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Ideahatching Digital Marketing Blog

Benchmarking ROI of Social Marketing in Travel: Part One Destination Marketing Organizations

Social Media has changed forever how consumers buy travel.  The traditional marketing mix has been turned on its head with marketing tactics moving far beyond printed travel guides, display media, traditional print, radio and television – pushing travel marketers to become transparent participators in consumer conversation, and more importantly, pushing them to account for the ROI in allocating resources to social media marketing.

Whether we are talking about a travel related service such as an airline, hotel room, or attraction, social media channels have been a game changer in both marketing, as well as in distribution, sales, public relations and CRM.

How do we measure success or specifically ROI in using channels like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to sell travel related products, services and experiences?  Specifically, how does a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO or VCB) tackle the measurement and communication of success of social media programs to stakeholders?

Before we can accurately measure the success or ROI of social media marketing tactics, it is important to take a step back and first establish the point of conversion.  It seems simple enough, but it is a step that many marketers are missing as new buzz generating digital tactics enter the picture every day.  As well, a traditional DMO or CVB may not necessarily have a transaction point, which further complicates benchmarking of the DMO role in marketing the destination.

1.    The first step is to determine which social media channels are key to the success in selling the product, service or experience.

Consumers spend time in search engines, websites, blogs, review sites, and social communities on their journey to the point of conversion.  Resources must be focused towards those social media communities where the majority of consumers are spending their time during travel research.

2.    Identify the point of end conversion.

The conversion may be a reservation or a sale, a coupon download, or an email sign up.  Each campaign, whether the tactic is social media in isolation, or in combination with other media channels, should be measured against the same key metrics for marketers to begin to see trends and properly benchmark successes.

It is almost a necessity for a Destination (DMO or CVB) to be on both Facebook and Twitter at this stage in the game.  The question then becomes what role does the DMO play in the online conversation, how does this role support the consumer buying process, and most importantly; how does the DMO communicate the value of these programs to its stakeholders?

It is important to keep in mind that the transaction point is not necessarily a booking or a sale, and therefore the key performance indicators may be tied instead to reach, share of voice in comparison to other destinations, traffic to stakeholder websites, or social media chatter or buzz related to core destination products and services – or any combination of key metrics that are important to the DMO in achieving its mandate.

3.    Determine Key Performance Indicators and metrics of campaign success.

Once the conversion point is determined in a social media campaign, and goals defined, metrics can be put in place.  Some key metrics that may be measured to benchmark the success of a DMO or VCB social marketing campaign or overall social media marketing efforts include:

  • Facebook posts, comments and likes (usins Facebook Insights or other measurement tools in combination)
  • # of Post views and Post feedback (posts to social channels like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and beyond)
  • Average interaction per post
  • Number of new fans in relation to fans prior to campaign
  • # of broadcasted messages via Twitter
  • # of RT’s (retweets)
  • # of @replies
  • Contest entries
  • Hashtag trending and reach (on Twitter)

Points of measurement that will become even more important as we go forward include; Number of App downloads and Mobile location.

App downloads will be a critical point of measurement of performance moving forward, but also mobile location as we are now able to pinpoint further the success in reaching target markets (geographically), as well as to gain metrics on how close to the sale or transaction that the DMO really is based on where an app download or location tag was used.

In most cases the DMO or VCB takes the role of influencer of a travel transaction, and when a DMO can successfully measure the impact on buying behaviour close to the point of sale, and is able to tie that back to a specific campaign on Facebook and Twitter through key performance measurables we have a #WINNING benchmark for measurement. [yes I inserted a hashtag reference #Cheesy]

4.    Determine free and paid tools available to properly measure campaign success and overall reach.

There are numerous measurement tools currently available to assist destination marketing organizations in measuring the success of social media campaign tactics.  At this time, there is no one best solution or silver bullet social media measurement tool, but putting key performance measurables in place and consistently measuring social media initiatives against goals and defined KPI’s is the way to begin.

Once KPI’s are established, there are many tools that can assist in tracking to determine success.  Social monitoring or measurement tools are available in every price range, and with varying levels of service and support.

There are however Social media monitoring and measurement tools, both free and paid, that can and should be used to assist in measuring KPI’s of social media campaigns for Destination Marketing organizations.

At the basic level, social monitoring tools such as HootSuite, and free tools like Tweetreach and Facebook Insights that can be used to measure reach and engagement at the campaign level.  Tools such as these also assist in managing campaigns allowing community managers to track buzz and topics related to their destination, and then contribute to the conversation.

Marketers should also be using GoogleAlerts to monitor content related to their brand, and measurement tools such as Google Analytics also have social and mobile tracking capabilities.

Depending on goals, more robust monitoring and measurement tools are available  There are Social measurement tools that have been developed to work specifically for tracking social activity for hotels, resorts and hotel groups; these include solutions such as Review Analyst, and Revinate to name a few.  As of yet, there are no tools that I have reviewed that specifically work for Destination marketers.

Some well known social measurment tools include; Radian6, SproutSocial, Heartbeat (a solution by Marketwire), Awareness Social Monitoring software, Ubervu social media dashboard and more.  There is no one size fits all solution for measuring social media.  The medium is still new and evolving at a rapid pace.  What we do know is that consumers want to talk about their buying experiences, they want to hear from brands, and they are buying online across multiple channels.

Next in this series on social media measurement and monitoring, I will look at benchmarking social media ROI for hotels, resorts and hotel brands.  Until then, I will set up some KPI’s to determine the reach of this Blog post.  I hope to be reporting hundreds of Retweets, Facebook likes, new Fans, Shares, Comments, Replies, Google+’s, tags and recommendations.  Maybe I will even get a high five or a woot woot!  I will keep you “posted”.

Online Revealed Canada,March 5-7 at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel presents an opportunity to participate in a limited benchmarking / measurement project for DMOs / PMOs / CVBs. Participants in this groundbreaking study will be able to benchmark Online Performance in comparison to other participating Canadian DMOs, PMOs & CVBs, as well as other US & International Destinations. Miles Media and A Couple of Chicks e-Marketing (in conjunction with TripAdvisor) will be offering the free benchmarking report to PARTICIPATING ‘Online Revealed’ DMO conference attendees.  Visit our website for details.

References used in this article include:

Slideshare presentation by Altimeter Social media marketing analytics report

Createwanderlust.com article on Social Media Integrated Campaign

Hotelmarketing.com: mixed results for travel sites on Facebook

Thank you also to our valued clients, and colleagues in this industry for always pushing us forward in ensuring we are at the head of the curve in providing ROI driven digital marketing programs.  We are looking forward to seeing you all next week at the annual Online Revealed Conference where we will once again dive into what is new and now in marketing tourism online.

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