A study featuring over 2100 adults in the UK has indicated that only eight percent of online adults who have taken a holiday in the past year, have discussed their holidays or read other people’s advice and recommendations on Facebook. This compares to 57 percent of all online adults who use Facebook each week.
Also, TripAdvisor is the single biggest social media used in holiday planning, with 50 percent of UK holiday makers using the site in some way or other.
The study, Mapping the Travel Mind – The Influence Of Social Media, was recently released by Conrad Advertising, in association with YouGov.
- Holiday reviews are by far the most important type of social media content used when planning a holiday, with 58 percent of people agreeing they are the most important source of independent advice available; 32 percent of people who have been on holiday abroad in the last 12 months say they have been influenced by independent travel reviews on their choice of booking.
- A negative review would only definitely stop 11 percent of people from booking a hotel in which they are interested; a further 82 percent of people would investigate further and may still book.
- Advice and recommendations from unknown web users or companies, whilst not liked (only 19 percent of respondents who have been on holiday abroad in the last12 months say they like to receive such advice from these parties), is likely to create further investigation by 37 percent of people.
- Holidaymakers using social media sites or services do not talk about prices and offers that much (only 20 percent of holiday makers mention this as a topic) whereas holiday destination and hotel are discussed over twice as frequently (43 percent).
- Social media content including photographs (43 percent) is most frequently used by people who have talked about/read about or been offered advice about holidays and travel on social media sites. This seems particularly important for those people who take specialised or more unusual holidays.
- Word-of-mouth (26 percent), a good easy-to-use website (24 percent) and holiday brochures (23 percent) are the most important influences on people’s decisions when planning and booking a holiday. TripAdvisor is mentioned by 37 percent of people.
- Social media influence might be less important than we think
Respondents report few social media conversations and exchanges concerning holiday planning over a 12 month period with one big exception; comparison of holiday and destination alternatives.
People are very interested to hear the opinions of others who have been to places in which they are already interested (50 percent of respondents said they had used TripAdvisor to help plan their holidays in the last 12 months). However, excluding use of TripAdvisor, the number of people saying they have used other social media sites or platforms when planning their holiday is low.
- Facebook and Twitter influence do not extend to travel
The role that Facebook and Twitter play in day-to-day social life does not appear to be replicated during the holiday planning and booking process. Only 8 percent of respondents who’ve been on holiday in the past 12 months said they had used Facebook in planning a holiday. This compares to 57 percent of online UK adults who use it regularly (i.e. once a week) for other purposes and 71 percent of 25-34 year olds. Twitter is even less prevalent, with only 5 percent of people mentioning the site/service as having been used when planning a holiday.
People did say that they value the recommendations and advice of friends and family (61 percent are positive) more than those of unknown web users or companies when using social media (19 percent are positive). This qualitative benefit should not be ignored, but the findings suggest that few people have actually used or benefited from this potential source of advice.
- Social media conversations prompt positive behavior
Although it was found that relatively few people are using social media sites and platforms when planning their holiday, people did say they are likely to take positive action if they receive advice or recommendations from a friend or family. 22 percent of men and 27 percent of women said they would ‘definitely investigate a destination or hotel for a future holiday’, and 16 percent of men and 19 percent of women said they would investigate which travel company or agent offers these types of holidays’.
Perhaps surprisingly, people are also open to receiving advice and recommendations from unknown website users or companies. 10 percent of men and 16 percent of women said they would ‘definitely investigate a destination or hotel for a future holiday’, and 12 percent of men and 15 percent of women said they would investigate which travel company or agent offers these types of holidays’. Clearly other people’s opinions are valuable, just not as valuable as those of close friends.
- Holiday reviews by other people are just one source of influence
Whilst 58 percent of people believe ‘holiday reviews by other travellers are an important source of independent advice’ they do take into account a wide range of opinions in making up their own mind. The large majority of people (84 percent) indicate that they would investigate further and may book a hotel in which they are interested, even if it had a bad review. This shows that people are aware of the subjective nature of the content in social media and holiday reviews and that they make judgments based on a number of sources.
To reinforce the point that people consider the source of a holiday review and not just the content, we asked people what they thought of holiday reviews on a company’s own website. Whilst the content of these reviews might be similar, only 28 percent of respondents who have been on holiday abroad in the last 12 months indicated these influence their decision to book or not.
- Social media sites and platforms still make good advertising channels
Although social conversations about holiday ideas, prices, and experiences do not seem to be prevalent on Facebook or Twitter, the sheer size of their user base and the ability to target people by interest means these media remain a useful channel for advertising or promotions.
The company asked respondents how they feel about advertising relevant to their holiday type or destination appearing within social media and the response was quite positive. 24 percent of people said they would ‘click on the advertisement to visit the advertiser’s website’, and 8 percent of respondents said they would ‘search the social media/site/service for more information about the advertiser’. Similar to other digital channels the challenge is relevancy.
- Social media presence is influential but cannot drive short-term sales
Given that people appear to be very interested in the holiday reviews by other people and to a limited extent are having social conversations about holiday destinations and holiday types, there is clearly a role that social media can play in companies’ communication plans.
However, given the relatively low use of these media (39 percent of people haven’t used any social media to plan holidays in the last 12 months) and that a large part of the interest among those who have focuses solely on holiday reviews (49 percent have used TripAdvisor), other media channels can offer more reach and impact.
Having a good, easy-to-use website and offering holiday brochures is still very important. Ensuring holiday reviews are included not only on company websites, but also that reviews are encouraged on sites like TripAdvisor is also important.
But if companies need to drive short-term enquiries and want to break through to reach people interested in travel and holiday products, then they need to continue to use the tried and trusted techniques of advertising and promotion; where appropriate this will include social media sites, but will certainly require advertising more widely. Although holiday planning and booking behavior now includes use of holiday reviews and the odd conversation about someone else’s holiday, people are still using the Internet, newspapers, outdoor and TV to first find ideas and secondly to search for holiday offers.
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