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Over 30% of holiday conversations along the purchase journey are about wanting, dreaming and wishing for a holiday. Social is now as much about inspiring the holidaymaker as it is about the experience of being on vacation. 

At Immediate Future we’ve taken to Brandwatch Analytics to gather social data on how British consumers talk about our holidays. Travel conversations top 56m mentions on social media every year, covering everything from the flights to the food and this insight can assist brands in taking a more personalised approach. 

It’s important for travel companies to reach customers much earlier in the search and discovery phase, compared to brands in other sectors. This ‘initial consideration’ means tapping into those dreaming moments, with the right social content to inspire and draw attention, through to purchase and beyond.

Our data tells us the significant role social plays in the path to purchase, with 22% of customers actively evaluating their decision making process on social, and 36% shouting-out when they buy.

What’s surprising is that only 12% post on social once the holiday is bought. In fact, compared to previous research, holiday conversations have shifted away from sharing the experience to inspiration and planning.

January to May is peak ‘initial consideration’ time, with consumers moving to active evaluation around May. In short, brands need to do more than upload pictures of blue seas and golden sands to stand-out, especially during this time. You need to think about thumb-stopping moments that will make it impossible for your brand to be ignored in the feed. 

The answer lies in more authentically aligning with people’s interests, passions and emotions. The meaty stuff that sits behind the overused term of ‘personalisation’. Get it right and it’s the difference between someone liking a nice picture of a destination and booking the trip on the spot. More relevant social marketing will also inspire sharing between communities with shared interests, delivering a much higher reach. 

Pairing movement (from gifs to IGTV) with a deeper understanding of what holidaymakers talk about can provide impact and differentiation. Know your audience: when are they happy or envious? What matters most to their holiday experience? Do they holiday with friends or family, and when will they be researching their next vacation? What activities are they spending time, and money on, while away? You’re aiming for relevance, resonance and a tailored message from the start of the purchase journey. 

Tapping into specific communities on social is a way of creating deeper and longer-lasting relationships with consumers. Thanks to the likes of Airbnb and Skyscanner, loyalty in travel isn’t what it was. Creating bespoke content based around people’s passions, like cycling, can garner more loyalty than trying to appeal to all holidaymakers with a Twitter account.

Take cycling holidays, for example. Actively evaluating and researching before booking is crucial, accounting for 38% of the journey conversions. Cycling enthusiasts want to know about the bikes, the safety, the terrain, the hotels and the spas for when they’re ready to relax. It’s a holiday that needs a lot of planning, so if a brand can help them find the detail they are likely to return and share their experience with fellow enthusiasts. 

Whether targeting cyclists, couples or even campers, more detail can always be added to appeal to interests geared around the holiday. For instance, campers and caravanners talk about food. A lot. 61% of caravaners and 91% of campers talk about what and where to eat – unsurprising given how often they’re on the move. 

Families like to discuss safaris, self-catering and touring more than any other holiday conversation. And any parent will agree with this next part – the importance of packing, with 69% of parents’ conversations focusing on what to take with them. 

Every holiday is nuanced in the way your customer talks about it, and what they say on social tells brands what matters most to them. It is the insight that informs your messaging, builds the foundation of your creative on social and, ultimately, drives sales. 

If adjacent interests give brands a better foundation for personalisation, then understanding the emotions behind these interests can bring even more resonance to brand posts. 

Stress from work and daily life inspires holidaymakers – the dreaming and wishfully think about holidays. While at the point of purchase there’s little more than pure joy, the planning that goes alongside holidays can be stressful. Anything brands can do to make the journey from purchase to enjoying the holiday experience of the trip as stress free as possible, while helping deliver valuable and personalised content through recommendations, are the ones that will win.  

Katy Howell, managing director, Immediate Future

This article originally appeared in The Drum Network Travel Special. For more information on how to get involved, please contact tehmeena.latif@thedrum.com