In today’s world, social media is one of the most important marketing channels a brand can have. It defines your personality, gives you endless options for content creation, and allows you to have instant, 24/7 conversations with your audience. Social strategy is no longer an after thought, it's a key player.
I recently caught up with Will Weeks, Contiki’s Global Head Of Content, to discuss the current social landscape and discover how social has changed the way we travel, operate and communicate. With over 6 years worth of experience under his belt, he has seen significant transformations across the travel sector – and in particularly social media and influencer marketing.
Here’s what he had to say…
Could you describe the social media landscape within the travel industry and how it has changed over the years?
Travel is a complex industry. It’s not a physical product, it has a high value price point, it takes a lot of planning and to be honest, the options are endless. A lazy marketer might rely on showcasing the destination, using stunning shots, golden beaches and white smiles – and while that definitely has its place, most people don’t need to be convinced to have a good time. Instead it’s demonstrating the value that’s the most important, and arguably the most difficult.
Social is the perfect tool for travel. Users can be inspired, research, find verification, book and share their experience. Over the years, as social has taken a more prominent seat in our lives it too has become more integrated into the travel experience.
Brands have had to adapt accordingly. More than just a broadcast platform where we seek out likes, social is how we foster a continued dialogue with a community of avid travellers.
With platform developments in video, live formats and storytelling, we’re moving towards more unique and authentic connections with our audiences.
Why is social media so important to millennials today?
Simply, it’s how we both connect with each other and express ourselves. Social media allows you to curate your interests and express those outwards, share moments with friends and connect with the wider world.
We also know that everything is geared towards verification through likes and comments and shares, which release endorphins, so… we’re hooked. Kinda gross, hey.
Has it significantly changed the way we travel or view travel?
I don’t think so, no. Travel is fundamentally about the experience and while we might be able to get inspiration for those experiences better with social, or maintain contact our travel buddies, the experience is the same. Yes, there are always going to be those people who spend thousands of dollars to go somewhere and experience it all through the viewfinder of their camera, but for most of us, to have a connection with a place, a site, local people and other travellers, is what makes it – and that’s something young people have done for far longer than social has been around.
What would you say to someone who had no idea what influencer marketing is and why is it such an integral part of Contiki’s strategy?
Influencer marketing is when a brand collaborates with someone who has a significant following on a social channel, or equity in earned media. The brand provides the influencer with a product or experience for them to share with their audience in their own way. This is done for further reach, engagement, or to lend authority by an expert.
As I mentioned before, travel isn’t a tangible product so working with digital content creators allows us to get rich media that demonstrates the Contiki product experience.
Because Millennials are media-savvy, brand-skeptic, bullshit-detectors, they place higher trust and value in third parties so that content then becomes more effective.
There seems to be a lot of perception out there on influencer marketing – care to debunk some myths?
Hahahah, that it’s all fake. Or that it isn’t effective in actually selling a product. The industry is super saturated and there are a lot of people out there who are not taking it seriously and sadly a lot of businesses that are fuelling it. It’s not an easy space to work in, there is no automated solution (I mean, there are, nothing that is more effective than our internal processes and teams at Contiki). The other thing is it’s one of the few digital trends that are not always directly trackable and so senior stakeholders can sometimes fail to see the value. But it works, and if we’re looking at effectiveness holistically then there’s still huge value in influencer marketing.
How has influencer marketing evolved over the years in your eyes?
We got in the space super early – we used to work with travel bloggers, and then with the rise of YouTube we moved into that space, then Instagram. The space has been in constant growth in terms of platforms, talent and technology.
However, as I said, it’s over saturated. We used to work with a handful of YouTubers who were truly innovative pioneers in the space. There were maybe 5 who had more than a million subscribers and 80% of their audiences watched their daily videos every day. With more and more personalities in the space, and the industry becoming more mainstream, subscriber numbers skyrocketed, but instead of 1 person subscribing to 10 creators and watching all their videos everyday, that person is subscribed to hundreds, and they just can’t consume the content. As a result, they’re less influential and engagement goes down. It’s an interesting time for marketers.
We continue to operate in that space and play with the big boys, but we’re also investing time, money and resource in advocacy, micro-influence and dark social.
As trust and influence of big names begins to wane in the millennial audience, we’re seeing peer-to-peer yielding engagement rates 2-3 times that of the mainstream.
People trust their friends the most. They always have and they always will, it’s not rocket science. We’re only on the cusp of working more directly with our communities and their networks, and judging by what we’ve experienced so far it’s going to be a really exciting time to be working in social.
If you are an up and coming influencer and want to work with Contiki under The Travel Project, or you have a travel story you think the world needs to hear, head to www.contiki.com/thetravelproject.