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As many social media managers will be all too aware, convincing the higher-ups of social media’s genuine value to the organisation’s bottom line is a challenge at times. With a bunch of tricky analytics yet no clear-cut single way to measure ROI on a social campaign, those who control the corporate budget may have trouble envisaging a true need for social marketing. According to a travel industry report by EyeForTravel, senior executives are becoming more committed to social media, yet levels of investment in campaigns using it have been declining.

The report also shows that the sheer amount of time developed nations spend on social media (up to seven hours every day!) makes it a highly appealing platform to engage with existing customers while reaching out to bring in new ones.

Vast Amounts of User Data Available to Brands

The huge amounts of user data now becoming available through social media offers a major selling point for travel brands. It is now easier than ever before to divide users into neatly targeted segments. Retargeting is becoming an important tool to capitalise on detailed data and the ongoing consumer/brand interaction that is taking place on social media.

According to Facebook, 2013 will be the year when brands can finally see a return on investment with social media. The social media giant believes that in the near future there will be a much clear ROI for Facebook.

Facebook’s Head of Travel Global Vertical Marketing Lee McCabe sees two reasons for this, firstly, through constant testing of images, messages, type of ad, targeting, and landing page optimisation, travel marketers are increasingly seeing great ROI. Secondly, McCabe points out that Facebook has come a long way in the past six months, by listening to partner feedback and constantly innovating the product to make finding scalable ROI a lot easier than before.

Of course this is a predictable response coming from Facebook, but a far less biased source - travel executives - can also testify to improvements in the social media ROI arena.

Big Improvements in Ad Targeting

Previously brands’ ability to target on Facebook was fairly limited and felt very much like display advertising. But with the reams of user data now stored up in social media, Facebook has become very good at facilitating targeted sponsored messages that customer that might want to see. “When something truly organic happens on Facebook and somebody shares a sale and then a friend signs up, those are really profitable interactions”, according to managing director of flash travel sales site Secret Escapes, Tom Valentine.

Watch Out for Vexed Customers

Although customers tend to post positive things online, when they get offended by something a brand does, the immediate nature of social media gives them opportunity to create havoc. An angry British Airways customer recently invested in one of Twitter’s ‘Promoted Tweets’ to tell the world about his fury when the airline lost his luggage. The tweet went viral, retweeted and commented on by thousands of Twitter users. But BA took a full four hours to respond, risking harming its reputation in the process.

Finally, one key indicator of brand value is the value Google places on it. When social media helps your brand rank consistently high in search results, that’s a very good sign of strong ROI.

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