Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to strengthen Taiwan’s tourism industry with social media?

In the Medill IMC marketing program, we learn that marketers need to adapt to new technologies which allow them to better reach their target markets.  One of these is social media.   As a grad student, I have been studying travel and social media in Taiwan.  And social media has become one of the most powerful and effective tools to promote travel brands- restaurants, hotels, and of course, countries.

Taiwan, one of the most amazing islands in Asia, has a lot of surprising elements. However, the tourism industry is not very strong so far- the number of tourists is still far behind from other Asian countries. And social media is somewhere that the government could make some efforts.

Harnessing Social Media Comments
There is a curious phenomenon specific to the travel industry- even people who never go on social media will do so when they’re on vacation. Many consumers like to hit the site before their trip to psyche themselves up for it. L2 Digital published their Digital IQ Index on the travel industry. A key finding that stood out is that “while traffic to brand sites in the study was down eight percent in March 2011 versus March 2010, travel industry Facebook pages grew 20 percent in the first quarter of 2011 and 78 percent of the brands registered Facebook as a top-eight source of referral traffic.” One of the key reasons, in my opinion, is the immediate conversation and advice offered through social channels. Now, several new travel sites are trying to put those inclinations to use by allowing travelers to use social media sites for targeted trip advice. Traveling is all about experiences, and the best way to deliver that is through the comments of travelers.

Taiwanese government need to integrate other social media channels, like Twitter and YouTube. But everything should goes back to the key platform, Facebook. The ads should be tagged with a plea to visit its Facebook page and videos that show up on the company’s YouTube channel premiere on Facebook first.

There should be an organized Facebook page that makes people be able to share their experiences regarding their trips in Taiwan. Ask open-ended questions in order to make users talk about their experiences, such as, what is your favorite food? What surprises you the most?

A good example from Carnival's facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/Carnival?sk=wall

International approach
Being a good international brand, Taiwan needs to be marketed worldwide. (There are still lots people are confused with Taiwan and Thailand.) There should be various language options on the social media platforms, or even different pages that is customized to people’s preference in terms of travel activity, especially for those targeted countries tourists.

Embracing user comments
People search information and reviews online while planning their trips. The longer the trip or the further the location is, they spend more time on it. Reviews carry more weight for a travel brand because the ruined a one-time experience could not be restarted again. Taiwanese government needs to encourage the comments as for a lot of people online information is the only source they could get and normally they find it reliable.
Word of mouth marketing is important to travel brands, and a key component in consumers finalizing their travel plans, which leads to the trend that more and more people start to review their experience on TripAdvisor and other blogs and sites. Marketers must realize the importance of using social media to connect with consumers and be able to harness it is ultimately what will help businesses go ahead.

Irene Pei-Yun Hsu, Northwestern IMC Graduate, @IreneHsu_97

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