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Facebook says wooing travel industry will be 'key focus' in 2014

Facebook is planning to woo the travel industry with a series of events, research and ad targeting refinements in the coming months as it looks to turn one of its fastest growing advertising verticals to one of its biggest in 2014.

In recent months the social network’s EMEA division has gradually been reorganising its sales teams to work with advertisers on a vertical, rather the country-based level. It has been recruiting for travel sales representatives in particular as it is looking to bring spend from the sector more in line with its biggest spending sectors, such as FMCG and financial.

This week Facebook met with 40 of its top and prospective travel clients to present a study, conducted by research agency Sparkler, that found Facebook appears prominently during the five stages of taking a holiday: dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and reflecting.

Among the findings, the study claimed more than half (52 per cent) of users said when using Facebook they started dreaming about a holiday even when they did not have one booked and that 95 per cent of people use Facebook for travel related activities prior to going on vacation.

Andy Pang, Facebook UK measurement solutions group lead, told Marketing Week it is hoped the study will help travel companies recognise the social network should form a key part of their advertising spend, adding that travel will be a “key sector focus” in 2014 for the site.

He said: “A lot of travel marketing is about using search as the main mechanism but that mainly falls at the buying and planning stages. This is about reminding them that Facebook is present throughout the five stages of travel. [At the dreaming, experiencing and reflecting stage] friends and family in pictures adds so much more weight than a picture of an empty beach in a glossy brochure.”

From this week’s meeting and further one-on-one meetings going forward, Facebook will encourage travel companies to use its new Custom Audiences tool in order to link their CRM databases with Facebook’s own user data and improve the way they segment their customers.

Facebook is also working to improve ad targeting product so brands can drill down to a segment of “travel intenders”, a predictive algorithm that can determine consumers likely to be in the market to book their holiday soon and therefore be more likely to interact with advertising.

As part of this work with the sector, the social network will partner big online travel operators and tourists boards, alongside research agencies - such as Datalogix, GfK and Kantar - to analyse the performance of their Facebook ad campaigns, particularly when coupled with traditional media such as outdoor and press. It hopes to share some of the results in the form of case studies with the rest of the market later next year.
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