There are people who want to hire you and pay you for your services. You just have to find them.
That’s where social media comes in.
Social media allows you to reach potential clients before they’re even on your radar. With the right strategy and content, your business can be discovered by thousands or tens of thousands of potential customers.
It allows you to show up where your audience is already spending their time. According to the Pew Research Center, over 70% of Americans use social media. That’s a lot of potential clients!
A word of caution - social media can be the shiny object that travel advisors chase looking for clients. Keep in mind that social media is one way to make people aware of your brand and convert prospects into customers. It’s not the only way.
One of the best parts of social media is that you can use it to funnel people to your email list. Since email marketing gets the largest return on investment of any marketing channel, using your social media to grow your email list can be incredibly valuable for your agency.
The problem with social media is that it’s a huge arena. It’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to figure out what platforms you should be on, what to post, and how to engage with potential clients.
Let’s break it down.
In order to find success, regardless of which social media platforms you choose to be on, you need to make sure your posts and profiles meet the following criteria.
1) Make it appealing
Your posts, especially on “visual first” platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, need to be visually appealing. Social media is where people go to dream, so make sure your images are dream-worthy.
Text and captions on your posts should be informative, entertaining, and shareable. Your audience should want to engage with it.
While some selling on social media is ok, this isn’t the place to be constantly asking people to book a consultation or use you to plan their next trip. It doesn’t take many posts like that for people to stop paying attention, and once that happens it’s hard to reconnect with them.
Constant selling on social media is like asking someone to marry you on the first date. They decided to follow you (the first date), and your response was “buy from me!” (the proposal).
Instead of jumping straight from the date to the proposal, offer them something of value (a second date) in exchange for their email address. That “something” could be a free guide, sample itinerary, or anything else that would be of value to your ideal client.
Once they’re on your email list, send them a series of emails that introduces them to what you do and the value you provide. The sales pitch doesn’t come until the end of the email series, when you ask them to book a call or consultation if they’re ready.
If they’re not ready at that point that’s ok. They’re on your email list and following you on social media, so when they are ready you’re already connected.
Your goal with social media should be to draw people in and build the all-important “know, like, trust” factor. It’s not to push your services on them.
The occasional post with something like “It’s January, this is the best time to book a summer trip to make sure the resort you want is available” is fine, but it should be a small number of your overall posts. Aim for no more than 10-15% of your posts to be a sales push.
2) Have a complete profile
Make sure your profile is complete, with all of your contact information and your website easy to find.
When people want to contact you it should be simple. Don’t leave them wondering how to get in touch with you or having to do a google search for your website, email or phone number.
If your profile includes an “email@example.com” email address, it’s time to change it. Purchase a domain name if you don’t already have one, and set up an email address of “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
A professional email address with your domain is part of what shows you’re a professional travel advisor who can be trusted with one of your client’s most valuable assets, their vacation time.
If you don’t have a website, consider setting up a simple landing page that you can link to from your social media profiles. Services like ConvertKit are easy to use, with premade templates that you can customize to serve as your website until you build something more robust.
3) Create original content
Your content should be unique to you. Use your own photos, videos and graphics as much as possible, and write your own captions.
It’s ok to use writing prompts for captions and templates for graphics, but don’t purchase pre-written captions or graphics and drop them in your social media. There are services available that provide them, but especially on Instagram you don’t want the same content as a bunch of other advisors.
With how the algorithm works, people who are looking at your account are also shown posts from other similar accounts. A potential customer only has to see the same graphic or caption posted by another advisor once to realize your content isn’t really yours.
They’ll disengage with you, and you’ve lost the opportunity to convert that prospect into a client.
4) Tailor content to your ideal client
Your graphics and captions, as well as the overall look and feel of your accounts, should be tailored to appeal to your ideal client.
If you specialize in selling ghost tours (yes, that is a niche), your account shouldn’t be full of bright, sunny beaches and peppy captions. You want it to match what you specialize in, with a moody, darker vibe.
On the other hand, if your niche is destination wedding travel, you want light, bright photos and positive, dream inducing captions.
5) Be consistent
Being consistent with both your posting frequency and the look and feel of your accounts is important when it comes to attracting potential clients to your social media channels.
If you struggle to post regularly, consider a scheduler like Later. You can batch create your content and have it post on a pre-planned schedule.
Consistent, frequent posting also increases your reach and engagement. I’ve posted daily on my travel agency Instagram account (@girasoletravel) for quite a while, and my reach and engagement has always been quite good.
At the beginning of January I increased my posting frequency from once a day to twice a day. Check out the graph below from my Instagram analytics. The reach and engagement rates for my posts went through the roof!
Keep in mind that the 18,300 accounts I’ve reached in the past 30 days also include several days around the holidays that I wasn’t on Instagram at all. Reach and engagement rates were much lower than normal on those days.
