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This new, free Skift presentation, “Social Media Trends for Tourism Boards,” was presented by our data analyst Joyce Manalo at the Social Media Tourism Symposium in Nashville earlier this month, and contains the state of social media, case studies from six top tourism boards, and upcoming trends.

The social media landscape continues to shift and be influenced by users and shaped by marketers and brands, and now is the time to take a step back and see how four main platforms have grown to compete for users and decide what metrics actually matter. As users become more inundated with content, platforms and brands that don’t keep up with the changes will lose them to emerging platforms and other brands.

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, measure their audiences in monthly active users, while YouTube looks at visitors to better illustrate how large its audience for brands. Although the word “active” has yet to be defined by those platforms, it is safe to say that any “action” in any frequency falls under this definition. Facebook, the oldest of the four platforms, claims 135 billion monthly active users. In comparison the youngest one, Instagram, has 200 million.

When looking at the travel verticals under the SkiftIQ lens, Airlines, Hotel Brands, Media, and Destinations have the strongest social media presence in terms of followers on all the four platforms. Airlines and media brands are way ahead in terms of acquisitions in part because they either specialize in customer service or are content producing machines that both create large momentum due to their large following. Destinations are beating Hotel Brands on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, and are neck-and-neck on Twitter.

As users become more selective in what content they react to, their interactions are becoming more valuable in that they mean what they like, share, comment, and click on. To take it a step further, not all these social actions are equal because one is more impactful than the other.

With likes being important, shares or retweets being the most important, and comments and replies somewhere in between, establishing a weighted engagement metric internally will provide a more accurate metric of content performance to better inform return on investment (ROI), creation and curation, regardless of the volume.

As content and communities converge, brands need to stop looking at acquisitions and engagement figures separately and instead start evaluating content efforts based on effectiveness and the quality of its community. For example, content effectiveness can be measured by total engagement divided by total posts, while community quality is total followers divided by active users. These two metrics are key in establishing benchmarks to help brands gauge time and resources necessary to produce quality content and manage the community.

In order to compete with Coca Cola, McDonald’s and Red Bull on social media, destinations need to forget social reach, keep an eye on engagement, and focus on the quality of its community. The investment in 2015 will be on resources that cultivate and manage interest-based communities.

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