mainstream video trend that we can all participate in, even if we’re not scaling Everest this year. Travelers are embracing time-lapse videos to showcase destinations like Bangkok, Los Angeles and Syndey.
Bloggers Juno (@RunawayJuno) and Stephen (@BohemianTraveler) created this time-lapse tribute to Bangkok by stringing 939 photos into a 3-minute clip. The video showcases several Bangkok attractions–Chinatown, the Chatuchak Market, a boat ride to Wat Arun– and forms of transportation.
In Australia, the Shangri-La hotel got a PR boost this week when filmmaker Philip Bloom shot a time-lapse film of the Syndey Harbor Bridge from his hotel room. The 3-minute film has over 47,000 views on YouTube and was mentioned on Tnooz.com.
CheapoAir also featured a time-lapse video this week, in which a seven-day road trip from Los Angeles to New York is compressed into 4 minutes. The travel company is calling for video submissions to feature on CheapoAir.com.
The best news? There are several iPhone 4G apps for creating time-lapse videos, so you can capitalize on this trend for just $1.99 (the cost of a download).
>> Learning: A time-lapse video is a great way for companies to promote their destinations, tours or properties. It brings a destination to life, packs a great deal of information into 3 or 4 minutes, and is more engaging than a traditional blog post.
Royal Wedding boosts VisitBritain’s social media profile
The lead-up to the royal wedding greatly enhanced VisitBritain’s internet profile, according to the tourism agency. The stellar results included a doubling of Facebook fans in just 5 days (to 1.3 million), a spike in Twitter mentions of #VisitBritain, 2 million visits to the VisitBritain super blog in a 48 hour period, and a Klout score of 71.
>> Learning: With advanced planning and campaigns that span across Twitter, Facebook and blogs, travel brands can capitalize on timely news events to spread a positive message about their full range of products.
Why consumer travel reviews beat the professionals every time
Gilles Granger, founder of Vinivi.co.uk, argues that consumer-generated travel reviews are more influential than “professional” reviews. Consumers seek out opinions from people like themselves and don’t trust paid reviewers, he claims.
>> Learning: Blogger outreach is inexpensive, and influential. Consumers are likely to trust blogger reviews, especially when they identify with the writer.
5 best practices for travel & tourism brands on Facebook
Are you getting the most out of your Facebook page? Make sure to brag about your brand, host contests and giveaways, embrace consumer-created videos and feature top-notch photography, and consider adding a booking feature.
>> Learning: Encourage participation on your Facebook page by posting and @-tagging consumer and blogger reviews, photos and video.
More travelers using mobile phones on vacation
The number of British travelers who use their mobile phones to access travel information while on vacation doubled this year, to 52% from 27%, according to a Frommer’s Unlimited survey. The most popular function was searching for details on nearby attractions, restaurants and shops.
Source: Traveldaily.co.uk via @socialscotland
>> Learning: Make sure your mobile content is up-to-date and easy to access. Travelers are turning to their cell phones for quick, trustworthy information on local attractions.
Virgin Atlantic launches in-flight social network
This week Virgin Atlantic launched an in-flight social network, Travel Tip Catcher, that allows passengers to share travel tips during a flight. Similar to Facebook, the system will allow users to read reviews, leave 140-character comments and rate other passengers’ comments.
>> Learning: Encourage your customers to interact with one another and share advice on destinations and products. Just make sure you have a way to monitor the conversation, to avoid inappropriate (e.g., abusive or X-rated) content.
SOCIAL MEDIA EVENTS
Looking for the “social” event of the season? There’s a full slate of social media events this month in New York City:
Columbia Journalism School’s “Social Media Weekend”
May 13, 14 & 15, 2011
2950 Broadway, New York, NY
Cost: $25 (student rate) to $150 (general rate) for the full weekend
Downtown Traveler’s NYC Traveler Tweetup
May 19, 2011, 6 pm
Tom & Jerry’s Bar
288 Elizabeth St, New York, NY
BlogWorld and New Media Expo
May 24-26, 2011
Jacob Javits Convention Center, New York, NY
Cost: $50 for exhibits only through $1,295 for a full-access pass
Last but not least, the annual travel bloggers conference, TBEX, is less than a month away. Downtown Traveler will be covering the event live from Vancouver.
June 11-12, 2011
Vancouver Convention Center, British Columbia, Canada
Cost: $80 for bloggers (waiting list)
This week we’re highlighting three blogger-created Twitter campaigns. Look out for these hashtags:
In support of Egyptian tourism, bloggers like Giulia Cimarosti (@giuliaccia) tweeted last Friday about their positive experiences in Egypt. While this grassroots campaign didn’t succeed in making #Come2Egypt a trending topic, participants’ tweets helped spread the message that Egypt is safe and has a range of attractions to offer tourists.
In late April I traveled to Jordan and Egypt with a delegation of U.S. travel leaders, tour operators and journalists to investigate travel safety. I created the hashtag #SafeME (“Safe Middle East”) for the trip, but it caught on with other bloggers and has reached upwards of 70,000 Twitter users per day (per Tweet Reach).
YOUR 2 CENTS
Do you have a social media campaign or news article to add to this list? Please share by leaving a comment below.