P&O Ferries birthday campaign demonstrates value of not chasing ‘likes’

Travel firms looking to make the most of social media need to stop chasing Facebook ‘likes’ and create brand campaigns that prioritise customer engagement, according to digital agency Designate.

The Brighton-based firm has just completed a summer campaign for P&O Ferries, the second part of a larger project to mark the operator’s 175th birthday.

The campaign centred on a series of Random Acts of Kindness for P&O Ferries’ customers over 42 days on four of the operator’s routes which saw them give away various surprise gifts including free crossings, champagne, and Kindles.

Six films of these random acts being carried out were then used on Facebook generating more than 6,000 new likes, 127,000 video views, 6,700 entries to a family holiday competition, and 5,000 email addresses collected.

The campaign also saw more than 10,000 people discussing it on Facebook and 33 wall posts, 1,687 comments and 373 shares, estimated to have reached a total audience of over three million.

Dean Harvey, Designate digital development director, said: “The goal was for engagement – to get people to share the story because one of the ways Google ranks is through engagement and one of the most effective ways is to get your customer to amplify it for you.

“P&O Ferries, as the established brand leader, was looking to make a statement about trust, heritage and safety because there are lots of competitors in its sector coming and going.

“The key to all this is customer engagement, having conversations with customers at all touch points.

“It used to be that brands were at the centre, now it’s the customer. Brands need to find ways to talk to the customer beyond the old broadcast methods.

“I think people are interested in conversing with brands online but not in the way that brands are currently conversing with them. You need to be more engaging. There will be more interest in talking to brands.”

Designate believes travel firms have allowed third party sites like TripAdvisor to take much of the authority associated with their own brands which they should be benefiting from.

Harvey said they should look to take that back by hosting their own discussions and forums within their own domains but warned the discussion must be authentic and 24/7.

“A lot of what we are saying is stop, do not chase likes. What is the bigger picture of what you are trying to do? What is your brand about? What is the essence and personality of your brand and therefore the consumer facing proposition.

“There are four key principles; it has to be a dialogue not a monologue, you have to be recognised as an expert, it must be useful, engaging and authentic and it must be present at all touch points. This works particularly well for travel because it is such an emotive topic.”

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