The best social media channels for small tourism businesses, and why...

When you're a small business, every minute counts, and the last thing you want to do is spend time doing things that aren't going to give you much mileage per minute.

A notorious time-waster in your non-work life, social media can be just as much of a time-sucking black hole for your business. That is, if you let it.

While arguments exist for the benefits of every. single. channel., the reality is that small tourism businesses don't have enough time to be present on more than two social media platforms, let alone be good at more than two. Trust us when we say that there aren't enough hours in the day, even if you are willing to forego sleep. And unless you're able to hire a full-time social media manager (which also may not be the best use of your money...), you're going to have to pick your poison and set the rest aside.

Our advice? Resist the urge to be everywhere for everyone, ditch the stragglers, and stay afloat with the ones that matter: Facebook and Instagram.

Here's why:

1. Say hello to your audience

For most small tourism businesses, your audience is on one or both of these platforms.

Nearly 2 BILLION (!!!) people are on Facebook (The Verge, Feb 2017), and it remains the most popular social network with Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers, with 79% of all online adults in the US using the network (Sprout Social, Feb 2017). 

And while it's not quite on par with Facebook (yet), Instagram has more than 600 million monthly active users, and the majority of them are 18 - 29 years old (Sprout Social, Feb 2017).

Just by looking at these top-level numbers, you can be fairly certain that your existing and potential customers are on either or both Facebook and Instagram.

Heyyyyy it's your audience, here!

Heyyyyy it's your audience, here!

2. It's a hop, skip, and a jump to advertising

Facebook's advertising platform has grown a lot since its launch a few years ago, and Instagram's advertising platform has followed suit. While the metrics and reporting still leave a little wanting, the audience targeting is what's particularly attractive. 

You can get fairly granular when it comes to developing personas and targeting things like interests and competitor page likes, but if you're small and limited in terms of time and money, just keep it simple. For example, for tourism businesses looking to target inbound travellers while in destination (typically tours and activities providers and attractions), one of our preferred tactics with Facebook advertising audience targeting is to do mobile only ads targeting people travelling in your destination. 

3. They're hotbeds for trip planning

We recently waxed poetic about how Instagram's now a fantastic tool for travel planning, and it's only a matter of time before that catches on with even more travellers using the platform. The natural shift from inspiration to planning within the platform makes it a great place to be to get in front of users when they're planning their trip.

Travel planning on Instagram using the Collections feature

Travel planning on Instagram using the Collections feature

And Facebook remains a popular place for travellers to crowd-source information for upcoming trips, especially with the new 'seeking recommendations' feature for wall posts. Having a brand Facebook page and thus 'being taggable' is a way to ensure that people can easily share your business with friends and family by mentioning you in their responses for recommendations.

4. Deliver some great customer service

While Twitter tends to be the favoured platform for people to lodge complaints (and get results), there's no point in having a Twitter account if that's all you're going to use it for. That, and fewer people are on Twitter than on Instagram and Facebook, so as we said above, stick with where your audience is.

That being said, the direct messaging features on Facebook and Instagram have both evolved to a point where they are more than enough when it comes to being able to deliver great customer service on social media. Don't get caught up in the chatbot discussion (as cool as they are); that's some advanced (and expensive) stuff. Just ensure you have your DM notifications turned on so that you can respond ASAP.

5. Tell your story exactly as you want to

We really do love Instagram stories, especially for brands.

Firstly, the Snapchat-esque style of Instagram is better suited to most brands than the OG quick-story Snapchat is: the interface is easier to figure out and the audience is more suitable.

Secondly, it gives brands the ability to string photos and videos together in a story format better than regular posts do. It also affords brands the ability to really showcase their personality and have fun with emojis and overlays without worrying about the post staying on their highly-crafted profile. Brands can also use Stories to showcase special events and outings, behind-the-scenes footage, or even take followers on a tour of their property / accommodation / attraction / experience.

An Instagram story we recently did for our client, Parkbus, for their first NatureLink program outing of the summer.

6. Use that user-generated content, and use it well

We've got a more detailed post coming up about the best ways to make use of user-generated content (UGC), but for now, we'll say that UGC has become one of the best tools for travel marketers that are short on time and resources. Your customers take photos of their favourite parts of what you do (especially on Instagram), whether it's a particular view, dish, or room, demonstrating to you that the subject of their photo is a unique selling point (USP) of your business. Do your due diligence with reposting the photo (details coming soon in that other post we mentioned), but always remember to get permission to repost (express or implied) and to credit the original photographer.

So, if you've been trying to figure out which social media platforms are best for your tourism business, these are six strong reasons why Instagram and Facebook should be the two you focus on. Don't be tempted to stretch yourself too thin by signing up to other ones - we promise you, these are the only two you need, so focus on them and do them well. After all, quality > quantity, right?