The latest report from ShareThis suggests that consumer brands should be taking more account in their marketing strategies of the social network behaviour of travellers and tourists.

Marketers should be tapping into traveller interactions on social networks

In most major cities the search volume for ‘Hotels in [city]’ on Google has declined by over 70% in just the last 6 years, an infographic dating from 2012 reveals.  By contrast, nowadays travel has become the number one sharing topic on the social networks, boasting 40% more interactions than other subject, according to the latest report from ShareThis, a Palo Alto-based company that provides a tool which enables people to share any content on the web with friends through e-mail, AIM or text message. In fact travel now seems to be the top driver for social interaction. ShareThis analysed the behaviour of close to 52 million connected tourists through their 1.9 billion Internet interactions between June and September 2014. The findings show that whether people are in the process of planning a trip or actually travelling at the time, they are more likely to ‘share’ where they are going and what they are doing than when they are at home. These findings may seem hardly surprising as much has already been written about the importance of social networks in the tourist industry. Nevertheless, the report does highlight some noteworthy aspects. Apparently connected travellers exhibit behaviour that is both highly serious and extremely compartmentalised in terms of channels and digital devices used

Logistics and budgets top the list of conversations

The ShareThis report goes a long way towards countering the standard image of the Instagram photo of a tourist with his/her toes in the sand. Apparently most of the content shared online on travel topics is all about the logistics of the trip, i.e. how to get from one place to another. Travellers’ main use of social media relates to travel budgets, which top the list with over 2.6 million shares. Holiday photo shares rank much lower in priority, as do honeymoon pictures, which only generated 180,000 ‘shares’ during the period examined. From these statistics, the online sharing specialist draws the conclusion that marketing professionals in the travel sector should be adapting their strategy and messages so as focus on the issue that is creating the most engagement – i.e. logistics.  However, this strategy is not without its potential dangers if we take seriously a report from Scandinavia two years ago, which indicated that the travellers surveyed were generally highly sceptical about tourist information to be found on social channels such as Twitter.

Strong segmentation between PCs and mobile devices

The ShareThis study also found that, in addition to heightened sharing and engagement when planning a trip, Internet users have quite rigidly compartmentalised habits. One aspect of this is the device used: some 60% use their desktop/laptop computers for browsing and searching while planning their trips, but people generally prefer to use a mobile device, especially a smartphone, when sharing their own experiences. The same phenomenon is observed with regard to the platforms they choose to use. Facebook and Twitter are clearly the dominant media in the world of sharing, but many users click back on content shared through Blogger, Tumblr and Pinterest when researching and planning trips. ShareThis argues that marketers ought to be diversifying the channels they use to highlight their products and services accordingly.  Moreover, stress the report’s authors, given the strong social engagement that travellers’ posts seem to generate, it is not only the tourism sector that can benefit; marketers in many different consumer fields should find ways to tap into this potential.


By Guillaume Scifo