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Despite stalled growth in China, Brazil and Russia, a wave of newly middle-class travelers from the BRICs and beyond will start visiting international destinations in the coming decades — dwarfing the numbers we’ve seen thus far.
Lonely Planet has built a dedicated, engaged audience around the world by mixing big brand initiatives and projects tailed at specific audiences.
Thick guidebooks covered in stickers and torn in the corners used to be the tell-tale sign of a traveler. Although some tourists still are engrossed with words in print instead of the sites in front of them, many are now also staring at smartphone screens.
Besides the obvious opportunity to share content online, the Internet also gives travel brands the chance to engage with the travelers reading their tips. It appears; however, that outside of forums, few brands are truly talking to their readers.
Who’s following who
We ranked the seven most prominent guidebook companies on their social media presence. The companies, in order of their Twitter followers, are as follows:
|Company||Twitter Followers||Facebook Likes|
It’s no surprise that Lonely Planet has the most followers on its social media channels. With just over 1 million followers on Twitter and “Likes” on Facebook, LP is the most popular brand online and launched a Thanks a Million campaign last week to celebrate reaching the milestone on each account.
In addition to its primary account, Lonely Planet has Twitter accounts run out of London and Oakland for additional social media work.
The ranking is the same on Facebook with the exception of Rick Steves, which jumps from fourth to second place with 117,256 fans. Lonely Planet still reigns as number one with more than 8 times that number.
Social butterflies on Twitter
Although Lonely Planet is the most followed guidebook brand on social media, it is not the most active.
Rough Guides is more active, tweeting almost two times the amount that Lonely Planet does in a two-week period. Rough Guides tweeted 317 times in that period, or approximately 23 times a day, while LP tweeted 187 times in that period, or 13 times a day.
RG is ambitious, but it is dreadfully late to making a real go at the digital game, despite being early on the scene with a strong website and strong social community (which it jettisoned when it ditched a partnership with IgoUgo). And nobody is sure how much longer Penguin/Random House will keep publishing the brand.
The average tweet rate for the guidebook brands is just once a day. Fodor’s, Frommer’s, and DK Eyewitness all fall in this zone tweeting travel news, destination lists, and photo slideshows. Frommer’s has an excuse, of course: It was bought by Google in August and is still in transition as the search giant figures out what do to with the digital assets.
A little shyer on Facebook
Although Rick Steves is the least active on Twitter, he’s the second most active on Facebook posting 25 status updates and replies in a two-week period.
Fodor’s is the most active on Facebook. It posted 35 times in a two-week period, while popularity queen LP posted just 13 times in that period.
Fodor’s Executive Editorial Director Arabella Bowen says “it’s easier to have longer conversations” on Facebook and that the company has historically received more questions from followers on Facebook than Twitter.
Although Facebook gives companies and their followers space to write lengthier posts and share photos, Twitter is better built for quick reference questions and links to content. All brands with the exception of Rick Steves are more active on Twitter than Facebook.
Understandably, smaller brands like Moon Travel are at a disadvantage when competing with mega-brands like Lonely Plant for social media play time. Moon Travel has just one employee monitoring all social media accounts.
They may be sharing, but are they listening?
At first glance it looks like the brands with sparse activity and the fewest followers are the most engaged of the travel brands. DK Eyewitness and Moon are replying to Twitter followers in about 28 percent of their tweets; however, that’s no more than nine replies.
On the other hand, 18 percent of chatty brand Rough Guides’s tweets are responding to followers. That’s 56 out of 317 tweets in a two-week period.
Nineteen percent, or 36 out of 187, of Lonely Planet’s tweets are replies in that same period.
Fodor’s, Frommer’s, and Rick Steves are the worst at engaging with online customers on Twitter. Rick Steves and Frommer’s didn’t reply to a single Tweets over a two-week period, and Fodor’s replies to followers with just one of its 36 tweets.
Rick Steve shines on Facebook where he has the most followers with the exception of Lonely Planet. Outside of Rough Guides, he is the most active on Facebook and responds to fans in 25 percent of those posts.
More on Lonely Planet:
- Exclusive: BBC selling Lonely Planet to Kentucky cigarette billionaire Brad Kelley
- Lonely Planet and the rapid decline of the printed guidebook