Marketing Strategy for Tour Operators

Can Social Media Marketing Help Grow Your Adventure Guiding Business?

social media outdoors

Social media marketing for adventure guides is imperative if you want to grow your business and book more trips. The good thing about being an outdoor guide is that there isn’t a shortage of amazing content. Social media users want to see what you’re doing as a guide. And through videos and photos, they can live vicariously through you until they book an adventure themselves.

What Is Social Media Marketing For Adventure Guides?

Social media marketing is using social media platforms to connect with your (potential) customers in the right place at the right time to encourage them to take an action like click to your website or “like” your social media account (pro tip: read our Intro To Digital Marketing For Professional Adventure Guides to get caught up with this jargon). This means publishing content your prospective customers want to see, responding to comments, and running paid ads.

Social media used to just be about posting your recent adventures on your personal account but has grown to something much bigger than that. It’s another way to find new customers as an adventure guiding business. Luckily, for adventure guides, you have a very visual component — one that’ll do really well on most social media platforms. 

Social Media Marketing Vs Traditional Marketing

Social media marketing is different from traditional marketing in that it’s completely digital, responsive, and interactive. You can respond to your guests or potential customers in real time on social media. You can also quickly edit or cancel campaigns.

Social media marketing is also more convenient than traditional in that it’s easier to start and end a campaign. It’s usually cheaper than traditional marketing. And you can measure the results a lot easier with social media than you can with traditional. 

Whereas traditional marketing is static. Once your ad is in print, you cannot change it. It’s also a more general way to advertise your services. You have to think of the broader audience (as in, it’s one to many) and it’s one-way communication. Instead of an individual on social media (as in, one to one), with conversations between you and your guests and conversations between your guests. 

Advantages To Social Media Marketing For Adventure Guides

Adventure Travel Is Visual

As a visually appealing brand, adventure guides will have a much easier time finding User Generated Content (UGC) as well as have higher engagement than, say, a software company, like us. 

Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok, and Snapchat all lend themselves to stunning pictures and videos and you can tap into your guests’ posts too.

Most of your guests will likely take pictures while on your guided adventure

This means content that you don’t have to come up with yourself. Again, being a visual brand helps you out a lot this way. So, not only can your staff post awesome photos of customers rappelling or paddling or hiking, you can also find your guests’ content and ask for permission to repost it on your own channel.

People want to see pictures and videos of rock climbers, skiers, whitewater rafters, and fishers.

Seeing is believing but it’s also experiencing. If someone sees their friend rappelling through canyons in Arizona — and it looks like a lot of fun — they’re more likely to book with the same company giving their friend this amazing adventure.

Pictures and videos of adventures is the ultimate FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Seeing someone experiencing a breathtaking adventure makes us want to do it too. 

People are influenced by what they see on social media platforms

And guess what? According to Expedia’s Gen Z travel trends report from 2018, 84% of Gen Z and 77% of Millennials are influenced by social media on where they’re going to travel and what they’ll do when they get there. Further, 34% of Gen Z and 32% of Millennials want to explore the outdoors. This comes behind finding the best deals and value. 

If that wasn’t enough to convince you, take TripAdvisor’s report on 5 Traveler Trends To Watch Out For in 2021. In it, they state, “The popularity of nature and outdoor activity-filled trips…will likely remain high on the agenda for many travelers too, as consumers seek peace and relaxation away from the crowd..”

Finally, Pinterest has seen searches for “mountain travel” increase by 35% year over year.

Better Customer Experience and Service

Social media marketing for adventure guides offers both better customer experience and service. In other words, some of your guests will follow your social media accounts and by regularly posting to them, your guests get to connect with you beyond the adventure trip. You can encourage them to book another trip with you in the future. Also, by reposting user generated content, it helps develop brand loyalty. It doesn’t matter who you are, when someone reposts one of your photos or videos, you tend to feel a little special.

Another advantage of social media is providing better customer service. This means responding to customers’ questions and comments on your social media platforms, and in a timely manner.

In fact, according to Sprout Social, “90% of people surveyed have used social in some way to communicate directly with a brand. What’s more, social surpasses phone and email as the first place most people turn when they have a problem or issue with a product or service.” 90% is no small number.

It’s important to look at social media through your customers’ point of view so you can deliver better customer service and give them a good experience, while you’re at it. 

Helps Drive More Bookings

Social media marketing helps drive traffic to your adventure guiding website. When your potential customers or past guests see a recent post of your epic whitewater rafting adventure, they’re going to want to experience that as well. 

This could send customers to your website to learn more about what you offer as a guide.

An example of using social media to drive more bookings is using a platform like Facebook that easily includes links to posts. Say you’re offering a discount for early season whitewater rafting trips. 

Creating an eye-catching post with a link and telling your followers to click that link to get their discount will help drive traffic to your website. You can go one step further by sharing your offer in appropriate Facebook groups. 

