A Tour Operator’s Guide to Social Media Marketing

February 26, 2019, Kyla Steeves
Social media marketing at work. Group of travel friends sitting around table looking at smartphones.

As a tour operator, there are many reasons why you should use social media for marketing. For starters, it gives you a chance to reach prospects that might not know about your tours otherwise. Regular posting allows you to engage with your guests so that you stay top of mind. And finally, it helps direct followers to your website where they can learn more or make a booking.

Of course, you’ll only see these benefits if you do social media right. Simply put, it’s not enough to set up a profile and expect followers to interact with you. Nowadays, you need to have a social media marketing strategy in place. What does that look like for tour operators?

In this guide, we’ll walk you through a clear cut plan that’ll boost your social media presence. From narrowing your focus to the right platforms to executing tried and true tactics, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about social media marketing. Let’s get started:  

Setting your social media goals

Setting goals for social media marketing strategy on notebook and laptop.

Before you jump into using social media for marketing, it’s important to pinpoint what you want to get out of your efforts. There are plenty of ways you can utilize these platforms, but if you don’t know your overall objective, then you could wind up making some common social media mistakes by companies.

So what kind of goals should you make and how do you measure their performance? If you’re new to social media marketing, I suggest starting with below:

  • Increase brand awareness: Capture the attention of your target audience and turn them into followers. You can do that by adding your brand personality to your posts and showing up where they’re scrolling with the power of hashtags and promotions.
  • Boost brand engagement: Social media is a great place to connect and communicate with your guests. By delivering quality content and writing compelling captions, you can encourage them to share their thoughts and stories. Just remember that engagement is a two-way street — so make sure to respond.
  • Drive website traffic: When someone visits your website, they’re one step closer to booking. For that to happen more often, you need to give your followers a reason to exit social media. One way you can do that is by sharing content from your website — like a blog post. If they’re tempted to learn more, they’ll click on the link provided.
  • Generate more bookings: Of course, this is the ultimate goal. While applying the above can help you reach this outcome, there are additional ways to get there.  For instance, using a call-to-action (CTA) strategically on social media provides a natural next step for booking. Without one, users are less motivated to follow up on their initial interest.

To measure the performance of brand awareness and engagement, you can monitor your follower count, as well as tally up the number of likes, comments, and shares per post. As for the last two goals, Google Analytics is a useful tool for tracking website traffic and conversions.

Defining your target audience

Group of three girls taking a selfie for social media.

With many platforms out there, it’s impossible to establish a strong presence on each one. For this reason, it’s important to identify your target audience and find out where they spend their time scrolling. That way, you can focus your efforts where you’re more likely to be seen by the right eyes.

For instance, many travelers turn to social media for inspiration while planning a trip — but they don’t all have the same go-to sites and apps. Some will peruse Pinterest to find an ideal destination for a solo getaway. Some will consult Facebook friends for recommendations on things to do and attractions to see.  And others will watch Youtube videos to get excited about their upcoming adventures.

If you know the type of traveler that’ll book your tour, you can show up on their platform of choice and grab their attention at a time that matters most — when they’re coming up with ideas or finalizing their itinerary. At the same time, you can grow your social media following. But how do you figure out what that type is?

You can start by looking at your current customer base and taking note of any demographic trends. Generally, people with similar characteristics have similar interests. So if your guests fall into the same category, then you can guestimate that others who meet that criteria will be interested in booking your tours as well.

The best way to gain insight into your customers is to collect their information at the time of booking. With Checkfront, you can customize the booking form fields to find out exactly what you want to know. While it’s recommended to ask for age and address, you can also include something like, “Tell us how you found us.” If you notice the majority put Facebook, then you know that’s where you need to be.

Want to find your target audience using Checkfront’s booking form? Start your free 21-day trial.

Choosing the right social media platform

A female and male traveler looking at social media on smartphone.

Your target audience is just one factor to consider when choosing a social media channel to promote your tour business. Since every platform has a different purpose, you need to figure out which one aligns perfectly with your brand and mission.

While Facebook is excellent for community-building, Pinterest is better for visual inspiration. Although Youtube and Instagram are both known for content, one is video-based, and the other photo-forward.

To help you decide where you fit best, we break down what each platform does and how you can work it into your social media marketing strategy. Of course, we had to start with the social network king:

Facebook

Screenshot of Facebook business page for social media marketing.

Facebook is a great place to engage with your community because there are endless options for what you can do. From sharing live videos to hosting a special giveaway, you can give followers plenty of reasons to interact with likes, comments, and shares.

But this platform is useful beyond building connections. You can also increase ticket sales on Facebook. Similar to your website, users see your business information, and browse through photos and videos of your tours. They can get an idea of who you are and what you offer, and if compelled, book right then and there.

