Twitter and travel: The good, the bad and the ugly

By now you’ve probably heard of the phenomenon that is Twitter. March 21st marked 11 years since the networking platforms initial launch and in that time, the site has attracted circa 320m monthly active users, including the likes of Donald Trump, Helen Van Winkle (a.k.a. Baddie Winkle) and The Royal Family – all of whom are influential in very, very different ways.

The popular site is open to all regardless of age, social status, political views (or any other ridiculous classification that somehow still exists) and its diversity is what differentiates it from other social platforms. On Twitter, everyone is equal in 140 characters or less.

So, what do Twitter and travel agencies have in common?

Their target audience. Twitter is open to the world and it just so happens that travel is a universal thing. It enables travel agencies to connect with their mutual target audience (which consists of pretty much everyone) and this comes with some great benefits, a couple of setbacks and the occasional disaster.

The Good

First off, the basics… it’s simple to use and completely free of charge. Travel agencies can sign up, follow their desired audience and start tweeting within a matter of minutes. Features such as the profile picture and header allow agencies to incorporate their travel brands into one customised account.

The power of connecting via Twitter is astounding. In 2009, this was proven by British blogger Paul Smith through the launch of the Twitchhiker Project which saw Smith travel to New Zealand from his home in the UK with the help of Twitter users as a means of transportation. Smith spent no money at all on his trip and returned to the UK with over £5,000 for charity.

And that’s just one cool example!

Micro-blogging has been proven to reach large groups of people and influence customers to choose a brand many times before. Here’s how it works in the travel industry…

  • Dream – We all need a break to unwind from the stress in our lives, and seeing Debbie from Finance’s beach pics can spark a fire within the modern-day traveller and initiate the dream of a getaway.
  • Research – Dreamers always research.Twitters advanced search options give users access to tweets that contain specific words, phrases, hashtags, languages, accounts and more. This can be used to filter information on specific destinations, hotels or restaurants.
  • Book – More and more travellers are booking trips online. Website URL’s written in the bio send traffic to sites and increase the chance of bookings.
  • Travel – Travellers enjoy sharing photographs, videos, and on-going commentary for other users to see while the experience is taking place.
  • Share – Twitter gives users the option to “retweet” information which basically means reporting or forwarding a message and sharing it with a wider audience. This form of marketing can initiate the “dream” and cause the cycle to repeat itself.

Travel companies are coming to recognise the power of Twitter as a marketing tool and some have even started utilising it to provide direct, immediate customer service. For example, Emirates and WOW air have support accounts dedicated solely to helping customers and answering queries.

Twitter can also be a great SEO tool. In 2015, Google entered an agreement with Twitter giving it access to tweets and allowing them to be added to Google’s index. This creates more gateways from search engines to your site, thus increasing traffic and the chance of being found by potential customers.

The Bad

Inspired by Flickr tags and Internet Relay Chat (IRC), Twitter is the first social platform to adopt the idea of hyperlinking through hashtags. Today, the hashtag is used across many different platforms making it easier to locate and follow brands, promotions, events and other various information.

Sounds great, right?

Not for everyone. Hashtag campaigns can sometimes cause quite the ruckus! Qantas, one of Australia’s most popular airlines, unfortunately learnt this the hard way in 2011 when they got caught up in the backfire of a PR crisis. The featured hashtag #QantasLuxury came after a long-term disagreement between Qantas and three unions, resulting in the grounding of the entire Qantas fleet. The mistimed campaign caused quite the stir and disgruntled customers took to Twitter to publish their far-from-luxury experiences under the hashtag #QantasLuxury.

Contrary to popular belief, not all press is good press and going viral has proved that. The word itself is defined as “caused by, or related to a virus or viruses” which can’t be healthy! On Twitter, it relates to the rapid and wide spreading of information, and is often unplanned and unprepared for. It can be especially harmful if tweets are misunderstood. Businesses must have the right resources to handle an influx of demand, feedback and complaints kindled by a viral campaign.

The Ugly

Given the openness of the platform, it’s no surprise that some users are taking to Twitter to publicly bash brands. Easy Jet experienced this first hand when the handle @iHateEasyJet was created as a voice for dissatisfied travellers around the world. The creators of the account recently launched a new website by the same name and both platforms encourage unhappy customers to share bad experiences with the brand.

Twitter can be an ugly place, especially for public figures and well-known organisations, and the creation of such an account is an ugly thing to happen to any business, whether it’s deserved or not!

Do you have any Twitter stories or tips that you’d like to share? Tweet us @billianIT or join our conversation using the hashtag #tech4travel (no funny business!)