Social media analytics: 4 ways travel companies can make connections with consumers

Science & Technology Writer

The vast majority of modern consumers are sharing their travel experiences on social media, so tracking consumers' likes, shares and retweets is important. Travel companies can delve deeper into social media analytics to gain better insights into their customers. Here are four ways brands can drive greater value before, during and after a trip:

1. Improve targeted marketing

When Crimson Hexagon analyzed Twitter mentions of Airbnb and "travel," it identified two very distinct customers of the online home rental service: younger, budget-conscious folks, and older, more affluent business travelers. With this type of data, services can conduct separate email campaigns to highlight properties that are likely appealing to each type of customer.

A brand's demographics may differ across media. In this case, it's vital to tailor communications to the individual channel. For example, tour operator The Roman Guy used social media analytics to discover that its Twitter audience engaged mostly with media outlets, businesses and bloggers, while its Facebook page reached prospective and previous customers, according to Global Traveler. The tour operator used Twitter for business-to-business communications and Facebook's organic and paid posts to get consumers excited about its offerings.

Facebook's analytics tools can segment a brand's audience by age or geographic location, according to Travel Market Report. Travel companies can change their voice and add local references or regional information accordingly. Facebook's tools also sort posts by engagement level. Businesses can use the results to determine the best times to add new page content.

2. Identify new business opportunities of social media conversations can help travel providers identify new markets and growth opportunities. Between August 2014 and March 2015, Crimson Hexagon found an increasing number of conversations about low-cost airlines. While such carriers are very popular in Europe, they have not yet built a significant presence in the U.S. However, 54 percent of tweets related to budget airlines in North America were from people aged 18 to 34, and 53 percent of those were from females. This could mean that a low-cost airline looking to launch service in the U.S. could start by targeting younger females with relevant advertisements or a social media campaign that engages this demographic in conversations.

3. Uncover areas for improvement

For lodging providers, guest reviews are by far the most important driver of bookings, according to TrustYou. Moreover, an increase in the quality of reviews is directly tied to the ability of a hotel to increase prices, a Cornell University School of Hotel Administration study found. Social media analytics tools can offer insights beyond the star rating.

Some vendors conduct sentiment analysis on reviews and social media posts to reveal what guests thought of their stay. Hotels can identify key words and phrases that are associated with positive and negative sentiments, such as descriptions of room lighting and odor.

According to Hospitality Technology, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts uses data mining to look at guests' comments about operational areas such as housekeeping or the front desk. Wyndham can use this information to identify improvements likely to have the greatest impact on guest satisfaction. Properties can also measure changes in sentiment following renovations to determine how well the investment paid off, according Hotel Business Review.

4. Tying social to conversion

While social media analytics can help travel providers better connect with current and potential customers, the real magic happens when you tie data back into other analytics platforms. Caesar's Entertainment, operator of 50 casinos globally, merges data across social media and business units, according to Direct Marketing News. Because consumers might browse several of Caesar's brands through more than one channel before booking, the interconnected data system lets the company attribute a percentage of the value from a customer conversion to social media, even if the ultimate conversion happens via another channel.

There are more opportunities in social media than just reading and responding to guests' posts. Follow these steps to understand your customers and connect with analytics professionals on our IBM Travel Industry Solutions Page.