Whether we admit it or not, social media impacts nearly every aspect of our lives. From the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep at night, it's always there and many of us are always on it. While 2020 gave way to many people 'unplugging' and taking social media breaks and breaking up with their phone time, period (thank you, screen time reports), there were many others who found solace in it and turned to social media to support causes, spread awareness, and generally just reach out.
In terms of travel, social media even impacts that, with recent studies showing that it might impact how we plan and take vacations more than originally thought. Social media has now proven to be a powerful platform which hotel, rental, transportation, and even the entertainment industry has learned how to take advantage of. Each scroll opens up a gateway to a new idea, a new option, or a new trustworthy review. It might not seem like it, but travelers are influenced in more ways than they realize and it starts as soon as that app or webpage is fully-loaded on our screens.
Social Media Influences In A Positive Light
It's estimated by Four Pillars Hotels that 85% of all travelers are using their cell phones while abroad. That is a hefty reliance on technology, much of which involves social media or web searches. In a way, this is positive news - it means that now, more than ever, people are jumping on their phones to conduct their research, look up directions, find things to do, and stay connected while traveling overseas. This provides an avenue that many people didn't have 20 years ago or even a decade ago when phone technology was in its infancy and wasn't capable of half the things a phone can do now.
It's also estimated that 30% of travelers have used their phones to find affordable deals on bookings which means that social media, for one, has been working - the ads that a person is directed to and the 'suggested' pages that pop up are targeting the right people; enough to boost online bookings and deal redemptions past where it has ever been before.
In terms of using social media for reviews, an overwhelming 92% of people say they trust personal reviews from family and friends, also referred to as 'earned' reviews. In terms of general reviews, 70% of people trust online reviews regardless of who they come from - friend or stranger. Social media has given travelers a powerful platform to stand on as they can now not only document their expereinces via photo and video proof, but can describe their personal experiences to others through other platforms.
Feeling that FOMO? You wouldn't be alone. Roughly 52% of users on one popular social media platform alone planned vacations based on what they saw from their family and friends. Specifically, it was the photos shared from the vacation that inspired them to do the same thing or something similar. Additionally, 48% of people who planned their vacations around social media and used strictly social media for their research, kept those same exact plans without changing them.
Social Media Influences In A Negative Light
That doesn't mean social media hasn't been hurting the travel industry, as well. In the same light, all of those reviews (that 70% of people on social media trust) can also hinder a company, brand, or restaurant just as much as they can help them. During a year such as 2020, a negative review could be detrimental to the overall success of a business which is something not many people realize before hitting 'post.'
When it comes to posting the photos that cause all of that FOMO, surprisingly, only 76% of travelers polled by Four Pillars Hotels admited to actually posting vacation photos on social media after they came back. While the reason is unclear, it could be anything from maintaining privacy to not wanting to show off, but that means there are still a percentage of 24% - which isn't so small - that don't post a single thing. This could be hurtful to the tourism industry, as more often than not, it's encouraged for travelers to share their own ecperiences in order to get the word out and increase business and revenue.
Lastly, only 38% of US travelers and 64% of non-US travelers use social media to actually talk about or blog about their experiences. It's unclear what this means and whether or not higher percentages could help the travel industry as well as those places in need of strong tourism to survive, but the scale is clearly tipping far in one direction and far less in the other.