Problems With Social Media Marketing For Adventure Guides

It Can Be Time Consuming

Big companies have teams of people who work on specific social media aspects. But for smaller adventure guiding companies, you don’t have the budget for ad spends, let alone hiring one person to take on social media. 

This is where we see adventure guiding businesses struggle. If it’s just you and a couple of guides running your entire operation, you’ll quickly learn how time-consuming social media marketing can be.

First, you need to come up with a social media strategy with the kinds of posts you plan on publishing. Then you need to find the content to post. Next, you need to post to these platforms. It takes a hefty chunk of time to do all this right.

Instead, experiment. Look at the pictures and videos you already have saved on your phones, computers, etc. You can choose a consistent schedule of posting that you can maintain.   

Organic Engagement Is Dropping While Paid Ad Costs Are Increasing

Organic engagement on social media platforms is declining pretty significantly which means it’s harder to get your current followers to see your posts in the first place. For instance, Trust Insights states there was a 21% decline in engagement from 2019 to 2020.

At the same time, these social media platforms are charging more to place paid ads on their sites. So, a majority of brands are trying to find a good balance between the two. We obviously want people to engage with what we post on social, but how do we do it without breaking the bank?

We say focus less on likes and more on the amount of traffic you receive from those platforms. Try to drive people to your website because ultimately, that’s where you want them to go.

It Can Go Viral In A Bad Way

This is what we’d call a PR crisis. It’s when you post something insensitive or offensive and your followers respond aggressively. The problem with social media is that the news of your mistake can spread very quickly online. This could be detrimental to your brand and business reputation.

Is Social Media Marketing Effective For Adventure Guides?

Yes Because It’s Like Word-Of-Mouth

Before digital marketing came on the scene, people telling their friends about certain companies was what led to that company’s growth. You probably still do this with your friends and colleagues. People find new places to explore and adventures to take through their social media network.

By posting on social media you help increase word-of-mouth, which also grows brand awareness, and will inevitably drive more traffic to your website, which should generate more bookings.

Social Media Is Cost-Effective

It’s free to make an account on any of the social media platforms and it’s free to post, making it a free way to grow your business. It also has the potential to reach thousands of people without having to pay a cent. You also have more control over your ad spend with social media. 

Build Relationships With Your Guests (Past, Present, and Future)

Posting regularly to social media keeps you at top of mind for your followers. It’s called “social” because it’s supposed to be a conversational platform, unlike Tripadvisor. You can’t engage with your audience from Tripadvisor but you can answer questions and concerns immediately on Facebook or Instagram.

Tips For Social Media Marketing For Adventure Guides

Start With Your Goal In Mind

There’s a saying that goes, “What gets measured gets managed.” You need to know what it is you want out of social media marketing in order to know if what you’re doing is working or not. The best way to do this is to set a SMART Goal: Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Relevant. Timely. 

When creating a goal for your social media marketing make sure it ticks off all the components of a SMART goal. 

Different goals could be increasing brand awareness, boosting brand engagement, driving web traffic, or generating more bookings. Decide how you’ll measure this and set a date you want to meet your goal by.

Define Your Audience

Otherwise known as a “buyer persona.” One thing that’s easy to get wrong and forget is the kind of person who’s signing up for your adventures. You have to get into their minds so you can post things they’ll likely engage with. You’ll want to come up with their interests, location, age, job, preferences, etc. so you really know who you’re posting for.

Choose The Right Platform(s)

There are a ton of platforms out there to choose from and deciding which one will depend on your goals and your audience. It makes more sense for an adventure guiding company to have a profile on Facebook and Instagram as these are visually-driven platforms with the most users. 

Additionally, consider the age of your guests. Younger customers will be on TikTok and SnapChat while older people will likely be on Facebook.

This will take some research on your end but explore the different platforms to see where you’ll be most successful.

Assess Your Resources

It’s important to go into a social media marketing strategy with an understanding of your resources. This means how much time and money you have to dedicate to social media. If you’re short on time, maybe one post a week is all you can do right now. If you have zero marketing dollars, then you know your growth and engagement will take longer to build. 

Understanding what you can do will help you set realistic expectations.

Get Content From Your Guests

Last but not least, get content from your previous guests. We’ve already mentioned User Generated Content above but it’s important to bring it up again. 

Asking your guests to tag you on social media or use a custom hashtag makes it easier on you to post content. It also makes them feel special when you ask their permission to repost. Further, it helps grow and strengthen your connections.

This post is part of our Digital Marketing Series:

Intro To Digital Marketing For Professional Adventure Guiding Services

Why The Stages Of The Buyer’s Journey Matter For Adventure Tourism

An Introduction to Tourism SEO For Outdoor Guides

Is Paid Search Worth It For Adventure Tour Guides?

Is Display Advertising Useful For Your Adventure Guiding Company?

4 Advantages Of Content Marketing For Adventure Guides

Can Social Media Marketing Help Grow Your Adventure Guiding Business?

Email Marketing For Adventure Guides In 5 Easy Steps

Or download our free Digital Marketing Ebook created specifically for outdoor guides.