My expectation is that by the end of January I’ll reach 30-45k accounts, and my engagement rate by reach right now is averaging 11%. That’s very high for an account of my size, with just under 3k followers.
6) Be authentic
What does it mean to be authentic on social media? It means to be yourself, while at the same time not being unprofessional. Keep in mind that you are running a business, but you want to share your personality.
Your captions should be in your voice, the way you would say something if you were talking to a friend, or even better, your ideal client, in person.
I find a good way to make sure my captions are authentic is to read them out loud. I think about things like “If I were saying this would I say ‘it is’ or ‘it’s’? If it sounds stilted when it comes out of my mouth I rewrite it.
I’m sure I’ve provided entertainment to people when I’m working in coffee shops and reading my posts or blogs quietly out loud. I promise, I’m not talking to myself!
Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s talk about the various social media platforms that are available.
First, a tip.
If you haven’t already, open business accounts on all the platforms below and grab your business' username. The last thing you want is to decide to start using a new platform, just to realize your business name isn’t available.
It’s easy to see a list like this and think you need to be on all the social media channels.
That’s not the case, and unless you have a social media and marketing team, there’s no way you can do your work as a travel advisor and be on all the platforms at the same time.
So be smart about which channels you’re on.
Start with knowing who your ideal client is, and where they’re most likely to spend their time.
Then think about what channels you’d like to be on. If you only have time to be active on either Instagram or Facebook, but you love taking photos and really don’t care much for Facebook, don’t be active on Facebook.
Set up a Facebook business page, and pin a post to the top that lets people know they can find you on Instagram. Then spend your valuable social media time building a great Instagram profile.
If you love Pinterest and your ideal client is there, be on Pinterest.
If you sell corporate travel, or your ideal client is a professional who is likely to be on LinkedIn, build an audience there.
Now, lets talk about the various platforms.
By far the largest traditional social media platform, Facebook has 2.89 billion active monthly users. That’s over a third of the entire world’s population!
That means your clients and prospects are most likely on Facebook, so you should be too. If a client searches for you on Facebook, they should be able to find a business page for your agency.
It doesn’t mean you need to be active on Facebook.You need, at a minimum, a business page with your contact information and a pinned post telling people what platform they can find you on.
One of the most valuable features of Facebook for travel advisors are groups. When it comes to finding and engaging with new potential clients, Facebook groups can be gold for a savvy advisor.
I’m in multiple travel advisor Facebook groups, and one of the complaints I see repeatedly from advisors is “people tell me to grow my business by being in Facebook groups, but I can’t figure out how. Every group I look at says no selling is allowed.”.
The point of joining Facebook groups isn’t to sell. It’s to be a resource and provide valuable information for free.
For example, if you specialize in Italy, you’ll find that there are many Italy travel public Facebook groups. Join a few of them that have a lot of activity, with people asking questions, posting ideas, etc.
When someone asks a question about a topic that you are an expert in, answer it. Don’t say you’re a travel advisor, and don’t try to sell anything. Definitely don’t say “send me a message for more information.”
Instead, provide valuable information with no strings attached. The more active you are and the more valuable your information is, the more people will notice. They’ll wonder how you know so much.
They may come right out and ask, but not necessarily. More likely they’re going to click on your name and go to your profile. If you’ve set it up well (back to that idea of complete profiles that we covered earlier) they’ll see that you’re a travel agent, travel advisor, travel consultant, owner, etc. of XYZ Travel.
That leads them to your social media or website, and then to your contact form, and potentially to becoming a client.
It’s not usually a fast way to grow your business, although I have had clients book trips with me off of one recommendation I made in a Facebook group. But over time it can pay off.
You’re an expert in your field, and the more you share that expertise without constantly selling, the more people will start to view you as a true expert. Then, when they’re ready to book a trip, they’ll reach out.
Facebook is also a great platform for advertising. I’ll be going in-depth on Facebook advertising for travel advisors in a future post. If you’d like to receive that post as soon as it’s available, sign up here to get my weekly emails.
If you can only be on one social media platform, it should be Instagram.
The one exception to this is if you already have a large, engaged following on Facebook. Don’t abandon them, you’ve worked hard to get them. But you can cross-post the same information on both platforms, remaining engaged on Facebook while also growing your Instagram following.
I recommend Instagram for several reasons.
The main reason is the highly visual nature of Instagram. There is a unique connection between travel and beautiful imagery, and Instagram is first and foremost a visual site.
While Facebook has slightly more users, Instagram’s two billion monthly users are nothing to sneeze at. Instagram also has a younger demographic than Facebook, with 71% of 18-29 year olds using the site.
You may think that your ideal client isn’t in the 18-29 age range, and especially if you sell high-end travel you’re probably right. However this age range still has a lot of purchasing power.
