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Social Media Video 101: A Travel Marketer’s Guide

There is a reason Morning Consult recently labeled influencers the new travel agents for millennials and Gen Z explorers. 

Many of us, especially those under 35, use social media to find cool places to eat, unique local experiences, and inspiration for choosing our next vacation.

When Expedia asked 5,713 travelers how they plan for a trip, three in five people said they hadn’t even decided where they were going—but they were ready for a vacation. What was surprising about the responses was how travelers went from “I think I want to go on vacay” to deciding “Ooohhh, I definitely want to go there!” 

The leading source of inspiration for 77% of travelers was content they viewed on social media. In fact, social media beat out every other online resource, including travel blogs, review websites, search engines and even destination websites. 

So, how can travel marketers capitalize on this monumental shift to social media and capture a piece of the (marketing) pie? 🥧

This article will talk about the rise of social media videos, what channels are most impactful for travel marketers, and the best video formats to use. 

Why Are Videos On Social Media Such An Effective Marketing Tool? 

Love it or loathe it, social media is now a main channel for travelers to plan a trip. 

Perhaps the reason travelers rely so heavily on social media to research a destination is down to how much of our life we spend on it. Wyzowl Research found we spend around 17 hours every watching videos online. However, where we view those videos varies wildly depending on our age. 

Just look at some of the consumption metrics on social media platforms. 63% of users on TikTok who watch #TravelTikTok are aged between 18-24, with only 4% of them 35+. Compare that with Instagram’s two billion users—18-24 year olds only make up 31% of the audience base, with 35-44 year olds making up nearly 16% of users. 

Then, there are the users who don’t really hang out on TikTok, Instagram, or Snapchat. According to Pew Research, Facebook is still the most popular platform for 50-64-year-olds, with YouTube videos taking the top spot for the 65+ audience. 

Source: Pew Research

What these stats tell DMOs and travel marketers is there are millions of people watching videos, but depending on your target audience, it’s where you upload them that will make all the difference. 

The Best Platforms For Your Social Media Videos

Ask any destination marketer what they will focus on this year and you will get the same answer—short-form video creation. 

CrowdRiff’s 2024 Trends Report found Instagram Reels, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts will be top priority social networks for marketers this year. With Instagram taking the top spot on the list, it’s no surprise that 98% of DMOs plan to distribute creator-made content through Instagram ads this year—regardless of budget. 

Here’s why we think the big three—Instagram Reels, TikTok and YouTube Shorts—is where DMOs should spend their time crafting content 👇

TikTok 🎶

As Beril Gutierrez, Senior Manager of Social Media at Discover The Palm Beaches, recently told us: “TikTok is not social media. It’s an entertainment platform.”

39% of Gen Z now use platforms like TikTok to plan a trip. Research shows younger travelers in countries like the UK, Ireland, Canada, Greece, and Iceland are particularly reliant on TikTok to get inspo and ideas.

As TikTok is all about short-form video, it’s the perfect spot for travel marketers to create quick destination snapshots, like “Five places you must visit in Toronto” or “Here’s why you need to travel to Toronto”. As most TikToks last under a minute, someone planning a trip can snap up a bunch of short videos to see if anything grabs their attention. 

Some viral videos are so influential, they can lead to travelers planning entire days around a single activity or spot to eat. Tsujihan, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district, went viral for its signature zeitaku-don (seafood bowls). The eatery became so TikTok-famous that it had to hire security to control crowds, with people regularly waiting up to four hours just to snag a seat inside! 🥵  

@derekkchen The best thing I ate in Japan 🐟 Location: Nihonbashi Restaurant: Tsujihan #tsujihan #japan #japanfood #kaisendon #ochazuke #tokyo #japantravel #foodie #fyp ♬ original sound – Derek Chen

TikTok also revamped its Creativity Program to encourage influencers to post long-form videos. 

We’re not talkin’ YouTube long, but videos longer than a minute now have the potential for creators to 20x their earnings. This signals that TikTok is (perhaps) trying to compete with YouTube for longer story formats, but short-form video isn’t going anywhere.

Instagram Stories and Reels 🎞️

There is a reason Instagram Reels topped the list of channels for travel marketers. 

According to CNBCTV18, Instagram users are more likely to travel than those not using the platform. And they also spend more money on travel. One Facebook study also found that 67% of users look to Instagram to find inspiration for where to go next.

