Posted by: Ray | August 30, 2010

Why is Social Media Important to the Travel Industry?

In the Beginning

Once upon a time (like medieval times) each grand castle had a bard or storyteller who would regale inhabitants of the castle with stories and legends. Some of the stories were true and were a way to spread current events or tales of faraway lands. The lord of the castle would also receive news through handwritten parchment letters. Not everyone could read at that time, but they sure did repeat what they heard from the bards in the nearby taverns and this instilled wanderlust in many people. This was the original Word of Mouth Marketing.

Hundreds of years later, in The New World called America, politics and news was spread through stump speeches and a crazy thing called the printing press. In parlors and drawing rooms all over The New World, the younger people would hear stories from those entertaining small audiences with their adventures in foreign lands. This inspired the younger generations to visit lands far away and seek adventures of their own. Again, the power that is Word of Mouth Marketing still seems to be around.

1958 Chevy yellow camping flickr by x-ray delta one

Now, let’s step back as recent as the mid-twentieth century, where pictures in magazines of families in cars inspired an entire generation to explore national parks and do crazy things like actually get on an airplane for travel. People would see these images and dream a bit, but the masses wouldn’t act until they heard a story from a friend or acquaintance telling them that “Yes, it was so much fun” or “No, we didn’t die. It was very safe and enjoyable. I highly recommend it.” Again, that Word of Mouth thing.

Today, we have the internet. Sure, some people still read magazines. I know that I’ll browse through one or two during my doctor’s office visits. But, when I walk away, the magazine stays there. Now, with more than 88% of all travelers researching on the internet before making a travel purchase, it only makes sense that a destination would want to be found online when people search for places to visit.

Why You Need Social Media

I read a post by Jason Falls, a marketing and social media professional, which stated some interesting facts about online information (Read: Exploring the Myth of the Repeat Visitor). The post included survey information that tells a very big story if you have a company or destination – a blog can be your best friend. Searchers may not be looking for YOU, but they are looking for information that helps solve their problem, be it lodging that meets their needs or a destination that offers activities they want to experience. If you can provide the relevant information, then you can get the eyeballs, which may turn into visitors to your destination.

pulling hair out flickr image by wstera2I do feel like I’m preaching to the choir, because if you’re reading this post, you’re probably already aware of the importance of social media in the travel industry. Many destinations (including US State governments) get it. But many DMOs (CVB) see Twitter, Facebook, and blogs as time wasters and not worthy of being recognized as legitimate ways to get the word out about their attraction/destination. My own state of Louisiana fails to recognize social media as a viable outlet to be recognized in the travel industry. I won’t call anyone out personally (I don’t want them let go), but I have been told many times by representatives in upper levels of our tourism that they can’t assist me or invite me on press tours because the State is REFUSING to work with social media outlets. Whether print or online media, we’re all still travel writers, we just publish through different formats.

Help Me Help You

I’m giving various presentations to the travel industry over the next few months and would love your comments. As a travel writer/blogger or other travel industry professional – What are YOUR thoughts on working in today’s time of new media? What are problems that can be addressed so that we can solve issues in this new era of Word of Mouth Marketing?

@ ShannonLane

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