How do you set up your Facebook business page in a way that makes that happen? Here are a few steps to get you started:

  1. Enter your information: When you first create a page, Facebook will prompt you to enter your basic business info — which includes your page name, category, address, and phone number. But we suggest providing more information in your About section. Click on Settings, then Page Info, and fill out each field completely.
  2. Customize your page: Facebook users should know what your business is about as soon as they land on your page. So use your company logo as your profile picture and upload a cover photo that showcases one of your most popular tours.
  3. Build your content: Followers will soon forget about you if you don’t post regularly. Take this opportunity to post anything that relates to your business — like photos of your staff, videos of your tours, and stories from your blog.
  4. Grow your followers: There are a few ways you can do this. You can invite your friends, family, and employees to like the page. You can generate buzz with a contest. And you can create an ad campaign that targets existing customers, website visitors, or fresh eyes.
  5. Add a call to action: Luckily, it’s easy to create a Facebook booking button with the Checkfront plugin. Just click on the +Add a Button underneath your cover image and follow the steps. If you don’t have an account with Checkfront, you can start your free trial today.

Instagram

Screenshot of hashtag #adventuretravel search results in Instagram.

At this time, Instagram doesn’t support bookings for tours and activities, but it seems to be on its way (hopefully soon). Until then, you can still use Instagram for brand awareness in your social media marketing strategy.

Thanks to the power of hashtags, Instagram users can quickly discover your tour business. You just have to use the right hashtags to show up in the right places. For example, if you offer a rugged outdoor excursion, it’s best to include hashtags related to adventure travel — like #livetoexplore or #adventureiscalling.

But wait, you may be wondering, “what’s a hashtag?” So let me rewind a bit. A hashtag is a label used to organize content. Anyone who’s interested in a topic can click on one to find content on that topic. For successful use of hashtags in marketing in marketing, you should:

  1. Research suitable hashtags: Figure out your travel niche, and then look for hashtags that relate. If you’re stuck, check out what travel influencers, industry leaders, and even your competitors use.
  2. Make a list: Jot down every hashtag you find, and refer to that list whenever you post. By changing up which ones you use, you can reach new audiences while avoiding a shadowban.
  3. Use multiple hashtags: Some believe the sweet spot is 11 per post. But as long there’s more than one and less than thirty, you’re still expanding your reach.
  4. Start a hashtag: It’s a good idea to learn how to create effective hashtags for your tour business. That way, a guest who posts about the experience can use that hashtag in their caption — so their followers can discover you, too!

Keep in mind that hashtags don’t help to grab attention; they only give you that opportunity. So make sure your Instagram posts are captivating before you start hashtagging.

Need some help coming up with awesome hashtags? Check out our list of 177 hashtags for tours and activities.

YouTube

Screenshot of Checkfront Youtube business page for social media marketing.

While photos are useful for showing the tour experience, videos are better — especially if the tour is action packed. With video, viewers get a real sense of what the experience entails. They can hear the laughter when a tour guide tells a joke. Or see facial expressions change when a group discovers a natural wonder for the first time.

And YouTube is the best place to share videos of your business. From product reviews to customer testimonials, you can choose to create and publish almost anything. However, we suggest delivering content that reflects your tours in the best way.

What type of video would that be? Seeing that your guests and tour guides experience your trips firsthand, they should be the stars. By filming participants and letting them talk about what’s happening, as it’s happening, you’ll give viewers an authentic perspective of your tour experience. This video style is otherwise known as vlogging.

Vlogging — or video blogging — is a self-made scheduled update, and it’s one of the most popular types of video on YouTube. While it’s a great idea for growing a personal brand, vlogging is also right for tour operators because it can help with brand engagement.

For instance, any guest who gets a cameo in one of your videos will want to show their friends and family. Most likely, they’ll share the video on their Facebook page, which will attract a lot of likes and comments. If you want to take brand engagement one step further, you can even partner with a well-known YouTube vlogger and have them host the video while experiencing the tour.

To start vlogging, assign a team member to capture and edit footage every week. Also, make sure to figure out a YouTube business strategy.

Pinterest

Screenshot of Pinterest search for London walking tours.

For lots of travelers, it’s fun to dream about an adventure months before the actual departure date. Whenever there’s a spare moment, they’ll browse the internet for the best things to do in-destination, and the best places to eat and stay. While some rely on the advice of travel bloggers, many start scrolling on Pinterest.

That’s because Pinterest is essentially an online vision board. When planning a trip, users will peruse their feeds for inspiration — using destination-related keywords. If they find anything that’s appealing, they’ll save the pin for later use.

Now, getting your tours pinned on Pinterest is a huge deal. Since you can add a link to your uploaded photos, anyone interested in learning more will quickly take action and click through —  which increases your website traffic.

Beyond that, making it on someone’s Pinterest board is like making it on their bucket list. When it comes time to fill their travel itinerary, they’ll refer to their pins, and you’ll be right there, ready for them to book with you.