📱Content Strategy Tip:Travel marketers without a presence on TikTok should think about the potential for platform crossover with Instagram. 83.9% of TikTok users are also on Instagram, so marketers should post share-worthy content on TikTok and introduce their Instagram accounts at the same time. 

But its Instagram Reels that seem to really be resonating with travelers, and it’s easy to see why: 

  • Creators can use features like live streams, polls and questions to engage with their audience and build trust
  • DMOs can add swipe-up CTAs to increase engagement and conversions with destinations and tours
  • Hashtags and trends can heavily influence the platform’s algorithm to feature content. Stay on top of trending topics and use campaign-ready hashtags to get noticed

We’re so sure of how impactful Instagram Reels will be for creators that we went and wrote a whole damn book about it. If you want to learn more about how to create Stories and Reels for your DMO that turn lookers into bookers, check it out here.

YouTube Shorts 📹

The rise of YouTube shorts since its launch in late 2020 has turned into an exceptional opportunity for marketers to capture older travelers planning a trip. 

As we talked about earlier, 50+ year-olds aren’t super active on TikTok and Instagram, but YouTube is their most used social media platform. TechCrunch reported Shorts are now watched by over 2 billion every month—eclipsing TikTok viewership. 

Like TikTok, Shorts are perfect for video content on anything from street food shoutouts to travel product reviews. Creators now use hashtags like #travelshorts to get traction:

So, what kinda content works best for travel marketers to share across these platforms? 

We’ve got some ideas 👇

The Best Video Types For Social Media Travel Marketers

Not all social media videos are made equal. 

When deciding what types of videos to use for social media marketing, always put your audience first. People who haven’t picked a travel destination need to be targeted with a different video than those who know exactly where they’re going and just need to book a hotel. Split these travelers up into different groups across your marketing funnel: 

If you think about videos in terms of awareness, consideration and decision-making, it’s easier to create content that will resonate with your audience and meet them where they are in their planning journey. 

It also helps to think about social media video marketing like your other marketing channels. Each campaign will have a better shot at success if it’s strategic and organized: 

📅 Set a posting schedule. Getting traction on socials is all about consistency. Try to post regularly on your chosen social channels to build an engaged audience and keep you on the right side of the platform’s algorithm. For all of you who don’t have a posting schedule yet, we’ve got you covered—grab our free DMO content calendar template and get planning! 

🔗Think about the call to action. The goal is to get people watching a video to take action, whether it’s following your Instagram profile or clicking on a link to book a tour. Use categorization tools, hashtags, and embedded links to drive people to your website. Don’t just think about your video content—think about your audience’s next steps. 

Certain types of social media videos work particularly well for travel marketers. Here are some ideas to get you started 👇

1. Shareworthy Compilations to Boost Brand Awareness

The easiest way to kick off a social media video marketing strategy is with simple compilation content. 

These are short videos (each lasting just a couple of seconds) that are stitched together with video editing to tell a story. Usually, these are explainer videos with content like “best five restaurants to eat at in New York” or “secret things to do in Glasgow”. 

We love ’em because you don’t need to have fancy equipment or cinematic footage to put one together. Even if you don’t have any footage in your video file, these compilations can still be made with user-generated content sourced from other creators. 

Travel agencies like Expedia regularly create orientations to give their audience a taste of a city or destination. Recently, it created an 18-second montage of things to do in Paris (besides eating pastries): 

@expedia A few of our favorite things to do in the city of Paris, besides eat pastries, of course. Bookmark this for your next Parisian adventure. #paristiktok #paris #parisian #parisfrance #paristravel #paristrip #traveltiktok #tiktoktravel #parisitinerary #parisguide #travelguide #expedia ♬ original sound – expedia

The video is a great example of how an iconic city like Paris can be seen from a different perspective. Instead of focusing on the Eiffel Tower and The Louvre, it highlights lesser-known parks, restaurants, and attractions to draw in travelers who want a more authentic experience of the city. Très bien!  

2. Eye-catching Virtual Tours to Grab Your Audience’s Attention

A virtual tour of an activity, destination, or accommodation is a great way to give visitors a taste of what to expect before they visit. 

