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How travel brands can use content marketing to stand out

From Marriott’s Travel Brilliantly and Four Seasons Magazine to AirBnB’s City Guides and Virgin America’s Flyer Feed, leading travel brands are turning to content marketing to differentiate and drive business results. They know that content influences purchase decisions, especially in the travel industry where the sales funnel is extremely long.

According to Google, travellers visit 22 different sites over 9.5 sessions before deciding on a booking. A similar phenomenon is observed by MSN Travel, whose research shows that 68 per cent of travellers embarking on a 4-hour trip spend 42 hours pouring over travel-related content online before their trip.

Clearly, content has become indispensable for travel brands across the globe, and here are five ways travel brands can create dynamic content to stand out from the crowd:

The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing
The days of disruptive banners and interruptive marketing are long gone. Hard selling and outright self-promotion are surefire ways to turn your consumer off. Rather than scream, “Our hotel is the best!” tell destination-specific stories and show off the neighbourhood around your hotel instead — its people, culture, dining and retail options, and fun activities. So don’t just write with your brand in mind; make the consumer the heart of your content.

User-generated content is priceless
Although consumer trust in brands has been steadily declining over the past two decades, the good news is recommendations from friends remain the most credible form of advertising among consumers. Over 80 per cent of travellers reading at least 6 to 12 reviews on TripAdvisor before making their decision and most millennials post on social networks while travelling to share their experiences. It is little wonder that leading travel brands are letting user-generated content speak for them.

By frequently responding to reviews and holding social media contests, brands encourage and inspire user-generated content. Tourism Queensland’s award-winning viral competition, The Best Job in the World, which promoted the Great Barrier Reef, showed the world the collective power of user-generated content.

Know your audience
Travel brands leading in content marketing listen to their audience, find out what they want, and give it to them. They know exactly what kind of content their readers enjoy, what questions they are asking and what platforms they seek information from, and optimise their content to better engage their target audience.

Finding out when their audience is online and when they consume travel content is also key to successful conversion. A recent study by Outbrain indicates that consumption of travel content on mobile peaks at 7 am and 11 pm across the millions of recommendations made daily on Outbrain’s network of publishers, so plan your content calendars accordingly. Furthermore, as Asia becomes increasingly wired, optimising your content for mobile is no longer a bonus but a necessity, especially if you’re targeting millennials.

Put in the hours, publish consistently
Content marketing is a patient game especially in the travel industry. Conversions don’t usually happen overnight, and they’re not the only metric to measure success, so don’t rush it. Put in the hours, and capture and sustain consumer interest first. Building strong relationships with your consumers will set the foundation for repeated traffic.

Retaining consumers is just as important as attracting new ones. Simply pushing out content sporadically might momentarily catch existing consumers’ attention, but not sustain it. Rather than generate one-off pieces of content, successful brands continuously engage consumers with consistent content. Nevertheless, keep in mind that quantity isn’t everything, and sometimes, one solid piece of long-form beats a handful of hastily put together short blog posts.

Presentation is everything
In this digital atmosphere saturated with content, brands are competing for attention, and only the most outstanding, creative and novel content can cut through the noise. Leading travel content marketers know that the same content can be conveyed in a million different ways, and find the best ways to present that content.

From videos and gifs to infographics and lists, content presentation can go a long way to increasing hits and conversation rates. Find out what appeals to your audience, and use it to create easily-digestible, sharable stories. Bullet-point lists on BuzzFeed, for instance, could average over 20,000 shares a month, with articles such as this post on The Netherlands earning more than two million views.

Content marketing in the travel industry is on the rise, and it is not too late to jump on the bandwagon. If you want to break through the noise, start creating dynamic and compelling content, provide your consumers with value and inspiration, and they’ll keep coming back for more.

Isabella Barbato

Isabella Barbato is the Regional Marketing Manager for Outbrain, Asia Pacific.