Friday, 27 July 2012

The importance of understanding the new socially enabled ‘Visual Web’

The number of photos shared on the web is exploding.  On Facebook alone, the average number of photos uploaded per day is 300 million (and with their acquisition of Instagram, this is only set to increase!).

What does this mean for travel brands?  Well, people love taking photos of their travel experiences and as travel becomes ever-more social, they are now instantly sharing images of the every element of their travel experience across their social networks.

So what’s driving this key trend?

You may have recently seen that a recent Mintel report found Digital camera sales to have decreased by 29% over the past five years.  But as Dirk Singer, Founder of TheRabbit Agency, told listeners in a recent EyeforTravel webinar, this is due to the fact that the cameras now found on most smartphones are (arguably) just as good as entry level digital cameras.

Travellers are of course by nature on the move so the rise in smartphone cameras combined with the growth of photo sharing networks such as Instagram (80 million users), Pinterest (over 11 million unique users per week) and Flickr (500 million registered users) is fuelling the phenomenon of the new ‘visual web’ or ‘imagesphere’.

The socially-enabled visual web provides a fantastic opportunity for travel brands to reach, inspire and engage new customers.   

As the old adage says ‘a picture tells a 1,000 words’.  Images enable the new time poor travel consumer to absorb a large amount of data about your destination/hotel/airline in a short amount of time.   Combine this with the social reach – and, let’s face it, we’ve all been sat in the office and seen that dreamy image of a sun drenched pool pop-up in your friends latest status update - and you are onto a winner. 

Dirk identified this key opportunity for visual engagement early on and led both the BMI and bmibaby social media campaigns on Pinterest and Instagram respectively.

For the budget airline bmibaby, they facilitated a series of ‘instameets’ exchange programmes where Instagram community members were invited to destinations  to participate in a photo walk around their city and post and share their experiences from the day with other members of the network, producing inspiring content from cities around the world.

The representatives live photo blogged from the exchange whilst the bmibaby team reported directly from the bmibaby Instagram feed, Twitter and Facebook throughout the weekend.

The result was 50,000 unique pieces of visual content, extensive media coverage and a number of awards for the campaigns.   Not bad!

To find out more about the visual web and how you can get involved with it, you can watch Dirk’s presentation here

In addition, I’m really looking forward to Naomi Bustin’s (Senior Communication Executive at bmibaby) presentation on how to get the most out of Instagram and other emerging social networks at EyeforTravel’s Online Marketing, Mobile & Social Media in Travel Summit, 3-4 October in Amsterdam.

The visual web looks set to continue grow in importance for travel brands so get involved now!  There are a number of ways in which you can encourage your customers to share their travel experiences – especially on-site during their stay.  Ushuaia Ibiza Beach hotel is a great example 

 As usual, we’ll be keeping you up-to-date with further case studies on