The commercial benefits of Facebook and Instagram are proven, but a new generation of social media apps are emerging, bringing new opportunities for agents. Andrew Doherty reports.
Social media is influencing the way we live our lives in ways never previously imagined – whether it’s fashion recommendations or destinations we should travel to. And, according to experts, it’s becoming more popular.
Technology news source TNW (The Next Web) reported in its April Q2 Digital Statshot that in 2019 almost 3.5 billion people currently use social media, with 98% accessing platforms via a mobile device.
While Facebook and Instagram continue to dominate – with more than two billion and one billion users respectively – a clutch of new social media applications have emerged that look set to disrupt the market.
Here we profile four alternative and emerging platforms, available on either Apple’s App Store or Google Play, that could help boost your business.
Users: 5 million +
The concept: Founded in 2015 by billionaire businessman Ayman Hariri, Vero is an image and video-led mobile app that looks a bit like Instagram but with additional functionality including the ability to share music from a library of more than 50 million songs, recommend books and catalogue bucket-list destinations.
What’s different?: Vero doesn’t have any advertisements or use algorithms, meaning data will not be given to marketers. By default, the app displays posts in chronological order, meaning they are more likely to be seen by family, friends and, potentially, clients.
How agents can leverage it: Travel agencies using Vero can sell direct to clients, says Hariri. “The ‘Buy Now’ feature, which incorporates Apple Pay and Google Wallet, would allow agents to sell their product this way. Depending on the number of transactions, we would take a cut – around 10%,” he explains.
“Another tool that agents could use is ‘Collections’. With other social media platforms, you can only see a few posts at a time, and then you often forget about them. Collectionssaves all of the posts in one place. If a client was to go to Athens, for example, the agency could share its recommended places in ‘Collections’ to encourage exploration, and even use the ‘Buy Now’ function to directly sell a particular experience.”
Users: 500 million +
The concept: Launched in China and introduced to the overseas market a year later, TikTok is an iOS and Android app for creating and sharing short videos between three and 15 seconds long. Like Snapchat, TikTok offers a library of editing tools including filters, augmented reality effects and the ability to search for sounds to score their video.
What’s different?: Users can engage with other TikTok customers through “duets”, where they can duplicate posts and add themselves alongside it, while hashtags can be used to organise content. TikTok also features free-to-use popular music from genres including hip hop, pop, rock and country.
How agents can leverage it: According to a TikTok spokesperson, travel agents could create hashtag challenges or competitions where clients would make videos to promote a particular destination or experience that the agent is selling. “Overall, the key to success is to be creative, and keep track of trends and memes to ensure your audience is engaged and entertained,” they advise.
Users: 5 million +
The concept: MeWe is the number-one alternative to Facebook,” says founder and chief executive Mark Weinstein. Available on iOS, Android and desktop devices since 2016, MeWe offers the ability to create profiles, use group chat, create GIFs and record live audio and video.
What’s different?: Weinstein says: “MeWe is social done right. There is no advertising, and we don’t give your data to companies. We even have the backing of the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who has sat on our board of advisors since 2014.”
How agents can leverage it: Weinstein describes “Pages” as a useful function for agents. “Here, businesses will be able to schedule posts that will be seen by 100% of their followers because we don’t have algorithms messing things up. Furthermore, the £2.30 monthly costs mean they will never have to boost content.”
To improve communication between employees, the MeWePRO messaging application (from £59 per year per user), negates the need for unnecessary internal emails clogging up inboxes, Weinstein adds. “For a travel business, this is perfect for safe, walled-in communication and the sharing of sensitive documents, whether it’s between 50 and 5,000 people.”
Users: 230,000 neighbourhoods
The concept: Nextdoor, which is available on Web, iOS, and Android devices, is a private social network designed for local communities. Users can post requests such as finding a last-minute babysitter or a mechanic, as well as keep up to date with what’s going on in their area.
What’s different?: Address verification helps ensure users are actually based in the local community by sending them a postcard with a confirmation code or a phone number that’s tied to their home address.
How agents can leverage it: From posting commercial events (only available on the web version) to responding to business requests, agents have plenty of opportunities to benefit from Nextdoor. While guidelines stipulate they are limited to one post, sponsored post opportunities allow businesses to advertise. Later this year, Nextdoor will be launching dedicated business pages.
Social leader: Make someone the social media boss in the office to ensure there’s a regular ow of content in the same house style, and that double-posting is avoided.
Tool up: Social media tools like Hootsuite, Buffer and Tweetdeck can be useful, especially if you post often on several platforms. For those all-important, money-making travel offers, I recommend using Facebook or Instagram, where you have complete control of how it appears and how it looks on mobile.
Perfect timing: Trying to second-guess the best time to post is less of an issue these days, as often users will be served up “in case you missed it” content from earlier in the day. Some agents swear by early morning weekday posts, others love posting late on weekends. My advice is to test it and see what works best for you.
Pep up your posts: Remember, you can reach most of your fans by boosting your posts. Even a small investment of £10 can make a huge difference to a post’s reach.
Mix it up: Create Facebook posts that get engagement. Long comments and shares are best but likes, clicks and short comments help too. It’s good practice to have a mix of content including offers plus inspirational, fun, personal and insightful posts.