Finding new clients is consistently a travel advisor’s greatest challenge. Until recently, social media allowed travel agents to raise their brand awareness at a relatively inexpensive rate by posting funny or inspirational memes, beautiful destination photos, or updates from suppliers.
But as companies like Facebook reduce organic awareness for businesses, and push entrepreneurs towards paid ad models, agents are becoming ever more resourceful in using the platform to keep their marketing costs down.
One method they are trying to use more frequently is to create posts that will be shared by followers. This way, if an agency only has a few hundred followers, but their followers have potentially tens of thousands of friends and family, shared posts can dramatically expand that agent’s reach.
In fact, getting your followers to share content into their newsfeed plays into the hands of Facebook’s algorithm, because over the last two years, engagement between individual users has been the focus of the company’s platform.
This is because Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes active interactions like commenting and sharing over likes and passive interactions like clicks. In Facebook’s mind, the more effort a user applies to posts in their newsfeed, the more likely that content has higher quality and value.
Back in 2018, when Facebook made its largest and most public change to its algorithm, lowering visibility for commercial pages while increasing newsfeed distribution for individual accounts, Founder Mark Zuckerberg said that commercial pages “whose posts prompt conversations between friends” would see the least impact from the changes.
“Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution,” Zuckerberg said. The hierarchy of Facebook reactions is: 1) comments; 2) reactions other than likes; 3) comment replies, especially those where users tag friends; 4) sharing links over messenger; and 5) engagement on shares.
“Growing your followers can be costly and time consuming,” said Jeanne Colombo, vice president, strategic partnerships, at Passport Online Inc. “Advisors need to work harder to get their brand out there via social, but it can be done. Sharing allows you to reach people you might not otherwise reach.”
In a recent study of its subscribers’ performance on social, Passport Online found that shares were up 44% over the first six months of last year.
“We’ve been trying to help our subscribers (travel advisors) force engagement, to get the kinds of likes, comments and shares that help them outsmart Facebook’s algorithm,” Colombo said.
Use posts that stir emotions
The most popular post shared during the first six months of the year was the July 9 meme with, “If Traveling was free, you would never see me again,” superimposed over a picture of a bathing suit-clad woman with sunglasses.
“This one surprised us that it would have nearly three times as many shares as the next most popular post,” Colombo said. “But I love the quote. And, it actually is very logical, because the post allows the viewer to project their own dreams onto this scene. As a woman, I can picture me there, lying in the sun on a chaise lounge chair.”
The post was shared 1,066 times. Its closest competitor was a Jan. 28 picture of the desert landscape of Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses in Brazil. The quote superimposed over the picture says, “There are seven days in a week, and ‘someday’ isn’t one of them.” This post was shared 416 times.
Colombo believes the two top memes received so many shares because they stir emotions. She recommended advisors look for similar quotes and images that speak to their customers’ deepest wants and needs. “Think about the emotions that stir you, and stir those emotions in your clients,” she said.
Additionally, it doesn’t hurt to post pictures of soft, sandy beaches, especially for clients who may be dealing with winter where they live. “You cannot overuse those beach pictures and memes,” Colombo said.
The power of good quotes can be found in the third-highest shared post (409 times), one that bears the words of the Dalai Lama: “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” The quote is superimposed over a book, on a plain gray background. There are no images of beautiful destinations.
Take a vote
The most popular post during the period were side-by-side pictures of an Alaskan shoreline and a seemingly Caribbean harbor. The post encouraged followers to respond: “Would you rather take an Alaskan cruise or a Caribbean cruise?” Followers were asked for a thumbs-up for Alaska or a heart for the Caribbean That same post also received the most comments: 1,420.
The second-most commented post (1,288 comments) from Passport’s agency subscribers were two photos stacked over each other. Saying, “Would you rather visit the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia or Christ The Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil?” the post invited its followers to vote.
React to their reactions
One lost opportunity for many agents is that they don’t engage with followers who do react or comment on one of their posts, Colombo said. “You have to be proactive. Follow up on every comment, every share, every like,” she said. “They took the time to react with your post. They shared it. Catch up with them and begin a conversation.”
Colombo also advised agents to track their most-shared and most-commented-on posts as potential opportunities for paid posts. “If Facebook Insights (the platform’s measurement tool) is telling you that your followers find certain posts to be the most engaging, it might pay to boost your reach with those posts with a paid ad campaign using those posts,” she advised.
“If you don’t stay top of mind with your followers, you can lose the opportunity when they are finally ready to purchase.”
Passport Online creates content for more than 1,600 travel advisor business Facebook pages. Those pages have more than 1.6 million followers.