I traveled to Prague in 2015. I’m usually pretty organized, so I signed up for a tour online in advance. But the day I landed, I got confused by all of the time differences. When I arrived at the meeting point, I found out that I had missed the tour by an hour, and that it was the final tour for that day. Although there were several other tour companies there, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to join them because I needed to read about the tour company and get to know it online before using their service. Yes, even though it says free (with the exception of a tip).
Although I was disappointed, I walked across the romantic streets of Prague. About 20 minutes later, I entered a local bakery where there was a recruiter for a rival tour company. He noticed that I was a little bit confused with my handbook and map, so he said that the best way to get to know Prague is to take one of their city tours. One was starting in eight minutes and it was about 200 meters from the bakery. I rushed to get there on time and ended up having an amazing experience — getting to see Prague just the way I wanted.
Ever since that tour, I constantly think about this guy and the tour company. I think that it is pretty simple and probably cost-effective to cover such a small and compact city center as Prague with recruiters. But then I think of the competition — what if I was picked by three other recruiters? And more importantly, what if he did not speak my language?
I work for the travel tech startup, Roomertravel.com. On a daily basis, I use online advertising methods to target very specific and segmented audiences, such as road trippers, frequent travelers, business travelers, current travelers, etc.
At the beginning of my story, I mentioned that my free tour was booked in advance. The tour company I was booked for had invested in online marketing tactics such as SEM (SEO and paid search ads), email marketing, content marketing and PR, TripAdvisor and optimization and integration. From their point of view, they’d successfully acquired me as a customer. But in fact, money was left on the table.
SEO, email marketing, PR, etc.: all are expensive strategies, time consuming to manage, and will take long months or even years until you’ll start to see the payoff. More than that, if the tour is tip based, you may still lose the business you thought you got since customers may change their minds, be late, or cancel the trip — all at the last minute.
Facebook’s ad product is an advertising masterpiece that generations upon generations of marketers and advertisers would have drooled their faces off just to get the smallest glance into it. But you, you’re lucky to live in the era where it’s open to every single person on the planet. And if you’re an entrepreneur, or a business owner, or a marketer — no matter what your profession is — you must be familiar with Facebook’s ad platform abilities in the context of your market.
The key advantage of Facebook ads — besides its perfect budget management system, its instant ad publishing process, and its multi-ad formats opportunities — is its targeting capabilities. Today you can basically target anyone. The CEO of Uber, every lead developer on Microsoft, engaged couples, upcoming birthday celebrators, expats, LGBTs, parents, or expectant parents and much more.
How Does It Work?
Facebook’s targeting feature is based on four main focus areas:
- Demographics: Gender, age, language, income, relationship status, education as well as employer’s name, job title, household composition, life events such as engagements, a new job, an upcoming birthday, and more.
- Geography: Target people based on their location (getting down to an address and ZIP code). Sounds simple, but it’s exactly where the magic is. You’re not only able to target people by their current location, but you’re also able to choose those who: a) live in the specific location; b) are recently visiting that location; or c) Are travelling in that location. Facebook defines people that are travelling somewhere as people whose most recent location was in the area you chose to target but whose homes are more than 100 miles away.
- Interests: What are the things that your targeted audience is interested in, e.g., French cuisine, Franz Kafka, medieval history, and renaissance arts. I like to define Facebook’s interests as: It’s who you are.
- Behavior: Basically, this method lets you target potential audiences by the activities they have recently engaged with or usually engage with. In this section, you can also find Facebook users who are expats from other countries, if their mobile devices are in use, and targets specific to travelers. In the travel section, you will be able to target Facebook users who recently used a travel app, users who are business travelers, frequent international travelers, and more. I like to define Facebook’s behavioral targeting as: It’s what you do.
