Digital

How Lonely Planet is winning the battle on social media

@SamShankman

Mar 04, 2013 8:40 am

Skift Take

Lonely Planet has built a dedicated, engaged audience around the world by mixing big brand initiatives and projects tailed at specific audiences.

— Samantha Shankman

Free Report: The State of Student Travel


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.

Last month we launched our first data dashboard in beta, SkiftSocial,  read more about the launch here, and what it means for social media monitoring in the travel industry.

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
Lonely Planet 1,006,507 1,004,119
Frommers 285,752 24,065
Fodors 248,003 22,333
Rough Guides 31,365 22,247
Rick Steves 28,024 117,256
Moon 12,478 11,813
DK Eyewitness 10,656 10,094

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.

Frommer’s and Fodor’s only have about a quarter of Lonely Planet’s Twitter followers and the remaining brands all have less than 40,000 followers.

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.

Moon and Rick Steves are the least active usually tweeting just once every two days.

Guidebook Chart 1

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.

Guidebook Engagement Chart 2

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:

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