A 2022 YouGov report shows that 40% of Gen Z, and a similar number of Millennials, choose a vacation destination based on what they see on social media. Social media outranks even the recommendations of friends and family members for this age group.
These young consumers are your future potential clients. Not only that, their parents are your current potential clients. Connecting with Millennials and Gen Z will be vital to the continued success of your business.
If they’re not already, they will be the majority of travelers for the next 20-30 years. They also have a lot of influence when it comes to multi-generational travel. If you book a lot of family trips that span multiple generations, effectively reaching a college student may be all it takes to book a large family trip for a new client.
The advantage of Pinterest over either Instagram or Facebook is the ability to pin posts. This allows you to create your own dream board of what you’d like your next trip to look like.
As an advisor you can have clients share a board with you if they’ve created one, allowing you to see exactly what they’re looking for in their next trip.
Pinterest isn’t a traditional social networking site since users don’t interact with each other. Instead, it’s a visual search engine, where users can find ideas, photos, and infographics.
The benefit of Pinterest is that, not only can you build brand awareness by creating beautiful photos and graphics for people to pin, you can also drive traffic to your website. You can promote blog posts, itinerary ideas, and anything else you can think of that would naturally tie to a strong image.
One thing is even more true on Pinterest than on other sites: you are marketing to an aspirational identity.
You need to share photos of things that people dream about seeing, doing, experiencing, or feeling. The photos that generate a quick like on Facebook or Instagram need to really move someone in order to earn a pin on Pinterest.
LinkedIn often gets overlooked when it comes to social media sites that travel advisors should consider, unless you’re a corporate agent.
But that’s a mistake.
If your ideal client is a college educated professional who makes $75k or more per year, they are more likely than not to be on LinkedIn.
Since most of the content on LinkedIn is business or career related, it’s an opportunity for a travel advisor to stand out from the crowd by popping into users feeds with travel inspiration. It’s also an excellent place to repurpose your blog content as a LinkedIn article, creating wider brand awareness.
LinkedIn Groups can also be valuable for connecting with others in the travel industry, from other advisors to hotel managers, BDMs, and tour operators.
YouTube is both a social media platform and a search engine, which is why Google purchased it. It’s also the most adopted platform on this list, with 81% of US adults saying they use it.
Travelers use YouTube to directly search for travel content, and high ranking YouTube content also shows up at the top of Google search pages.
While that hotel walkthrough you filmed on your last fam trip may not be visually appealing enough to stop an Instagram scroll, it may work perfectly on YouTube. Whether you’re in front of the camera or behind it doing a voiceover, travel content does well on the site.
Keep in mind that YouTube content is horizontal, not vertical. If you’re filming content for a YouTube channel you’ll want to plan accordingly.
However, YouTube has the new YouTube Shorts feature, which allows vertical video up to 60-seconds long. Videos can be uploaded to YouTube Shorts, or created directly in their app while you’re on-the-go.
Due to the large amount of content on YouTube, it can be difficult to gain traction. However, if you already have a dedicated base of followers who read your blog posts or engage on other social media platforms, directing them to YouTube for additional content is a natural way to start building a following on YouTube.
TikTok is for short-form video, and videos have to be less than 10 minutes long. You can use photos if you make them into a video first, but it’s primarily for native video content.
TikTok leans very heavily on trends, and trending video has the potential to reach thousands or millions of viewers.
Another benefit of TikTok is the ability to use a virtual green screen. That means you can film a video of yourself over another video in the background. This can work really well for destination and resort videos, allowing you to be on screen while also showing off beautiful places that your clients can visit.
While it gets a lot of buzz, TikTok is only used by about 21% of US adults. Of those users, nearly half are in the 18-29 age range.
If you struggle to create video content for Instagram or YouTube, don’t add the stress of thinking you need to be on TikTok. But keep in mind that you can reuse the same video content across multiple platforms.
Just make sure if you post a TikTok video on Instagram that it doesn’t contain the TikTok branding. If it does, the Instagram algorithm will deprioritize your content and decrease your organic reach.
If you like to share short, timely pieces of information and content, Twitter may be a good option for you. It’s also a great place to stay up-to-date on industry news by following travel industry resources and publications.
If you only post occasionally, Twitter isn’t the place to spend your time. It takes a lot of tweets and frequent interaction to build any type of engaged audience, and most travel advisors won’t see much return from their investment.
The Bottom Line
While social media can seem overwhelming at first, once you break it down it all makes a lot of sense.
It’s simply one more way to connect with the people you want to serve, and as long as you focus on them, you’ll find them.
Are you ready to attract more of the clients you want to work with so you can run a profitable, successful travel business? If so you’re in the right place. Start by getting your free, personalized travel marketing roadmap.