Social media. It’s all about sharing experiences.

So this very popular form of communication is an essential part of travel marketing.

Few people will book a holiday without checking online to discover what others think, or to view images of a place. But while Facebook and Twitter are valuable tools of the tourism trade, don’t discount the other kids on the social block.

Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, all have one very important thing in common. They offer a feast for the eyes. Imagery is a critical part of the travel decision-making process, so sites specialising in photos and video are marketing gold.

Pinterest

Imagine Facebook with only pictures and you’ve got an idea what Pinterest is all about. It’s like a sea of moodboards on a variety of themes. Pictures can be pinned from other websites or uploaded from the user’s computer. Each picture can have a brief description including keywords, making it easier to find in searches. Pins are organised by a single topic like ‘Places I’d Like to Visit’. By following other users’ boards, recent pins from these boards will appear. You can then browse through the pictures pinned by the people you follow and ‘repin’ pictures you like to your own boards, ‘like’ them or ‘comment’ on them. 

As on Twitter you can follow someone without them having to follow you.

Most of the pictures pinned on Pinterest come from websites, and this is why it is so valuable for brands. If they post a picture from their own website on a board, when someone repins, that image carries a link to the website.

More than 80% of pins are actually repins, so a pin will usually be seen by many people who do not follow a page directly. They will always be able to see who the original source was and find the link to the original website.

Snapchat

Snapchat has more than 120 million active users sending over a billion snaps per day, and is one of the fastest growing social apps. But it isn’t just for teenagers to send naked selfies which disappear! That’s what made it successful when it was launched in 2011. But thanks to its evolution, Snapchat now appeals to a much larger demographic, allowing the posting of quality content to a global audience. This photo messaging application allows users to send pictures and videos to a controlled audience, adding comments, drawings or emojis, for a time limit of 1-10 seconds after which it disappears forever.

But now a feature called Snap Story can make a picture available to view for exactly 24 hours, to a larger audience. The benefit of Snapchat is the complete privacy and lack of social pressure for the validation of ‘likes’. There is no sharing or commenting either – and there isn’t a running stream of content on display.

User-engagement levels are much higher, because the viewer’s finger must be touching the screen at all times to view the snap, or else it will just disappear. You can track how many users have opened a snap by looking at the metrics available. Beginning in January 2015, Snapchat's Discover content partnership with companies like National Geographic and Food Network appeared on the top of the users’ usual roll of updates and live stories from friends. National Geographic posts up to five snaps a day, from 8am. Their content is a mix of articles, photo driven stories and short form videos or quizzes.

Disney has also tuned into the psyche of the enthusiastic Snapchatter by using a geofilter feature which activates unique photo filters based on location – so visitors to Disneyland or Walt Disney World can add signboards or animated doodles on their selfies.

But while Snapchat is for a certain age group – mostly millennials – Instagram has an even broader reach.

According to research, more than 60% of travel companies are now using Instagram.

This photo sharing mobile app focuses on adding filters to images. It was snapped up by Facebook for $1 billion. And for good reason.

More than 400 million people access Instagram on a monthly basis – up an estimated 100 million from the start of 2015.

And now many brands are adding buy buttons which redirect to booking pages.

Instagram and Vine

Inspiring people to book now on Instagram is already being adopted by the industry, including major hotel brands and airlines, with promising results.Sharing options on Instagram are extensive – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Email, Foursquare – but more importantly it has now introduced a feature which allows users to take videos as well.

Tapping into the popularity of Vine, Instagram is now competing with this video-making app. But there are some significant differences. Vine allows 6 seconds. Instagram allows 16. Instagram lets the user selectively delete frames. Vine doesn’t. Instagram lets you tap to focus and add a filter to the video. Vine is all natural. Vine posts only to Facebook and Twitter. But while Instagram posts only once, Vines play on a loop.

360 Degree Videos

The potential for travel brands to give customers a snapshot of an experience has opened even wider with Facebook’s announcement of 360-degree video. This is a film created with a high-tech multi lens camera which simultaneously records all 360 degrees of a scene. Viewers can pan and rotate the perspective to watch it from different angles. These videos are viewable on computer, iOS and Android devices.

Travel purchases are emotional decisions, and video marketing helps brands to tell stories which will resonate, build brand trust and ultimately result in conversion. Social media provides a way for travel companies to entice the market with a feast for the eyes, offering them the chance to immerse themselves in the experience of a destination before they even get out of their armchair.

Whether a brand opts for one or all of these channels comes down its target customer.

But no company should underestimate the seductive power of a picture perfect marketing campaign via the right social media.