Last week LDPR hosted its first-ever social media summit in partnership with social media affiliate, Gather + Grow Media, to forecast 2017 social media trends and discuss their integral role in travel marketing.
The full-day Social Media Summit, led by the agency’s in-house social media team and president/founder Laura Davidson, marks a year-long collaboration with the Florida-based social communications agency, overseen by Melanie Ross, Founder of Gather + Grow Media. The female CEO power-duo came together to host the social media session for over 70 international hotel and tourism board executives, media experts and travel industry professionals to explore social media trends that are shaping consumer travel experiences and hospitality brand marketing strategies in 2017 and beyond. With 52% of Facebook users getting inspiration from their friends’ travel photos, and 76% of travelers using social networks to share their own travel experiences (Source: Internet Marketing, Inc. com), the social media summit inspired, educated, and informed how #LDPRGetsSocial in an evolving PR industry.
“Social media is now strategic, proactive and measurable,” said LDPR’s Laura Davidson, “And it should be a bigger part of everything we do moving forward, not just on the PR side, but in the overall marketing mix and we’re happy to help guide that.”
The summit’s digital footprint was large and the #LDPRGetsSocial hashtag had nearly 2 million Twitter timeline deliveries covering a variety of trending topics, including the truths about influencer marketing from special guest, Courtney Scott, a travel influencer, blogger, filmmaker and on-air travel expert (as seen on CNN, MSNBC, and the Today Show among others). More key takeaways below:
Social Media content has new expectations. With social media users – daily – uploading four million hours of content on YouTube, sending 500 million tweets on Twitter, and posting over four billion messages on Facebook (source: Gwava.com), expectations and behavior has shifted as more content floods the newsfeed, Ross explained. As social media continues to move away from static updates and selling, and more towards storytelling and entertaining, messaging is more personal, emotional, and about one-on-one connections for brands. Ross said, “It’s more about understanding your audience and tailoring your content to speak to them. Because there’s so much content out there, consumers have a right to be picky.”
Ross explained the boom of live video in 2016 has also created a shift in brand and consumer relationships. “Live video allows the opportunity for unfiltered moments like never before,” Ross said, “Brands now have the ability to engage and converse with consumers in a way that is especially powerful for humanizing a brand and strengthening relationships.” Not only are consumers engaging with live video more – Facebook reports that its Live videos receive ten times more comments than other posts and users spend three times longer engaging with live video posts – but social platforms are also focused on live video, giving priority to these posts in fan newsfeeds, notifying users to tune in and continuously updating features to be more sophisticated. Consider the 2016 rollouts of Instagram Live in Stories, Twitter Live, and more. Bottom line: live video is essential to any 2017 communications strategy.
Influencer marketing is vital to authentic storytelling. And 81% of marketers agree influencers are effective (source: eMarketer.com). Courtney Scott, boasting nearly a decade of digital experience in the travel space, explained, “The more that influencers, PR firms, and brands can have an open dialogue and work together, the more we can push our industry forward, create authentic content and do better as a whole.” Scott advised that influencers help brands break through the noise in a competitive market, build lasting ambassadorships and relationships with new audiences through a curated approach, and secure impactful results in terms of awareness and measurable ROI.
Scott also touched on the importance of forging the right influencer partnerships with brands, and the consideration of “360-degree authority.” One influencer could be an on-air travel expert for The Today Show, a brand ambassador within a different industry allowing for cross-over, a community-builder on multiple Instagram accounts, and more, in addition to producing incredible original videos, photos and copy from one brand campaign. Scott said that a smart tactic for brands working in this space, and a time saver in terms of the vetting process, is to build a family of trusted influencers to work with long term, influencers who will continue to produce great content and have multiple channels to amplify brand awareness.
Social Media should no longer be considered a free marketing tool. Matthew Ross, Director of Social Marketing, Gather + Grow Media, discussed the increase in brands advertising on social networks that will drive global ad spend on social networks to as much as $35 billion in 2017. (Source: eMarketer.com) There are more brands and more users competing for space on your newsfeed,” explains Matthew. “Social media is big business. These platforms now have shareholders, they need ad revenue streams and we will see organic reach continue to drop as social continues to be a highly competitive landscape. The days of simply posting content and hoping people will interact are gone.” Matthew emphasized that social advertising holds much opportunity for travel brands to reach new customers through the vast targeting options that many of the social networks offer. Even with ads, storytelling plays an important role. Ad units have become more content-driven and have evolved into more interactive experiences to immerse people in your brand and to tell a visually compelling story.
Social metrics have serious ROI. Ryan Dougall, Director of Social Media Analytics, Gather + Grow, explained that if brands are not tracking efforts and analyzing data, it is a huge miss. Dougall advised that at the start of any campaign, brands need to set goals and ensure they have the appropriate tools to measure metrics like reach, engagement, video views, website visits and bookings. Setting benchmarks to track your performance over time is also essential to gaging performance. Dougall concluded, “Brands must track their social efforts. The ability to analyze data and then optimize your campaigns, creative, and content is crucial for a brands’ social presence.”
Melanie Ross closed, “Like any relationship, any partnership, any marketing plan – you get out of it what you put into it. There’s no magic button. You have to invest the time, resources, and the money to have a truly effective social media presence, but in the end, it will pay off.”