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10 Social Media Mistakes Travel Agents Make (and how to avoid them)

Through consulting work and speaking to individual travel agents, their host agencies, and travel associations, I have seen my share of social media mistakes travel agents make.  While thankfully most agents are not guilty of the entire list, there are many businesses that could benefit from avoiding the recurring patterns I have seen emerge. Here are the top 10 social media mistakes travel agents make – and how you can avoid them!

To be honest, many of these observations are applicable to more broadly defined small businesses and entrepreneurs, well beyond the travel industry as well. So even if you’re not a travel agent, you’ll find insight in the content below.

1.Trying to do it all

On too many platforms? Feeling the need to be on TikTok? Spread too thin in terms of original content? Maybe you’re just spending too much time doing it all. This often leads to not updating content, having large gaps in activity, or not replying to comments. Trying to do it all also likely means that you are not fully utilizing ALL of the capabilities of a particular platform. Why add TikTok if you haven’t even used Reels on Instagram where you have an audience already? While there may well be compelling reasons to get in at the massive growth phase of a platform (TikTok is a great example), the time still has to come from somewhere.

2.Using the same content across all platforms

This can be tempting, and I’ll admit to doing it myself during a lazy moment. Social media companies also make it easy to share across platforms with a single post (Facebook and Instagram are a good example) But it’s not the best strategy, since there’s likely audience overlap between platforms. Further, each platform has different content features and capabilities, and should therefore have a slightly different strategy. At the very least varying the headline, image and the body copy will potentially grab new readers, but also get the attention for a second time, of overlapping readers who might have skimmed it as having been seen before on another platform.

3. Not taking time to understand how to best utilize each platform

Each platform has different content creation capabilities. Instagram is like a Swiss Army knife, offering posts, video, live video, reels and stories. Facebook offers posts, video, live video, stories, pages and groups. Each of these delivers different capabilities at different parts of the purchase cycle. For example reels are part of content discovery and go out to those beyond your actual followers. For that reason they can be great for discovery and awareness. Stories, by contrast deliver the informal “back story” on your business or brand. They go out to your followers. Lasting only 24hrs, they are meant to be fun, entertaining, authentic and less polished. But stories can also be saved strategically to a profile to further flush out the brand story as a collection of “behind the scenes” content. Groups can be a fabulous way to nurture the relationship with a special interest area audience, and bring them further into your sales purchase cycle. Of all the social media mistakes travel agents make, this is likely the costliest to their business.

4. Not having a specific objective for content

The reality is, most businesses could likely use one platform to its full capabilities and do quite well, without the need for multiple platforms. In developing content for my travel agents course I looked at 16 possible objectives for social media content ranging from the top of the funnel with awareness, all the way through to further engagement, the sale, loyalty and advocacy. I took one sample travel agent business doing an exceptional job, and profiled their content through all of the stages of the funnel – on one single platform, Facebook. It’s the module I’m the proudest of since it’s literally the missing piece of knowledge for most agencies. Many don’t understand how different content feeds different stages of the sales process.

5. Not identifying a target audience

Knowing who you are speaking to, and what platforms they are on is the first step. Further developing a persona and profile to help select appropriate language, stories, images, and headlines is also super important. Both content creation and platform selection will be dictated by your target audience. It’s always surprising to me how limited the knowledge is in this area. Likewise the assumption is that your target audience can be found on the platform that you personally spend the most time on. While that could be true if you are indeed the target audience, this can lead to missteps. I often see this with students recommending Instagram for everything, not recognizing that other platforms might be a better fit for a client project.

6. Not paying attention to competitors

Every business should know who their primary competitors are, to know how to best position against them when communicating with the target audience. Setting aside time to study competitors online can be useful – subscribe to their newsletters, explore their websites, check out their promotions, social media content and channels they are active on. Paying attention to types of content, frequency of shares, engagement, and use of hashtags can reveal gaps and opportunities for astute travel agency marketers.

7. Inconsistency

Failure to stay consistent with social media (or any digital marketing for that matter is a huge mistake that happens all the time. Perhaps you or someone at your agency created a new platform account and no longer keep the content fresh. Or you schedule content regularly and then run out of ideas and stop. Or a platform begins to lag in engagement, so you in turn give it less love. Perhaps you just have too many social media platforms to manage, so consistency on any single one is compromised. Regular blog posts to keep content fresh for SEO on your website and regular email newsletters to stay in touch with clients go a long way. But the same also applies to consistent posting to your primary and secondary social media channels. Showing up in the feed to a regular audience not only gets your message out there, it also keeps you top of mind. A consistent brand voice and image also is important. Top of mind awareness is earned over time with consistency.

8. Being time, season or world events deaf in your content

Time appropriate content is key on social media, and particularly important for travel agents. Once you get to know your clientele, destinations sold, and planning windows, the creation of timely content becomes easy. Nothing is a bigger turn off, or waste of money if it’s a paid campaign, than promoting a tropical destination when they are being hit with monsoons, or a ski holiday in the middle of summer. Being world news astute is also important, especially for scheduled content. For example, promoting Mexico when gang warfare on a tourist beach has just made headlines, would be insensitive. Or not acknowledging the challenges of cancelled and delayed flights post pandemic would be tone deaf right now. You don’t need to dwell on these things, but you do need to come from an appropriate time and place context, sensitive to what is on traveler’s minds.

9. Thinking social media is free

Organic reach on social media IS free. And there are a lot of things that can be done organically. In fact I wouldn’t spend a dime on paid content until absolutely all avenues for expanding organic reach have been exhausted. That said, at some point you may wish to scale exposure through paid reach to a well-defined and targeted audience. Your time is also valuable. Anytime spent on social media is time taken away from somewhere else, and that could actually cost you money.

10. Thinking that being on social media is working on social media

Just because you are scrolling a feed, doesn’t mean you’re actually working on your social media and strategy. But that’s often what happens. Creating content is not the same as watching and engaging with content. We really need to be mindful of the value of time, and get off social media when not actively posting or responding.

If you enjoyed this list of top 10 social media mistakes travel agents make, and would like to take another step towards improving your own approach (especially with creative ideas and having an objective for your content), YOU WILL LOVE this additional piece of content for download: Travel Agent Social Media Post Ideas for the top, middle and bottom of the sales funnel.

It’s a 3-page PDF quick reference guide TIPS sheet, that you are free to download, print off or share! Bullet point ideas for content at the top, middle and bottom of the sales funnel will help you zero in on building out your content with a strategy behind it – to actually drive sales!

Mary Charleson

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