Again, these videos are an easy lift if you already have footage in your vault 🎥 

For short-form virtual tours, simply layer existing footage or b-roll with captions and descriptions of a destination or experience you want to market. If you want to do a more immersive tour, take some inspiration from Condé Nast Traveller. The publication chooses a specific angle (like this super bougie look at The Ritz’s afternoon tea) for its behind-the-scenes YouTube tours: 

Obviously, not every DMO has a Condé Nast Traveller marketing budget. But the good news is—you don’t need one.  

Just look at how The Exploratorium, a unique museum located in San Francisco, creates unique virtual tours using Instagram videos. 

The museum is a melting pot of science, art, and human perception which makes it the perfect backdrop for interesting content. The museum’s digital marketing team regularly post virtual tours of how exhibits are made to give visitors a unique behind-the-scenes peek: 

According to the Exploratorium’s Digital Marketing Specialist Jet Liao, the museum plans to pivot more into short-form video content, especially Instagram Reels and TikToks, as its audience is more engaged. 

“We’ve noticed higher volume and engagement through video, not just in terms of views, but also in terms of comments, shares, and saves, too. It can be a challenge, but it’s also exciting to see that kind of growing engagement.”

3. Create FOMO Content Using TikTok Videos

Finally, give your audience a taste of a destination or experience based on your real-life experience. 

There is nothing more interactive for wannabe travelers than seeing a place they are longing to experience, lived through the eyes of other giddy explorers. 

Just look at how Flash Pack—a boutique UK travel agency that specializes in solo travel for people in their 30s and 40s—does it. Its social media channels are full of one-minute snapshots of unique experiences like eating Vietnamese street food or trekking around Morocco: 

@flashpacktravel Have you considered travelling to Morocco? 🇲🇦 Here’s a first-person glance at this beautiful country #visitmorocco #travelmorocco #moroccotravels #moroccotravel #moroccotravelguide #traveltipsmorocco #moroccotraveltips ♬ original sound – maria!

Showcasing these experiences allows its audience to see real testimonials from solo adventurers while also giving them a healthy dose of FOMO. The video also has a clickable link embedded in the caption so potential customers can quickly find out how to experience the trip themselves! 

By now, we’ve covered why social media videos work for travel marketers, what channels you should use as well as a couple of video formats to get you started. Before you run off to launch your next video, we want to let you in on some ways to make your social media strategy even more successful 👇

Social Media Video Best Practices for Travel Marketers

Think About What Content Your Audience Wants

A traveler in their 60s is probably going to want a different experience from a trip than a 22-year-old fresh out of college. Each new video you share on socials should be what your audience is actually looking for in a trip. 

Just look at the successful DMOs we’ve already featured in this article. A travel agent targeting 30-40 year olds won’t be sharing video posts about the same activities aimed at a much younger or older crowd. At the same time, that agent is selling tours to solo travelers, so footage of romantic gondola rides through the canals of Venice… ain’t it. 

Bermuda Tourism happily admits it doesn’t take a traditional approach to lure in its target audience through digital marketing. The DMO had a niche audience to win over—scuba divers. So, it used divers wearing cameras to capture a unique perspective to give viewers a real sense of what it would feel like to dive in the water themselves. 

The campaign is a great example of how to think about content that deeply resonates with a target audience, no matter how niche. 

Use Real People To Tell Your Story

81% of destination marketers have seen an increase in engagement on social media by using user-generated content (UGC). 

The reason? Simple. Travelers trust each other more than a polished content marketing campaign or sales pitch from a travel agent. The good news is, you can leverage UGC and weave it into campaigns to build trust with an audience.

We created CrowdRiff Creators to help DMOs and travel marketers partner with content creators who have a unique point of view and can authentically tell a story. For example, if you want to showcase hidden gems in your local food scene so visitors can have a more authentic eating experience, the platform helps you connect with creators who can tell the story for you. 

It works in three steps: 

  • Request: Just tell us what topics, events, or angles you want to cover 
  • Wait. CrowdRiff will contact creators who fit the brief to make and deliver videos 
  • Receive. You will get sent a collection of high-quality short-form videos that are ready to use out of the box for your next social media video

It’s really that easy. 

Are you ready to tell more authentic stories about your destination with CrowdRiff? 👀

Sourcing great travel content takes time, something a lot of destination marketers don’t always have an abundance of. Find out how CrowdRiff can help – book a walkthrough and we’d be happy to take you through it. 

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