Don't underestimate the power of social media to change travel plans

More than one-third of travelers have changed their plans in general after seeing a social media post, and more than half have changed hotel plans, according to a report from Social Media Link.

NEW YORK: More than a one third (34%) of travelers have changed their plans after seeing a post on social media, according to a study by Social Media Link.

The study, conducted in May among the agency’s Smiley360 community of social consumers who try and review products and services, revealed that 52% of participants have changed hotel plans after seeing social media posts.

Out of the 26,663 respondents, nearly half (49%) said they’ve altered travel activities based on social media posts, and 42% have changed restaurant reservations. Word-of-mouth still reigns supreme, however, with 51% of participants saying that’s how they like to get ideas about where to go, stay, and eat on trips.

With travelers no longer making rigid vacation plans and being influenced by social media, Social Media Link is calling this phenomenon Fickle Traveler Syndrome.

Sue Frech, cofounder and CEO of Social Media Link, said that marketers need to focus on the long-term relationships they can build with travel consumers, rather than promoting one deal and ending the conversation.

"Marketers should realize that they can still impact that decision when it comes to travel choices up to the last minute," she explained. "They should really think about that decision the consumer makes from the time they make it to the time they’re actually on their trip because that’s impacting other people."

Not only are travelers looking at social channels to get ideas, they’re also posting on their own, with 94% saying they chronicle their vacations on Facebook with photos. Instagram comes in second place at 45%, while 25% of survey respondents said they post about their trips on Twitter.

More than 40% of travelers also post about their vacations multiple times a day, the study found.

Frech added that travel brands need to listen to consumers who are already talking about their companies on social media and then turn them into advocates. If a consumer mentions a specific airline or hotel on social, that respective brand should listen, follow, and engage with the traveler, she said.

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