Female tourist standing in front of Eiffel tower

Doing it for the ‘Gram: Instagram’s impact on travel and hospitality CX

Customer Service ChannelsTravel and Hospitality

When making travel decisions, consumers typically consider price, availability and amenities. But there’s a new and growing factor influencing people’s choice of locale: The vacation photos they’ll soon be posting online.

Numerous studies have found that social media has a significant impact on people’s choice of destination, particularly among Millennials. One survey conducted by U.K.-based holiday rental-home insurance provider Schofields found that 40 percent of consumers aged 18 to 33 consider how “Instagrammable” their vacations will be when determining their next trip.

It’s clear this platform has gone from being just another social network to a highly influential content-discovery destination. This, in turn, is changing the way companies use Instagram. From generating sales, to offering customer service support, travel and hospitality brands are prioritizing this social channel in their customer experience strategies — and are uncovering great value in the process.

Think of Instagram as a sales channel

Over the past few years, investment in Instagram have increased dramatically. According to eMarketer, close to 70 percentof U.S. marketers used the app for marketing purposes in 2018.

That’s partly because corporate stakeholders are beginning to realize the extent to which this strategy can influence their revenue. For example, in 2018 Instagram introduced the ability to book a hotel room in-app via new action buttons. As the platform transitions from a discovery tool to a transaction-based platform, travel companies will be able to use Instagram content not only to boost brand awareness and affinity, but to generate sales as well.

“Traditionally, Instagram has not been a sales channel but more of a marketing and brand awareness channel,” says Adam Rivietz, co-founder and chief strategy officer at content creator platform #paid. “Now people are trying to test the lower-funnel metrics to prove out ROI,” he adds, referencing the conversion funnel metaphor that marketers use to track the various stages of the customer journey. “Moving to sales is what businesses demand.”

At the same time, focusing on delivering quality content is a must. “A lot of people have started to use Instagram as a source of inspiration to make decisions on which countries to visit, which bars to drink at and which restaurants to eat in,” says Philip Brown, consulting services director at influencer-management platform Traackr. “Because of this, brands can benefit greatly from making their Instagram environment a place where customers can find relevant information, and work with social influencers to contribute to showcasing their customer experience.”

Brown recommends that companies use live content and Instagram Stories to promote Instagram’s in-app purchasing tool. These marketing formats can help businesses inform and educate their followers about the travel booking options available to them.

Focus on customer service

Aside from using Instagram to boost their sales, brands are also exploring the tool’s potential as a social media customer care channel. As recent TELUS International research shows, 24 percent of Americans regularly provide feedback via social media to companies they buy products or services from.

Rivietz is seeing this trend develop among his Fortune 1000 clients. Many companies are using creators — also known as social influencers — to promote their products and services, but strict brand guidelines prevent influencers from responding to many of the customer questions that crop up on the site. As a workaround, brand community managers keep an eye on social influencer campaigns and jump into the conversation when product-related questions arise.

Another emerging trend involves using influencers to show off customer service offerings. As Rivietz explains, influencers can be used to promote a customer service app or online chatbot when a travel company needs to reduce call volume in its contact center. “Get creators who are already customers of your company to tell stories about problems they’ve had and how they’ve gotten help through an app or website,” he says. “This way you can encourage your followers to spread your brand message and the benefits of your customer service by saying, ‘Here’s how our customers are using us, and you should too.'”

Rivietz adds: “The biggest thing creators do is legitimize brands,” — and companies can leverage that credibility and rapport with consumers to highlight and build excitement around their excellent customer service. In the travel and hospitality space, this might even involve capturing an influencer as they converse with a hotel concierge.

Prioritize content moderation

Not only do social media platforms, such as Instagram, present opportunities to build trust and increase brand affinity, they also impact the overall customer experience. Regardless of whether your objective is to increase sales or offer customer service, content moderation needs to be a priority in your social media strategy.

By monitoring Instagram for offensive, illegal or inappropriate content featuring your brand name or within the comments left on your posts, you can preserve your brand integrity and increase the odds that consumers will choose your travel service. “Content moderation is absolutely important — especially with the recent backlash and scandals involving influencers and comments that have been made in the past,” Brown says. “It’s important to find a middle ground between authenticity that comes from a genuine position and moderation to make sure that content is deemed appropriate and on brand.”

Working with a skilled team of content moderators who are devoted to creating a better customer experience can help to safeguard your brand. These experts possess a deep understanding of the social media environment and know how to evaluate and respond to negative posts in relation to your company’s unique moderation policy.

Instagram may have gotten its start as a branding tool, but as the platform evolves and consumers become more attached to this popular social app, travel and hospitality companies are discovering its value extends beyond marketing. Facilitating direct in-app sales and using Instagram to improve your customer service is something both consumers and your stakeholders can get behind.

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