Online Marketing Trends for Tour Operators to Watch in 2018

April 3, 2018, Kyla Steeves
Female doing marketing research on laptop with notebook, phone and coffee.

Keeping up with online marketing trends is like keeping up with the newest flavour of potato chips — one week it’s all about the smoked salmon and the next, your friend is digging through a bag of yam and kale (these flavours do not exist — but I will submit a request).

With technology, much like potato chips, there’s always something new and exciting. And consumer behaviour changes as a result. Last year, memes took over social media and now, there is a shift toward live streaming video.

It’s impossible to ignore the relationship between consumer behaviour and marketing strategy. A person’s online actions could lead them down the path of becoming a guest. If you want your tour business to make an impact online, you must pay attention to the top marketing trends of 2018.

1. Vary up video content

Whether we care to admit it or not, most of us would rather watch a movie than read a book. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. We are busy walking the dog, taking the kids to school, killing it at work and weight lifting like Olympians. Sometimes, it’s easier to sit through a 2 hour movie than spend days flipping pages. Plus, you know…popcorn.

This holds true for online content — reading a blog requires more time than playing a short clip. So, props to you for reading this article! But video content is still dominating social media because it’s quick and easy to consume.

According to a Hubspot survey, 53% of consumers want to see more video content in the future. Whether it be a promotional ad on Facebook or a behind the scenes look on Snapchat, consumers favour this in your content creation.

Here are a few video content ideas that are trending. Try testing them out in your online marketing strategy today:

  • Live Streaming is a way to reach your guests live. It gives the viewer an instant, real-time experience they can’t find anywhere else. Since it’s unrehearsed and honest, the viewer sees the personal side of your tour business — as if they are talking face to face.
  • 360 degree videos are great for introducing someone to your tour’s location and today, consumers are loving a virtual reality experience. With a headset or browser, the viewer controls the perspective — fully immersed and directly interacting with the content. It acts as a teaser, which may tempt the viewer to try your tour in real life.
  • Stories are bite sized pieces of video content. Primarily used on Instagram and Snapchat, a tour business can get creative with filters, emojis, drawing and text. And because they vanish after 24 hours, the fear of missing out drives a viewer to watch before it’s gone.

2. Don’t sell. Show and tell

Marketing trends - video content. Female smiling using virtual reality headset

Take a moment to think about how many advertisements you encountered today. You will guess a rather high number, but admit it, you can’t pinpoint a single one. Most of us have become desensitized to the posters, billboards, digital advertising and commercials. Advertisements come at us in such high volumes, they’re impossible to swat away — so instead, we ignore them.

As a result, brands have become faceless.  It’s easy to forget about the humans running the show in the background. And without a face, it’s difficult to build a business-to-customer relationship. Distrust in sales is growing —  so to combat this —  a tour business needs to get up close and personal.

Now, with all the information available online, a consumer can find out whatever they want about a company. Instead of hiding and creating suspicion, a tour business should take advantage. This is an opportunity to show who you are and share what you care about.

So to build trust with travelers, start with creating authentic online interactions:

  • Engage on social media. Don’t bust out a bunch of content and forget to respond to comments on your posts. Everyone appreciates a thoughtful reply. And talking with your audience adds a human element to your business.
  • Be open to customer reviews. Most consumers need a little social proof before booking. Every positive review bumps up a tour operator’s trustworthiness.  So don’t be afraid to follow up with your guests — you could be missing out on a glowing recommendation.
  • Add personalization to emails. Using a person’s name is one of the best ways to show value. No one likes the ‘hey you’ greeting received from an acquaintance they previously met. When an email starts with a name and ends with your own, a connection has been made.
  • Introduce your amazing staff. You know your tour business wouldn’t be successful without the help of your passionate and talented team of tour guides. Show some appreciation by giving them the spotlight. Publish content centered on your different team members — or better yet, allow your staff to take over your social media accounts. Now your business doesn’t have one face, but many.

