Despite all the uncertainty travel marketers faced in 2021, one thing remains clear: having an authentic social media strategy helps audiences feel connected to your brand.

While travel recovery looks promising as we peer ahead to 2022, no one in the industry can deny the year we’ve had — record closures, oft-changing travel policies, and an overarching pivot to virtual events and digital-first experiences.

Good storytelling on social media can transcend global events and bring people closer together, which is why it’s imperative for travel brands to prioritize thoughtful experiences and conversations on social media on the daily.

Planning your social strategy for the coming months? Here are a few emerging social media trends and high-performing favorites worth doubling down on in 2022.

1. DIY storytelling trumps traditional advertising

Travelers can sense when something isn’t authentic, especially in our hyper-connected world where user photos, reviews, and hashtags are pre-baked into the travel planning process.

Before making decisions, travelers tend to take a multi-touch approach to ensure their vacation experience is 100% as advertised. In fact, 79% of people say user-generated content (UGC) has had a highly effective impact in their decisions.

Destination marketers and travel brands, take note.

If your DMO or travel business is marketing your destination as perfectly Instagrammable, UGC should also evoke that. For today’s traveler — especially in a post-COVID landscape — anything less than authentic will turn them off from your marketing.

2. Video will continue to reign supreme

2021 was big on video. Let’s recap: Instagram experimented with including more video on their platform. TikTok influenced the biggest songs of the year, arguably changing the interplay between music and video for years to come.

“Consumers, on average, spend about 323 minutes per week watching video content, and that is on mobile phones alone,” said Mackenzie Bromley, the Director of Social Media at MMGY Global.

In the travel industry, videos have long been an indispensable marketing tool. They show off destinations and hospitality businesses in their full glory. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that 75% of Instagram users take action after viewing a video ad.

In 2022, we strongly encourage travel marketers to lean harder into video creation — and that doesn’t have to equal big budget productions. Again, DIY videos appeal to travelers looking for an unfiltered opinion on the destinations they’re researching. Consumers will likely expect travel brands and destinations to meet them exactly where they are. Today, that’s on mobile and online.

As positive travel sentiment slowly ticks up to pre-pandemic levels, 2022 is a great time to sate your audience’s wanderlust with unforgettable destination videos.

3. Surprise — travel brands need to be on TikTok

“TikTok is not social media. It’s an entertainment platform,” said Beril Gutierrez, Senior Manager of Social Media at Discover The Palm Beaches.

Plus, according to Gutierrez, TikTokers spend an average of 61 minutes per day on the app, which is 50% higher than platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Brands on TikTok have the opportunity to see higher engagement rates and keep audiences glued to their phones with entertaining content.

And it’s not all about Gen Z, either. About 23% of Gen X travelers have accounts on TikTok, so prepping a TikTok strategy for your destination could have a big payoff with multiple demographics itching to travel again.

The bottom line? Your brand can’t ignore TikTok’s audience of two billion (and counting).

4. More and more travel brands will try micro-influencing

73% of brands actively use influencer campaigns as a powerful arm of their marketing machine, and there’s no doubt that trend is here to stay.

Often, we get stuck in the trap that expensive, big-name influencers = better ROI, but that’s not always the case. Micro-influencing can be just as…well, influential as working with content creators with a huge follower base.

Partner up with content creators who have a unique POV that aligns with your mission, rather than a mega-influencer whose content casts a super-wide net. For example, want to highlight Indigenous lands and experiences within your destination? Partner with Indigenous content creators. Looking to showcase your destination’s food scene? Work with a foodie micro-influencer who already lives, breathes, and eats in your community.

5. Social analytics will be more important than ever

Year after year, the need for insightful analytics grows. At-a-glance dashboards can be overwhelming at first, but the exciting part about raw data is that, eventually, that data becomes a story. Here are a few things you should keep a pulse on when you’re looking at social media analytics:

  • Engagement rate. How are people engaging with your content? Are they commenting, saving, and sharing, or merely scrolling past? If you have a million followers but only 1,000 of them actually interact with your marketing, that’s not a great return on your effort.

  • Reach. How many new audiences are your accounts reaching week over week or month over month, and is this number stagnant or growing? Ideally, your brand should aim for steady growth, not stop-and-start jumps every few months.

    • Reviews and ratings. How is your destination or brand viewed by travelers? The value of  positive reviewer sentiment can’t be understated, especially when travelers have a handful of tabs open researching your destination on Google, Yelp, Instagram, and Facebook.

    Putting it all together

    There are dozens of touch points on social media that your brand can leverage to get people hyped about your destination — like entertaining videos on TikTok, or powering your paid ads with authentic UGC that makes potential travelers feel like they’re already there.

    Some trends have staying power, but remember: you know your audience better than anyone. Take inventory of your best performing social content in 2021 and use that as inspo while you’re prepping for 2022.

    To keep yourself on track and plan ahead, check out our 2022 content calendar template and let your creative juices flow!