Travel brands earn four of the top 10 spots on the 2013 Social Brands 100 lists, with airlines embracing customers' favorite networks.

Nearly all businesses recognize the value of social media marketing. Brafton previously reported that 86 percent of brands think social media content contributes to their success, and 97 percent use social networks to promote their products and services. Still, some marketers are leveraging social media better than others, according to the recently released 2013 Social Brands 100 report from Headstream.

The findings show brands are more successful when they have presences across major channels, but focus their efforts on the networks where target audiences are most active.

Travel industry flying high with social media marketing

Travel companies performed well in this year’s evaluation, dominating four of the top 10 positions on the list. Overall, the travel industry represents 15 percent of top ranking social marketing efforts.

Travel brands winning with social media marketing.

The report found airlines, travel agents, bus and train operations use Twitter to stay at the pulse of trends and quickly respond to customers’ issues. As a result, they received top marks for response time and response rate performance. All surveyed travel brands are active on both Twitter and Facebook, but only 89 percent currently have YouTube channels. They also had a bigger digital footprint on Foursquare than other sectors because of the channels’ focus on location.

Likewise, travel brands must respond to in-transit customers using internet-enabled devices to resolve complaints and mitigate real-time social concerns. Adobe Systems’ Hotel Benchmarking Metrics report shows that consumers use tablets more than PCs to visit hotel websites. Companies can reach smartphone and tablet owners through social networks to prompt last-minute bookings.

A social strategy success story

American Airlines, which secured the No. 2 spot on the list, earned the highest score in the travel sector. Director of Social Communications Jonathan Pierce said the company began taking social media marketing seriously a couple years ago when it became apparent that customers were highly active on the networks, thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices. They were using networks to resolve both pre- and post-travel issues, which inspired the company to develop a strategy based on a two-pronged approach with online content.

“There is a long way to go, social is constantly changing and the way our customers use social is constantly evolving.”

“From our business perspective, having the reservations people, who tend to deal with pre-travel issues, in the same space as the public relations people, who often handle post-travel issues, can speed up response,” Pierce states.

Still, the key to success is agility, he says. “There is a long way to go, social is constantly changing and the way our customers use social is constantly evolving.”

Brands’ social marketing strategies must evolve to remain effective in today’s fast-moving culture. Marketers can use social monitoring to evaluate when followers’ behaviors are changing so they can adapt practices around evolving demand.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.