Although Facebook’s ad platform (Ads Manager and Power Editor) interfaces are pretty user-friendly, there are nuances that you’ll be able to understand only after running several campaigns on your own while testing and paying attention to all of the various measurement metrics. In addition, Facebook has tons of different other features that are important for the common marketer, such as: Website Custom Audiences, Remarketing, Conversion Tracking, Lookalike Audiences, and more. So there are a lot of opportunities there. But what I’m going to show you is how you can target and acquire customers without even having a website for your touring business.
Before you start running an ad and targeting your audience, you will have to choose an ad format, or what Facebook calls the “Campaign Objective”.
Today, there are 13 different campaign objectives on Facebook, but for a tour operator who wants to drive travelers to his meeting points, there are only two objectives that might be relevant:
- Event Responses: An interesting strategy would be to open a Facebook event for your daily city tour and promote it. Pros: users can see who else and how many are planning to attend the tour; the users can RSVP that they are attending, and they will have a log of the time and meeting point on their Facebook app. Cons: users can see who else and how many are planning to attend the tour (yes, I know, it’s two-sided), the ad format isn’t flexible in terms of creativity — you can promote the ad using only one image, which is also the event image, which can block your segmented creativity.
- Page Post Engagement: This ad format allows you to create an unpublished post that won’t be seen by all of your Facebook page fans and won’t disturb them (because more than likely, only some of them are traveling in your location now). But it will be seen by everybody in your targeted audience, and they will receive a Facebook post from you right to their mobile feeds. This post can include several images, and, if you want, you may add a link to a Facebook event. The multiple images format will allow you to match images and creative text within the context of the audience you’re targeting — their demographic, their interests, and their behavior.
Now let’s see a few audiences you can target using Facebook ads
For all those options, choose in your targeted location the “People Travelling in This Location” option from the dropdown menu.
- Fresh Arrivals from the Airport: Target the address of the airport to catch the tourists at the beginning of their trip. Ad Creative: Wish them an amazing experience in the city, and add one valuable tip for their travel. At the end of the post, add a link to your event or to a Google map location of your meeting point.
- Travelers Who Are Interested in a Specific Characteristic of Your City: An example of this would be people who are travelling in Prague and are interested in Cold War history. That is the group to target your tour about the communist history of Prague to. Ad Creative: Of course, to convert those prospects, you should match your creative images and text to the Cold War/USSR context.
- Parents Who Are Travelling with Kids Aged 6–12 in Your Location: Target this group by offering a tour guide that is great with kids, while promising that the parents will get a couple of hours of relief.
- Newly Engaged and Newlywed Couples to Sell Them Romantic Tours: For example, target all newlyweds and newly engaged travelers in Paris that are interested in French cuisine, and offer them a romantic culinary tour of Paris (and add a special discount for freshly engaged or married couples in the Ad Creative to boost responses).
- Birthday Celebrators: This one is really easy. Use the same concept as the engaged/freshly married couples — offer a special discount for birthday celebrators within the same week, and just hit the Go Live button (just kidding, there’s no such button).
So there’s a lot of information to capture here, but let’s summarize the key points:
- Customer acquisition for travel operators: though it requires a marketing process to capture prospects in their trip-planning stage, it is very practical for people who are currently traveling, as customers’ decisions are taken on site and can be impacted by last-minute changes/wants/needs.
- Facebook ads are a super strong tool to acquire customs using targeting methods and show ads to Facebook users that are now travelling in your location.
- Facebook’s ad platforms are user friendly (Power Editor / Ads Manager) but require some learning. Read a couple of free online guides before you put your first ad campaign on the air.
- Invest time to explore and learn Facebook’s targeting feature and all of its details.
- When creating a targeted audience, always use the “People traveling in this location” option when defining your campaign’s geographical location.
- Use demographics, interest-based, and behavioral targeting to create audiences that are relevant to your tours.
- Design and copywrite your creative ad to match the context of your targeted audience characteristics.
Well, that’s all. Hope you’ll find value in here. If any of you use these methods, please ping me on twitter @yurisplace. Also, be sure to check out my online advertising blog is at https://medium.com/@yurishub.
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