Perspective | Facebook: the new go-to for holiday marketers?!

As newer media platforms emerge with the advance of technology, not only are new marketing platforms developed but also, the scope to reach to newer and younger consumers has widened. Platforms like Facebook become the new go-to for marketers across categories and sizes, from entrepreneurial to large MNC’s. Every marketer / company irrespective of these factors has and is in the process of marking their presence on this social media platform.

With their presence on Facebook, marketers are not only looking for targeting the youth but also looking at reaching a larger untapped audience. Observation states that some of the platform’s favourite advertisers include business outfits in the categories of travel, leisure and hospitality industry.

Adgully caught up with industry experts to know what brings these companies to the platform, how do they look at optimizing this space and more. For this, we spoke to Mohit Gupta, Chief Business and Marketing Officer, MakeMyTrip, Gautam Pande - Head of Digital Marketing at GoIbibo, Deepali Naair – CMO at Club Mahindra and Sushant Sreeram, VP-Marketing, HolidayIQ.com

Gupta opens by stating that, “Social Media is an important platform for marketers today. It’s not just about knowing what their audience is up to, but also about what is considered interesting and share-able (and hence, engaging) content by the social audience. At MakeMyTrip, we give heavy importance to social engagement and focus on inspiring travel in our communities. We share information about unique destinations through blogs, travel guides, trivia, contests and images. Our strategy is to promote MakeMyTrip as the go-to resource on the web when thinking of leisure travel. Through holiday campaigns like Beach Fest and Retail Carnival, we ensure that the right travel ideas are reaching our audience at the optimum time (during their decision and planning phase). We have also worked with youth blog sites like ScoopWhoop to expand our reach and engagement. Recently, we showcased our CSR and community-volunteering initiatives on our Social Media pages. Our monthly brand mentions and sentiment have improved steadily due to these initiatives with a 45% increase in brand-mentions in the last 6 months alone.”

Naair points that an important aspect of Facebook and travel is that customers share their travel experience on Facebook far more than they seek information on deals. “It is our educated guess that holidays and travel, pictures and posts are among the most shared on social media, especially Facebook.  In fact, social sharing of vacation updates –pre, during & post is an important part of the vacation experience. Therefore, there is an opportunity for any holiday brand to create engagement, do acquisition and receive feedback from its customers on Facebook”, she added.

Pande mentions that as the internet has emerged as a most effective medium for flow of information, they follow a two way communication mode like platforms like Facebook, Twitter etc where users are kept abreast of all developments at Goibibo and also where their suggestion and feedbacks to further enhance consumer engagement and services are taken. “Such engagements make a positive difference in building brands and also effectively facilitate exchange of information and feedback”, he said.

Not essentially an advertiser, Sreeram holds a different opinion. He says, “The nature of brand building is moving away from a unified entity to sub universes which is the online space. There are marketing initiatives that we take, which centre around the holiday planning of our target audience when they’re much closer to planning their holidays”. Analyzing an average Indian, he says, “A marketer has to keep two things in mind; one the consumer is acting and looking for a holiday and secondly when the person is actually looking forward to go on an actual holiday.”

While all of them agree that advertising on Facebook is important, sharing on how this kind of advertising is managed by each one, Gupta said, “Our performance marketing campaigns on Facebook can be broadly divided into a couple of pools: Prospecting and retargeting. For prospecting, we look at audience insights from Facebook to understand interests of our base, performance history for various segments tested via existing campaigns, and take up landing page optimization initiatives. We experiment with various offers customized to the segment being targeted to get the best out of our campaigns. Lookalike audiences also work really well for reaching out to audience similar to the one who engage with us. Under retargeting, we do real time retargeting for dropouts via FBX(Facebook exchange) / Website custom audiences along with cross sell propositions (like showing hotel offers to flight bookers). We also actively look at various CRM initiatives via Facebook Custom audience feature in terms of targeting people who have engaged with us in the past. Across both categories, we try different creative, offers, and landing pages to get the best out of this medium.”

