The fact that we are talking about travel agents and agencies does not mean this article is not applicable to other business domains. In fact the ideas espoused in this article can be applied to any e-commerce website in any domain.
In one of our earlier posts, titled ‘Significance and benefits of Online Marketing for Travel Businesses‘, we talked about the value of Facebook as a marketing channel for travel agents.
In this post we will describe how an agency can leverage the power of Facebook as a medium to increase their business and build credibility. Just having a Facebook presence or putting advertisements on Facebook alone will not get you business as people need to know that you provide a great service and are trustworthy.
Here we shall talk about ideas and techniques which will help you integrate Facebook into your business website and utilize your Facebook pages meaningfully which in turn will help you acquire new customers, increase revenue and retain existing customers.
Over the past couple of years, Facebook has grown from being just a casual social networking site to being a powerful marketing platform especially in the area of direct sales to customer segment. With close to a billion active daily users, it offers huge potential for travel agents to market their products and services to a global audience.
The most common way of getting people to visit your new site is through search engine optimization or SEO. Once an offline agency takes its business online, they cannot expect high search rankings for at least the first few months, as the search engine rankings are dominated by large OTAs with big SEO investments. In addition there is the issue of credibility and trust vis-a-vis large known brands like Expedia, Booking.com, Orbitz and Makemytrip.
The best way for an offline agency to acquire new customers and credibility has always been to motivate existing satisfied customers to share their positive experiences with their friends, simply through word-of-mouth.
The new definition of word-of-mouth is Social Media like Facebook, Twitter etc. In this post we would like to shed some light on the benefits of a Facebook-integrated website, and how your travel business can maximize gains from existing customers by rewarding them for sharing your deals and promotions on Facebook, and how doing this will eventually bring in new customers.
If you are a travel agent, chances are that you already have a business page on Facebook. If you don’t, please create one right after you finish reading this article. We also recommend you take the leap forward and get a Facebook Booking Portal (Image below) that works within Facebook as a mirror portal to your current portal, allowing you to sell flights, hotels and packages within Facebook and significantly increase your look-to-book ratio.
So, let us say your business does have a Facebook page, with a reasonable fan base. Many of those fans are likely to be your existing customers. In an age where competition in the travel industry is greater than ever, and customer loyalty pretty shaky, it’s vital for you to give your customers a strong reason to stay with you. It could be through better products, more competitive prices and superior service.
You can also retain them by rewarding them. You can publish deals on your website and your business’ Facebook page, and if your website is integrated with Facebook, your customers can easily share your products and deals with their friends on Facebook, and you can reward them for doing so. In addition you should incentivize them to allow you to publish deals once a month or two on their own wall.
The advantage of posting deals directly on customer’s walls in Facebook is that they will be seen by more people compared to your own Facebook page or website or by sharing as it reaches out to their entire friends list. By liking and sharing your deals, and allowing you to post deals, your customers will act as your brand ambassadors and bring you more customers.
One thing you should keep in mind is that deals you publish online should be deep-linked. Deep-links are hyperlinks on the web(be it your website, social media or any other site) that take the user to a specific page on your website, as opposed to your homepage. The benefit of deep-linking is that when your customers share your deals on their Facebook wall and their friends like the deal and click on it, they will be taken directly to the deal page where they can book the deal, rather than landing on the home page and searching for the deal.
A lot of businesses make the mistake of posting promotions on social media that direct users to their home page, rather than the specific page from where they can purchase the deal. When a user clicks on a package deal, they are interested primarily in that particular package and not your entire product range. They don’t want to land on your home page and then have to search for the deal that caught their eye. You can always cross-promote once they are checking out or when they get in touch with you to inquire about the deal, by offering them similar products or services or add-ons.
Whether it is your website or your Facebook page, you must let your visitors get to what they are interested in quickly and easily, rather than having to click through several pages. If a user isn’t able to quickly find what they want, they are very likely to leave your site, resulting in a high bounce rate, which in turn affects your search engine rankings.
Facebook integration also lets you accurately measure the success of your deals. You can see how many times a deal was clicked on, liked, shared and by whom. You can track who landed on your deal page and went on to buy the package or product. For every sale an additional reward can be shared with the referring customer.
The rewards can be in the form of special pricing/discounts/points. This will incentivize customers who are big on sharing and consistently bring in new business for you. So this way, you get new customers, whilst keeping your existing customers happy, without spending a dime!
There is another side benefit of Facebook integration, even if a visit does not result in a sale. When a user clicks on a promotion and lands on the deal page, their details should automatically be captured by the software being used and stored in the system as new customers with their interest. They are automatically signed onto the system using their Facebook credentials. They should also receive an introductory email, welcoming them on the site as new members, with opt-out information and a promo code for getting a discount on any product bought on the site. This should normally be in the form of a cash discount which entices the new member to buy their next travel product from your site.
Additionally, as the system captures the user’s Facebook details, you can get a deeper understanding of their preferences and behavior, which is very useful in creating targeted and more personalized marketing campaigns as well as offering better customer service. Integrating Facebook into your website is beneficial for users too, as it saves them the trouble of filling out a registration form and remembering the login details.
One should not underestimate the reach of Facebook. It is the world’s largest peer to peer connection network. Most people are connected to friends and relatives all over the world through Facebook. Thus, the marketing exercise explained above allows travel agencies to reach out to customers whom they would never have been able to connect with otherwise.
Just think about it, an adventure tour operator in the Amazon is able to get direct customers from the United States through referrals via Facebook. There is no way email and promotional material can reach out to your friends and their own friends like you can do using Facebook.
Lastly the reason why social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become so popular for marketing is that promotions through these channels cost significantly less. An interesting piece of content posted on social media can go viral within minutes, giving your business tremendous word-of-mouth publicity, at virtually no cost! Moreover, it’s much easier to track the success and ROI of marketing campaigns carried out through an online channel like Facebook.
Having a Facebook integrated website can do wonders for your travel business. It drives user engagement, gives you instant credibility and makes your website truly social.
TravelCarma powered portals come pre-integrated with Facebook, allowing your business to maximize its potential. To find out how you turn your website into a fully social online travel buying experience, contact us today on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us on http://www.travelcarma.com. You can also get a free trial of our portals on http://www.travelcarma.com/online-travel-software-free-trial.htm.
For a free trial of a Facebook portal please click on this link http://goo.gl/G9hbh7 .It will take you to the travel portal running on Facebook.