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Although travel brands can no longer ignore social networks, it appears they are more focused on engaging their communities than investing the millions of ad dollars that sites are after.
Travel advertisers’ paid social media budgets are slowly increasing despite several advertisers’ concerns that the returns don’t match those of paid search.
Paid social media spend is estimated to now account for between 5 percent and 10 percent of most travel companies’ digital budgets, according to eMarketer’s new report “The US Travel Industry 2014: Digital Ad Spending Forecast and Trends.”
Advertisers are now aware that meeting consumers where they are online means bumping ad spend on social media sites. And the investment is being met with an increase in shares of branded travel content on social sites.
According to social sharing company Gigya in the fourth-quarter of 2013, 61 percent of users shared brand content from travel sites on Facebook, 17 percent shared content on Pinterest and 14 percent shared content on Twitter.
Of course, it’s not enough for brands to simply pay to promote a single Facebook post and then sit on their laurels. Social success depends on brands dedicating personnel to the site, developing a voice and engaging users.
“You have to have been there and built-out that owned and earned media for a long time before you can really take advantage of paid social,” said Thomas Sudassy, senior manager of media research at Razorfish said in the eMarketer report.
While raising awareness is all good, quantifying the connection between social or mobile spend and an actual purchase remains difficult.
Another travel heavyweight, TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer, separately bemoaned Facebook’s ad shortcomings.
“We weren’t able to get the same traveler in shopping mode to come over to TripAdvisor in any scale that matched Google,” Kaufer said, referring to advertising on Facebook, when speaking at an investor conference in November 2013.
A Broader View
Despite the travel CEOs frustration with Facebook, it is still considered the best platform for social advertising.
Of the four major social networks currently used for marketing and ads, Facebook currently offers the highest ROI for U.S. ad buyers across all industries.
The report does not compare social networks to paid search across all industries.