by Volkan Çağsal, CEO of Adphorus
Digital advertising was almost half of all advertising spend in 2018, and it keeps growing, with two in three travel marketers planning to spend more this year. The second biggest chunk of that advertising spend is going towards social media.
According to Sojern’s State of the Industry Report which surveyed more than 600 global travel marketers in 46 countries, in 2018 Facebook and Instagram accounted for 18 percent of Middle East (ME) respondents’ digital ad spend and 58 percent of those travel marketers plan to spend more this year. Which prompts the question: Why the sudden desire to spend more on social?
Why invest in social media advertising?
Consumer behaviour online is changing and businesses must change with it. Advertisers are trying to add more channels to diversify their investment and are following consumer behaviour as they move from search to Facebook and Instagram. Consumers are drawn to the more immersive, visual, storytelling formats, something seen as perfect in a sector like travel that is aspirational, emotive and rich in content.
Facebook continues to innovate and their global user base is still growing rapidly. Currently, Facebook alone has 2.32 billion monthly active users. That number rises to 2.7 billion if you count the people who are using at least one of the company’s core products (Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, or Messenger) each month.
These numbers will only continue to grow as mobile device usage and mobile social networks increasingly gain traction. Brands can be certain that their target audience is on Facebook nearly every day. We know that travellers are spending their time on Facebook’s family of apps – 5x more than on travel-related apps, sites and searches, to be exact.
Facebook is the most equipped platform to truly achieve people-based, cross-device targeting and measurement, and where you can reach users when they are seeking inspiration or searching for specific destinations. The question has now become: As a brand, why would you not be on Facebook and Instagram?
Social media no longer just a branding play
If we look back five years ago, Facebook and Instagram were generally considered as only useful for brand awareness, but not necessary channels that could drive direct conversions. However, over the past several years, they have introduced new ad products designed for higher funnel objectives such as brand awareness and lower funnel objectives such as driving conversions via remarketing.
Ultimately, Facebook has evolved and can now not only work for the full funnel but is becoming the most effective way to influence travellers at each stage of their journey from dream to destination. Whilst 62 percent of ME travel marketers said that Facebook and Instagram were best for branding, a significant 56 percent of respondents said it was best for direct response.
ME advertisers shifting spend to “Stories”
This year 58 percent of ME travel marketers say they plan to increase digital ad spend on Facebook and Instagram. A significant chunk of the budget is already going toward social media (18 percent), which means that people see results and want to invest more.
The Stories format has taken the world by storm. In fact, I believe Stories is the most important feature since the Newsfeed on Facebook when we look at the user activity. We’ve started seeing Stories everywhere—Snapchat, WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook and, of course, Instagram. There are several reasons why the format is so successful and it all boils down to the experience it offers. Stories offers more information in a visual format at a faster rate accounting for consumers’ rapidly shrinking attention spans.
Brands are able to reach engaged users at scale. However, while it seems obvious for brands to start engaging with travellers on Stories, it requires creative assets that are customized for the Stories format, which most advertisers do not currently have. I would argue that the Stories format has almost single-handedly driven the need for brands to create vertical creative assets. ME travel marketers only dedicated 10 percent of their 2018 digital ad spend on video however we see that more than half (52 percent) of these respondents plan to increase their spend on video this year. And they need to! This is a trend brands can’t ignore.
The rapid growth and consumption of Instagram Stories has made it hard for advertisers to ignore and as a result advertising spend is shifting there. In fact, almost three quarters (73 percent) of ME travel marketers said that they plan on using Instagram stories in 2019 compared to only 43 percent who said they had used Instagram stories in 2018. Facebook stories shows a similar trend with 67 percent of ME marketers planning to use Facebook stories this year compared with a much smaller pool of only 37 percent who said they had used Facebook stories in 2018.
Out of all of the social media channels including YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram, the most marketers in the ME (more than 70 percent) said they planned to use Instagram Ads and Stories this year.
Create vertical video assets
Vertical content needs to be front of mind for advertisers this year. Not only that but short vertical video creatives that tell the story in the first couple of seconds—remember the video on stories is only up to 15 seconds long! This platform is all about stunning creatives and inspirational content and an image from a stock photo library that may have worked elsewhere won’t grab user attention on Instagram Stories.
We know that travel marketers in this region are planning to invest more in Instagram as a platform, particularly Stories, this year. So, if you are a travel brand and you aren’t yet effectively advertising on Instagram, then consider this your warning: your competitors are.
Volkan Çağsal is the Founder and CEO of Adphorus, a Facebook & Instagram Marketing Partner exclusively focused on travel.