You can’t get where you’re going until you know where you are. That’s why this State of the Industry report on Facebook ads is so valuable. See where you stand in relation to industry standards and identify some areas where you could be missing a chance to shine.
We analyzed and visualized the data on more than 1600 Facebook ads by State Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs), Tour Operators, and Resorts and Hotels. Here's a handful of the most significant findings.
The Single, Stunning Image Remains the Most Popular Ad Format
Even though video may be the fastest-growing category of ads, eight out of ten resorts and hotels depend on static images to convey value. For State DMOs, video use is up 15 percent over last year and for tour operators, video and images are now nearly tied at 44 percent images and 37 percent video.
One reason that images still rule is that it’s easier to control the message and the viewer’s eye in a photograph, or it could be that it’s just much easier to source photos than videos.
User-Generated Content (UGC) Surges in Facebook Ads
Given the fact that professional photography can be expensive when commissioned or overused when sourced from a free image site, UGC is taking off in every tourism sector—especially for State DMOs and resorts and hotels. UGC quality has improved greatly over the past few years as more travelers have access to better cameras on their phones and they are getting plenty of practice on Instagram.
The choice of UGC has doubled in the last year for State DMOs, but resorts and hotels are leading the way, now choosing UGC for one out of every five ads. The lower costs and higher engagement numbers are hard to argue with. State DMOs like Explore Georgia have turned UGC into an art form, and have enjoyed a huge boost in visitor counts in return.
Website Callbacks Dominate the Call to Action (CTA)
When it comes to motivating viewers into taking action, the preferred CTA across sectors is to drive traffic to the website, where traveler data can be better tracked and the user experience is locked down. The exception was resorts and hotels, where website callback CTAs took second place to in-feed conversions for sales or special deals.
Within the State DMOs and tour operator ad examples we analyzed, a significant percentage (14 percent or more) have no CTAs at all. This could represent a deliberate strategy of giving away something of value before you ask for the business, or it could be just a lost opportunity.
Outdoor Action Becomes One of the Top Themes Across Sectors
For tour operators, who are the top users of video, outdoor action themes dominated nearly half (49 percent) of their ads. Other perennial favorites in the tourism industry, such as families, food, or landscapes, were all in the low single digits. This reflects the research showing that millennials are paying for adventures and experiences when they travel.
For resorts and hotels, outdoor action comes third after property photos and local landmarks. This is certainly one area that deserves attention and experimentation to see if a change of scene can drive stronger results.
Areas Where Brands Can Pull Ahead
There are a few strategies that make a lot of sense given the results of this data. In terms of ad formats, counter-programming (offer something different from what your competitors are doing) is a good way to distinguish your digital ads.
If you have a hotel or resort, be one of the 20 percent who are using video and eliminate the competition. If you can get UGC video, like a fun testimonial or PoV footage, you’ll drive engagement and conversions at a lower cost structure. Facebook’s own research indicates that while still, images tend to drive more visitors to the advertiser’s site, video tends to bring back higher conversion rates in the feed.