Todd Herrold, senior director of product marketing at Kenshoo Social
Most travel companies are embracing Facebook in their marketing.
Whether it is setting up their own pages, responding to consumer comments or using Facebook ads to drive traffic, it is a vital part of the marketing mix.
However, companies may be missing out on Facebook Custom Audiences, a relatively new feature that lets companies target their existing customers on the social network.
So, if you have a name and email address for guests that have stayed at one of your hotels or are part of your airline loyalty programme, you can target them with specific ads on Facebook to reinforce your messaging.
Essentially, Facebook Custom Audiences lets you link the offline and online world to target customers holistically.
Whether you use the feature to replace direct mail and email or supplement them, it provides a way of segmenting audiences in a social network scenario.
How does it work?
Introduced last year, Facebook Custom Audiences aims to make it easy for companies to use their own data to find their offline audiences among users.
Travel companies can simply upload their existing information, such as customer databases, frequent flyer programme data, lists of email addresses or phone numbers to the social network.
Facebook then encrypts the data (to protect privacy) and looks for matches amongst its 1.1 billion users. Match rates vary from 50% to 95% and the service is free – though obviously you pay for advertising in the usual way.
Once you’ve created this Custom Audience you can target them with specific adverts. And you can combine Custom Audiences with other Facebook targeting (such as demographics, location and interests) to create incredibly focused campaigns.
A really powerful part of this tool is the Lookalike Audiences feature. As the name suggests, this takes your Custom Audiences data to create a list of similar people, based on their demographic profile.
So you can target completely new but ‘relatively qualified’ customers with Facebook ads, rather than having to resort to scattergun blanket advertising.
How can this benefit travel companies?
Whether an airline, tour operator or individual property, Custom Audiences can help you engage more deeply with your customers. Here are just seven scenarios where it would have an impact:
1. Targeting repeat customers with specific offers
A major hotel chain saw a 5x return on ad spend when it created adverts directed solely at previous guests. And the level of sophistication is really up to you the advertiser.
For example, offer Easter or Christmas breaks to holidaymakers who’ve previously stayed with you during the Summer.
2. Making inactive customers active
A large proportion of frequent flyer programme members are (ironically) infrequent flyers. So, you could target those members that haven’t flown with you in the previous six months, or those contacts who live in a particular region when you launch a new route.
3. Use the demographics of Facebook
People provide an enormous amount of demographic information to Facebook. You could combine this with your own data to target couples that just got engaged with special deals on honeymoon destinations.
4. Reinforce loyalty
Rather than serving generic ads to your loyalty club members, delivering specific messages demonstrates you value them. Ads which reference their previous booking or stay and offer a reward will increase engagement and consequently repeat business.
5. Exclude people
Perhaps you’ve got a new offer that you only want to target to new travellers as you are looking to increase your customer base. In this case you can use Custom Audiences to exclude existing customers, making sure they don’t receive mis-targeted ads.
6. Increase Likes
Customers may be part of your loyalty programme, but not a fan on Facebook. Custom Audiences lets you approach them with ads designed to drive them to your Facebook page, encouraging greater engagement.
7. Upsell extra services
Many holidaymakers don’t sign up for extra services (such as travel insurance, car hire or additional trips) when they book. By targeting them with a specific Facebook ad in the run up to their break, it’s likely to reap rewards by upselling extra services when their departure is imminent.
New developments in Facebook Custom Audiences
It used to be that you had to know who your customers were offline to target them. However, Facebook has now added the ability to integrate third party consumer lists with Custom Audiences.
Using data from third party providers such as Datalogix and Epsilon means you can create audiences based on their other activities.
So, you can target segments such as potential customers looking to stay in (for example) Barcelona, even if they were previously unknown to you.
Getting the most out of Facebook Custom Audiences
Facebook Custom Audiences is an incredibly powerful tool for the travel industry. But, I’d finish with two key bits of advice for companies looking to deploy it.
Firstly, test, test and test again. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, but test with a sample and see what the results are.
Do you need to change the creative ad, offer or even segment the audience further? Learn from your campaigns to improve as you go.
Secondly, when it comes to data, it really is a case of ‘Garbage In, Garbage Out’.
Make sure that your own customer data is up to date and accurate if you are going to get the best results on Facebook.
Will your data match the records Facebook holds for example? If you operate a business frequent flyer programme, you may well have work email addresses, whereas most Facebook accounts are registered to personal emails.
In this case you may need to look at other ways to gain Facebook IDs to improve targeting.
Custom Audiences is an extremely cost-effective way of targeting your existing customers and using their demographics to reach new audiences.
A smart travel business should investigate how it can add an extra dimension to their online marketing and help them grow their revenues.