Facebook's Lee McCabe

By Kate Rice
Lee McCabeFacebook named Expedia veteran Lee McCabe as head of travel, global vertical marketing, in October. Facebook is just beginning to get its arms around travel. This doesn't mean Facebook hasn't been investing its resources in travel: It has people around the globe working on its travel business in sales, market development and product development. McCabe's job is to bring some direction to existing efforts and to tell the Facebook travel story to the marketplace. McCabe talked with retail and technology editor Kate Rice about how travel companies can use Facebook to build business.

Q: How would you define your job right now?

A:
The great thing about Facebook is its innovation. But we are innovating so fast that it's been confusing. It's basically my job to say that there are three or four things, three or four products, that I can guarantee will give you a good return.

Q: Tell us about one.

A:
The complete no-brainer is Facebook Exchange. It's a retargeting solution. You can see when a consumer has been to your website and, for example, looked at a specific hotel. You can re-target them [companies use cookies to track what consumers have viewed of their products] and when they get to Facebook you show them an ad that shows them the same hotel. Retargeting is not new, but the companies that use this are seeing far better results. This helps anyone with a transactional website with conversions.

We are seeing industry-leading returns on that one. You click on an ad and it takes you to a booking engine.

Q: Do you have any do's or don'ts for building your business on Facebook?

A:
One clear strategy is use your existing base and make them Facebook fans. There are two ways you could grow your fans on Facebook.

One is what a lot of companies do, which is not necessarily the right way, where you run sweepstakes and competitions. That gets you quantity, but not quality. They only liked you for the competition, and you end up diluting your fan base.

You want to use your existing customer base to bring you more fans. One way to do that is to use Facebook's Custom Audience, which finds the customers in your database in Facebook. A company might have 100,000 loyalty club members and [have] broken them into 25 different segments. Then you can market to those customers in those segments on Facebook and end up with an army of brand advocates who love your brand and are very happy to share stories about your brand. They will influence their friends, and their friends will influence their friends. Recommendations through friends are 50% more effective.

Q: How should you talk to the people who "like" you on Facebook to help build your fan base?

A:
You should work on engagement, frequent posting with new tips and stories that are high quality but lightweight. By that I mean not too taxing. You're not asking for action for every time, not asking them to think too hard about it every time. As soon as you do that, you have a base of advocates; these people will share these stories with their friends.

Q: What travel companies are using Facebook effectively?

A:
Travel Australia is the perfect example of how to use Facebook. They do frequent posts, and I see an incredible amount of engagement. MGM Resorts are doing particularly well. TripAdvisor, Airbnb, the Disney parks, Delta, Southwest, Best Western, Cathay Pacific are others. We post videos about companies that use Facebook effectively.

Follow Kate Rice on Twitter @krtravelweekly. 
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