Using Social Media to Find New Prospects

One of the biggest challenges we all face is finding good prospects for premium customers. Indeed, travel companies—including airlines, cruise lines, hotels, travel agencies and tour operators—are constantly seeking new ways to obtain prospects and win more business from existing customers.

Many travel companies are turning to social media to find these prospects as well as communicate with their existing clients and business network on a daily basis. Such social media outlets as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, among others, represent huge opportunities for travel companies seeking new customers, as well as ways to better address the needs of their existing travelers.

What LinkedIn’s New Survey Says
man-with-suitcaseEarlier this year, LinkedIn completed a survey of business and leisure travel that provides travel companies with ways to better understand modern travelers and how to get more of their dollars.

LinkedIn’s survey of more than 14,000 travelers covered 24 major international markets. Both their business and leisure traveler audiences represent a huge market for travel and hospitality companies.  One in four LinkedIn business travelers have taken eight or more trips for business in the past six months. In addition, 38 percent of LinkedIn members have taken three or more trips for leisure in the past six months.

LinkedIn’s research confirmed not just that LinkedIn members travel far more than the average traveler, but that they are far more likely to pay for a premium travel experience, whether for business or leisure. The survey found that one out of every five of all business trips has been taken in first or business class. A quarter of LinkedIn leisure travelers also fly in premium economy, business or first as well.

Customize Your Social Media Message
woman-flight-searchHow can travel and hospitality companies get a greater share of the budgets of these travelers? According to LinkedIn, the key lies in identifying the drivers for different types of travel bookings and then supplying the content that travelers seek throughout their different journeys.

For example, travelers planning leisure trips are highly receptive to getting deals, offers and inspiration from city guide-like sources. When making a business booking, however, they seek practical advice on how to upgrade, as well as expert or insider reviews on how to travel better.

Such subtly different information reflects how travelers’ priorities change on different occasions. For example, LinkedIn’s survey found that price dominates decision-making for leisure travelers both when it comes to the airline they fly (74 percent chose price as one of their top three priorities when choosing an airline) and where they stay (70 percent choose price as one of their top three priorities when selecting a hotel). Leisure travelers are 1.5 times more likely to be influenced by price in their choice of airline and 1.4 times more likely to have price influence their choice of hotel, than their business travel counterparts.

For business travelers, however, the LinkedIn survey found the availability of direct flights (50 percent) and hotel location (68 percent) were the most important factors in travel booking decisions.

Know Your Client’s Decision Triggers
man-on-beach-with-laptopKnowing your client’s mindset and delivering useful and meaningful content is key to generating a response and potential new booking. Sharing your own travel and destination experiences (e.g. native advertising) and people you have met (e.g. guides, concierge) are powerful tools to bring the trip to life for your followers and like-minded prospects.  Conversely, some clients and prospects don’t need the ‘bells and whistles’ and look to travel advisors to share basic price and availability information that will help confirm a sale.

The recent growth of combining business and leisure travel to form ‘bleisure trips’, provides a significant opportunity for proactive travel advisors to apply lessons learnt in social media messaging to each discreet segment.  As the complexity of the booking itself increases with ‘bleisure trips’ (e.g. additional travelers, decision making, payment, activities), so the need to fully understand the decision making factors grows, and what social media messaging will trigger a response.

Building Loyal Travel Communities
first-class-airplaneThe LinkedIn survey found there are also benefits to travel companies when they seek to build loyal travel communities. Roughly 66 percent of LinkedIn leisure travelers and 72 percent of business travelers are already members of travel loyalty programs, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be convinced to build new relationships with different airline and hotel brands. LinkedIn’s research shows that better perks, including upgrades, improved lounge access, extra points, transferrable points and preferential booking, could all persuade travelers to sign up for a new loyalty program.

As of the second quarter of 2016, LinkedIn has been reported to have 450 million registered members, which indicates a major growth of 36 million members from the end of last year. Clearly, LinkedIn represents a significant marketplace and opportunity for travel and hospitality companies to prospect for new business.