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Social Media for Tourism: 2023’s Top Trends You Should Know

As many businesses in the travel and tourism industry re-emerge from the pandemic with leaner budgets, they’re searching for marketing solutions to strike a balance between of-the-moment innovation and cost-effectiveness. Attempting to do more with less, a proven strategy that has gained even more traction post-pandemic, continues to be connecting with consumers on social media. Travelers have been searching for inspiration to plan their next “splurge trip” since 2020. 

Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok continue to lead the way for destination marketing, and it’s easy to see why: the content is visually appealing, highly engaging, easy to consume, and short-form. Beyond the basics, tourism organizations also utilize UGC (user-generated content) to showcase real live people experiencing the destination, which ultimately helps scrolling travelers imagine what it could be like for them to visit. 

A recent study found that about 52% of travelers decided to visit a specific destination after seeing its image/video from friends, family, or peers on social media. Furthermore, a whopping 87% of millennials said they specifically use social media for their travel inspiration.

Moving into 2023, we’ll see a few trends take the top spot for reaching the most travelers in the most impactful way when it comes to visual storytelling to promote destinations through social media marketing.

Authenticity > Anything Else 

UGC for a destination on Instagram

“Authenticity” has been this year’s buzzword, with apps like BeReal built upon the concept. But your followers really do want you to lift the veil – 90 percent of social media users say authenticity is crucial when deciding which brands they like or support (up from 86 percent in 2017), and 83 percent of marketers agree. 

However, social followers and marketers still disagree on what constitutes “authentic content.” Around 61 percent of marketers believe authenticity is the most effective component of social content. Yet, the content they feel is most authentic tends to be brand-created, while consumers are 2.4 times more likely to say that user-generated content is the most authentic. This particular disconnect leads to a drop in channel engagement.

Amplifying UGC voices will be the key to 2023 for destination marketing – customers trust their peers, and destination brands can leverage user-generated content on multiple levels to strengthen brand messaging and reach. Keep a “Rolodex” of on-location nano-influencers, natives, and experts already creating visually stunning content that aligns with your various planned campaigns. If your NTO, DMO, or travel business is marketing the destination as “Instagrammable,” the UGC you post should also evoke that.

Video is King

A social media post featuring video

We’ve heard this since the app first came on the scene in 2017 – TikTok is coming for Facebook and Instagram. So much so that Meta is changing both platforms to keep up with Chinese developers. This is all to say: video content will outperform photos on most social platforms if it already hasn’t.

Immersive, engaging short-form video content has massively influenced how consumers dream about their next trip. About two-thirds of travel videos are viewed on mobile devices, as travelers reach for their phones up to a hundred times during the day. Another study concluded that while photos are still essential for sharing intimate experiences, video content is indispensable for prompting travelers to recreate the featured activity within said content. 

Ultimately nothing compels travelers towards a destination or travel business more than viewing authentic footage of the exact locale, attraction, event, accommodation, or experience. As they say, we need to see it to believe it.

A New Approach to Paid Ads

A social media ad for a destination

As stricter privacy regulations settle into the world of social media advertising as we know it, the importance of highly targeted creative will come to the forefront. In some ways, creative has been undervalued as a path to the consumer, and it’s going to come back with a vengeance in 2023. In addition to channel engagement, a robust creative strategy will also be considered a destination’s most significant driver of performance.

In 2023, investing in creative strategy will be imperative to social ad performance as algorithmic targeting continues to change. Many marketers already see the investment is worth it. Per predictions, social media advertising is set to hit $177 billion in 2022, with total spending on digital advertisements for 2023 projected to reach $681 billion (the lion’s share will go into social ads). 

Social media advertising is also reported to have better ROI when compared to traditional advertising; a survey completed by SurveyMonkey states that almost 50% of social media users will buy a product or service after seeing social ads. Recent trends suggest investing in creative that specifically conjures ephemeral or “FOMO” feelings, or promotions that only last for a limited amount of time (utilizing video content) to earn the highest interactions for your channels.

And with increasing e-commerce integrations into Facebook and Instagram continuing rollout, destinations will soon have more to sell than just trip envy – key stakeholders can package and sell what users are experiencing within your content directly on the app. Talk about never having to leave your couch.

All in all, social media marketing has seen many changes post-pandemic. Users spend more time in front of their devices, and how they interact with content changes as rapidly as the technology itself. Before you spread yourself too thin in an attempt to adapt your marketing tactics to meet each new, sparkly innovation, remember point 1: authenticity over everything else. That trend is undoubtedly here to stay.

If your destination wants to take your social media presence to the next level connect with our tourism social media experts to get started today.

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