Naair has a three point agenda for their Facebook advertising plans. Explaining them she said, “Firstly, we have a base of 1.2 mn fans and we engage with them on a daily basis with new and innovative content. We are trying to create our new Visual Grammar which is in close context to our brand identity. Secondly, we use Facebook ads for our acquisition efforts. And lastly, we listen actively on Facebook to any mention of our brand and our effort is to respond within an hour.

While Pande said, “We regularly post new travel packages, trends and vacation planning ideas to help patrons fly to their favourite destinations within the budget and plan a desired holiday well. By making good use of Facebook marketing techniques, we engage customers in several interesting campaigns and contests from time to time.”

Sreeram mentions that thought they do not advertise on Facebook, however, they do use the space to do a lot of engagement activities with their fans. “We are constantly engaging with on Facebook and Twitter with our audience. Not with the intention of advertising on the platform, but with the intention of making them feel to go on a holiday destination by our constant updates of different updates on our Facebook page and Twitter account”, he added.

Speaking about the effectiveness of the platform they use, Gupta says, “Social media platforms especially Facebook is now one of the key channels for marketing today. For a performance marketer, the beauty of this medium is the granularity of targeting capabilities that is at your disposal - be it Demographics, interests/intent, workplace, education, and devices/browsers being used. Also, Facebook has really opened up a number of new opportunities with products like lookalike audiences, custom audiences, FBX etc.”

Confident about the effectiveness the medium offers, Naair said, “We think that we are very successful in getting customer insights and receiving feedback from members. However, the new algorithm on Facebook has limited our opportunity for doing community building on Facebook and we are looking at newer avenues for community building and creating opportunities for user generated content outside of Facebook.”

Commenting on the same Pande said, “Yes, we are using our social platforms effectively as we involve our customers in various offers/contests we run on regular basis. In order to become successful in Facebook marketing, we promote our products and services trying to attain maximum visibility out of it. We are not just looking to earn the loyalty of our existing patrons here, but are also looking to reach out to potential customers and intend to offer them complete travel solutions. Also, since Facebook has a very large mobile user base it also adds to our ever growing mobile app downloads.”

We have seen the  marketer’s perspective on what they think about Facebook as a platform. Adgully thought that an agency perspective should also be taken, so MindShift’s CEO, Zafar Rais had something to add. He says, “It is evident that the advertising spends on the digital platform has been rising each financial year. According to their data there has been a 30% rise in the last three years which states that brands have been targeting their consumers through social media, Facebook being the prime platform.” While he also says that, “Facebook has gained the largest reach and engagement in India, following which is Twitter. Indeed being an agency they also do make the best use of this platform for their clients and eventually as a marketer one has to have an integrated 360 degree marketing campaign,” concludes Rais.

Conclusively, Facebook has shared  with us some points , for Holiday marketers to increase holiday sales in 2014:

• Plan ahead: Organize Facebook campaigns around popular holidays to make ads more timely and engaging. Choose holidays that are most relevant to your business, and schedule ads in advance.
• Use link ads: Take people from your ads to your site in just one simple click with link ads. Linkads featuring large, clickable images, text and call-to-action buttons seamlessly direct people from their mobile devices or desktops to any page on your site. Tips on how to use link ads can be found here.
• Improve your creative: Create eye-catching, holiday-themed posts. Include bright images, clear and concise language, and smooth transitions to your site.  
• Target your ads: Facebook provides you with tools to help you target and reach the right customers – new and existing - at the right time. Target your ads based on age, gender, location, interest’s behaviour’s and more. Test different content, images and promotions for separate audiences to see what works. Learn about basic targeting options available here.
• Know whats working, change what isn’t is: Take advantage of Facebook’s Ads Manager to monitor and track the success of your ads performance. Ad Manager allows you to optimize your budget, test your strategy and measure your ROI. By Archit Ambekar | Twitter: @aambarchit

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