Around 83 per cent of international travel considerers say they trust a travel recommendation received through social media sources.
Over 50 per cent of travellers say seeing a friend's travel photo on social media inspires them to the same destination. Ninety-five per cent use Facebook for holiday activities pre-departure, while 60 per cent factor online opinions, such as Trip Advisor, into their travel recommendations.
The reality is that there is conversation happening throughout the 'life cycle' of a holiday whether we like it or not. So we need to be a part of it.
The 100% Pure New Zealand campaign is active on select social networking sites and apps, including Facebook, China's Sina Weibo, Instagram and YouTube. In the last 12 months we have seen an overall increase of nearly one million fans, a number that continues to grow exponentially as consumers turn to social media for content.
The 'life cycle' of travel planning is dreaming, researching, booking and experiencing and to different degrees social media sharing happens throughout these four stages as people share their travel ideas and excitement about pending holidays.
Instagram plays a key role for us in the dreaming stage, while Facebook, Weibo and Twitter are also useful in the researching stage when people are seriously considering New Zealand as a holiday destination. While we use social content less to drive travel bookings, hashtags - notably #nzmustdo - and visitor advocacy are vital when people are experiencing New Zealand.
Our strategy does not just focus on our own channels, but also focuses on getting great stories out through third party channels. Identifying people who have disproportionate influence among our target markets and getting them to tell New Zealand stories is an area where we're building serious momentum.
Fan acquisition via Facebook is now not a driver. The focus is now on reaching and motivating the right people beyond on our fans. It is what we're calling 'the science of social marketing'.
As a niche destination, we have to be highly targeted to gain value. The good thing is we can be. As well as using Facebook to target people who note a special interest on their profile, or like a page related to their interest, our campaigns are designed to reach and motivate the right people using behavioural marketing, a big trend in digital marketing.
This has seen us identify people who are logged into Facebook when they visit newzealand.com so that we can later share relevant content with them on Facebook to keep them motivated. Looking at online behaviour to find clues about when people are making travel decisions gives us the ability to target pools of constantly changing people, who may or may not already be our fans.
We are also taking the data from Facebook users who have visited New Zealand to compile traits, behaviours and characteristics. From there we can build look-alikes of those audiences to find people that display the same behaviour and target destination messaging at them.
Fan acquisition comes naturally off the back of this work.
We also talk about the art of social content. This means you can be targeting the right people but if your message is weak, it won't do much.
People experience your message as part of their native experience on social media. Put yourselves in their shoes when creating content.
Facebook video is becoming extremely popular and we're seeing great examples from industry already. The first three seconds of video are absolutely critical; the trick is to ensure there is enough attention-grabbing content to hold a person's attention without sound.
Instagram is an incredible channel for stimulating conversations and creating inspiration. Since our Instagram inception in 2014, there have been 35,000 New Zealand holiday recommendations using #nzmustdo - off the back of only 150 Instagram posts from us.
This autumn we'll be turning our focus more to getting social content shared from international visitors while they're here. It's an area where we need industry support to be successful. We already know that the more free Wi-Fi available throughout the country, the easier it is for customers to share their New Zealand experience - and that's what advocacy is all about.
This column is based on content from Tourism New Zealand's digital webinar last week. Mobile performance on newzealand.com was also discussed, and a summary of the discussion can be found here. The full webinar presentation and audio is available.