3. Influence with influencers

Marketing trend - influencer. Instagram post of female walking down road with bag

Consumers trust recommendations provided by others — especially if that person is admired, respected and looked up to. And even though the Kardashian sisters are promoting everything under the sun, you don’t have to seek celebrity endorsement to make an impact.

In fact, consumers are more likely to trust the opinions of someone they can relate to. Since growing a social media following is now possible for the average person, you have an unlimited amount of influencers to select from.

But don’t think the more followers an influencer has, the better. Stick with micro-influencers —  accounts with a following of 2,000 to 100,000 — because they still have significant reach, but will make less of a dent in your budget.

Partnering with a micro-influencer is ideal because their fans love them for being relatable and authentic. In every post, they share a little bit about who they are, what they like and how they live.

Many of them have chosen a niche to target an audience and better grow their following. They may be travel bloggers, fitness freaks, vegan foodies or green thumbs. This means their fan base share the same interests — otherwise they wouldn’t be loyal followers.

Find a relevant micro-influencer for your tour business…like a travel blogger. Make it a match followers will believe. Because when an influencer actually likes your service, their promotional efforts won’t appear forced.

What can you have a micro-influencer do for you? Be a brand ambassador, of course!

Ask them to share a story of their experience with your tour. Or ask them to use your branded hashtags whenever they promote. Anything the brand ambassador does for you, make sure they are compensated for it.

4. Smarter email marketing

Artificial intelligence is creeping into every corner of our lives. You may already have a personal assistant in your bedroom that wakes you up, shares the weather forecast and plays your favourite morning tunes. Machine learning is designed to customize experiences — and this can be used to better your email marketing campaign.

Over the years, email marketing has received a bad reputation. Email recipients consider most of their inbox messages as spam and are quick to unsubscribe from a business. To avoid this, you can personalize your emails to the buyer’s journey. A consumer in the awareness stage will receive different email content than a consumer in the decision stage.

But you are thinking, “how do I do that? I just learned email automation with my online booking system.” Well, that’s where artificial intelligence comes in.

There are various email marketing platforms out there that support machine learning. Using natural language technology, AI creates subject lines, body copy and calls-to-action that appeal to the recipient. This takes all the guesswork out for an email marketer.

5. Optimize for voice searches

Marketing trend - voice optimization. Google Mini on desk next to smartphone and journal

You already know about the rise in smartphone users and the demand for mobile-ready content and mobile bookings— but did you know about the increase in voice searches? Yeah, that’s right. Consumer behaviour has gone from sitting at a computer desk to walking with a smartphone to not touching a device at all.

With the help of virtual assistants —  to find what you need — all you have to do is ask. In the US, 71% of mobile users between the age of 18 and 29 use a mobile personal assistant. This means that instead of taking time to type, users are asking “Okay, Google” or ‘Hey, Siri” a question.

Voice technology is upping the ante for search engine optimization. You’ve broken away from keyword stuffing and learned how to use long-tail keywords. Now, you need to know the questions your target audience is asking.

A consumer talks to a virtual assistant in a conversational tone using question phrases that start with who/what, when, where and how. More so, they are using the term “near me” to find local listings.

Here are some ways to optimize for voice searches:

  • Make sure your website contains the physical address, hours of operation, and contact details of your tour business.
  • Use a tool like Answer the Public to find out questions travelers are asking and then write content that answers it.
  • Use ‘near me’ as a keyword and place it in title tags, meta descriptions, anchor text, etc.

Applying any of these online marketing trends will be a challenge at first. But remembering the effect consumer behaviour has on business will be the motivation you need to tackle them.

P.S. Don’t let your marketing efforts go to waste! Make sure the visitors you attract convert.

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Related Articles: 6 Ways to Engage your Guests During the Holidays | A Tour Operator's Guide to Influencer Marketing | 4 Local Listings Your Tour Business Should Claim | How to Automate OTA Channel Management for Tour Operators | The Best Free Marketing Channels for Promoting your Escape Room | 3 Ways for Your Tour Business to Win at OTAs |

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