But how do you make sure your pins stand out? Here are some ways to start using Pinterest for business marketing:

  • Design vertical images: Tall images take up more real estate space on Pinterest. But the best aspect ratio is 600 px wide by 900 px high.
  • Use high-quality photos: There’s a lot of competition for attention on this platform. Your photos need to pop and entice someone to slow their scroll.
  • Add text-overlay: Give a little context to your content. If you want to get creative with this, you can design professional-looking Pinterest posts on Adobe Spark.
  • Write a description: This bite-sized piece of information helps to entice the user, and show up in the search results — if you use relevant keywords.
  • Add a URL: Again, having a link available will encourage users to learn more by visiting your website.
  • Use hashtags: Similar to Instagram, you can use hashtags in Pinterest to you reach more users. Just make sure they are relevant to your post.

Twitter

Screenshot of Twitter home page for social media marketing strategy.

Compared to other platforms, Twitter seems like more of a challenge for social media marketing. Maybe it’s because of the 280 character limit. Or perhaps it’s the stream of new content that leaves a small window of time to stand out. Whatever the case may be, you shouldn’t let that dissuade you from tweeting because there are still many benefits.

Yes, some of your tweets may go unnoticed, but that only means you have to post frequently. The more you post, the more hearts and retweets you’re likely to get. And while you won’t grow your following overnight, there’s still an opportunity to make new connections. Sometimes, you have to give love to get love.

In other words, Twitter isn’t necessarily about who follows you, but rather, who you follow. There are lots of others in your industry that use Twitter daily — like thought leaders, travel influencers, and tech companies. By following them, you can gain insight into the latest travel trends, which will help you stay top of your game. And if you like or retweet their posts, you may even get a follow back — meaning you’ll be on their radar.

However, if you want to use Twitter mainly for reaching and connecting with your guests, there’s one type of post that’ll help.  And that brings me to the next point:

Social media marketing tactics

Two females taking selfies while on tour.

Every platform is unique in that you can apply different tactics and achieve different results. But there are a few tricks that work across the board that can help you dominate your social media marketing in one sweep. Here they are:

Live video stream your tours

By far, video outperforms other types of content on social media. In recent years, we’ve seen dramatic growth with video on various platforms — including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. So much so, that live video has also become a thing.

As a matter of fact, live video is a game changer for your social media marketing strategy. Because it’s in the moment, viewers are more likely to slow their scroll and watch — believing that if they don’t, they’ll miss out on something good. So by live video streaming your tours, you’re bound to get a lot of attention because it’s an authentic tourism promotional video.

To make this tactic more effective, you can encourage your guests to live video stream their tour experience. That way, they’ll provide an authentic perspective, which will strengthen your tour company’s credibility. Plus, their friends and family will be eager to watch, so you’ll expand your reach at the same time.

Partner with a travel influencer

Look at any social media platform, and you are guaranteed to find a travel influencer quickly. That’s because travel influencers have massively taken over social media. Like a business, they’ve built their brand, earned a following, and discovered the right channels to market themselves.

To make a living (and fund their trips), many influencers work with travel brands by promoting their products and services to their large community of followers. That means there’s an opportunity for you to expand your reach by doing the same.

Luckily, there are plenty of travel influencers to choose from, and many of them have a strong presence on multiple platforms. All you have to do is find one that fits within your niche and looks like your target audience, come up with a campaign, and then reach out to them over email.

If you want to learn more about influencer marketing, we talked with travel influencer, Vanessa of Wander Onwards. She explains everything you need to know about travel influencer campaigns — like what to expect regarding cost, logistics, and results.

And if you’re ready to reach out to a travel influencer, you can use these 3 email templates to stand out in their inbox.

Let your staff take over social media

With everything else you’ve got going on, posting on social media might be the last thing you want to do. If that’s the case, it’s better to pass this responsibility onto someone else rather than forget about it altogether. After all, social media can help to keep you top of mind, but that won’t happen if your profile remains inactive.

If you have tour guides in the Millennial age group, they are the best contenders for managing your social media profiles. That’s because many of them have been using social media since MySpace. They’re familiar with hashtags, emojis, memes, gifs, and trendy internet slang. They might even know about the above social media marketing strategies — which means they’ll require little training.

Beyond that, by featuring employees on social media, guests have a chance to get to know them beforehand. As such, they’ll be more comfortable during the tour — which can enhance the overall experience and lead to more positive reviews.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, social media is a big jungle gym — you have to play around on each platform to find out what you like best. Although some channels work for your competitors, you may find success with others. That’s for you to figure out. You can do that by applying the above social media marketing strategies and tracking and analyzing the results.

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Related Articles: 10 Off-Season Marketing Strategies for Tour and Activity Operators | What Exactly is Omnichannel Marketing for Tours and Activities? | Is Your Booking Software Company Really There For You? | Why Google is the Best Review Platform for Tour Operators | How to Team Up With Local Tour Operators and Thrive | Are Your Guests Craving Hyper-Personalization? |

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