Research from Google shows that travelers are a web-savvy bunch: 65 percent of leisure travelers and 69 percent of business travelers conduct some form of researchm online before deciding how or where to travel. And 83 percent of these travelers turn to social media as their source of inspiration.

However, the decisions they make are not always set in stone. According to a recent survey, more than one third of travelers have changed their plans after seeing a post on social media. This means that the travel industry can have an impact influencing their audience’s travel plans, right up until the last minute.

So how can airlines, hotels and tour companies leverage social media to sway travel plans? We’ve got three ideas:

  1. Tap into intent

Right now, there are thousands of social media users talking about upcoming vacations. They’re debating between locations, choosing airlines and recruiting friends to join them in their journey. And this intent to travel can be mined, analysed, and acted on.


Some travelers take to social media to express the first inclination to travel to a specific place – in this instance, it’s Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Since these individuals are still in the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey, having just become aware of a desire to travel, they would be receptive to messages containing tourism information or advanced booking deals.

Compare this to individuals who have upcoming trips already planned:


Travelers like this may have a location, but they may not have a hotel or airline selected. Reaching out to them with short-term promotions or incentives to book now would be effective.

  1. Leverage community-created content

The travel industry has a nearly unending stream of user-generated content at its fingertips, as more travelers become social-photo-journalists, documenting their travels and sharing them on the social web.

Millennials are especially fond of user-created content, with 97 percent tweeting, updating and posting about their travels while on vacation. And social media heavyweights like JetBlue have discovered the power of this user-generated content to showcase the positive experiences their guests have.

jetBlue Tweet

By sharing content posted by guests – from the window of an airplane, while on a walking tour or documenting the swan-shaped towel on their resort bed – travel companies can influence others to join in and share in those same experiences when they make their own travel plans.

  1. Encourage positive reviews

It has long been understood that word-of-mouth is among the most effective types of marketing – in fact, Nielsen’s Trust in Advertising report puts it at the top, above branded websites, newspaper articles and ads.

However, social media is shifting exactly where consumers put their trust. A new survey suggests that luxury travelers trust review sites over ratings published by organizations like AAA, and even their own family and friends.

Sites like TripAdvisor are among the top influencers of travel. And travel companies that know this can use social media to increase the number and quality of reviews, by running Twitter campaigns or Facebook ads to remind past travelers to take the time to leave their feedback.

Looking for more inspiration for using social media to influence travel plans? Take a look at the Future of Social Media and Destination Marketing infographic we created, or read more tips about how the travel industry can leverage social media.