Carrie Finley-Bajak
Carrie Finley-Bajak

Finding leads online, either by ranking in organic search results or from social media interactions, can yield results. However, it is often necessary to supplement marketing efforts by deploying social media ad campaigns to remain competitive.

The quest to stay relevant online takes effort. One way to keep a pulse on trends is to explore advertising options available on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

Getting started: plan, buy, optimize

Social media ad campaigns don't require long-term contracts, enabling travel professionals to stop ads at any time. Most channels will offer an option to pay for clicks or impressions.

Prior to spending money on paid or targeted advertising campaigns, make sure to have a keyword strategy. In general, try to stick with a list of three to five keywords to remain consistent. Search on Google for "keyword generator" to get ideas.

Buy targeted ads based on location, demographics and/or device type.

Optimize and analyze ad campaigns on a regular basis. Make sure to stay agile, making adjustments as necessary.

Social media ad channels

After a travel professional makes the decision to allocate time and resources to finding leads through paid advertisements, the next step is to figure out where to deploy ad campaigns.

• Facebook: According to Facebook, there are more than 1.4 billion people who use Facebook to connect with what matters to them, and more than 900 million visit every day. At the end of July, Facebook reported that ads brought in $3.8 billion in advertising revenue for the three-month reporting period that ended in July. As far as social networking sites go, Facebook is a great option for travel agents looking to get started with a social ad strategy. Ads can appear in news feed on a desktop, news feed on a mobile device and in the right column of Facebook on a desktop.

Facebook does a great job collecting information about people. Take advantage of this data and target ads according to location and interests.

With Facebook Ads, travel sellers can create targeted ads to reach different audiences while meeting business goals. Among the things you can do are: build ads that promote clicks to your website, create ads that increase video views, create offers for prospects to claim and increase attendance at a special event, product launch or cruise night.

To learn about Facebook Ads, visit

• Instagram: Although still in its infancy, Instagram recently opened up its ad platform to all companies in 30 countries.

The service is evolving, and the company recently announced it was launching more ad products to use on Instagram. One thing definitely worth trying on Instagram are carousel ads, which are a compelling way to tell a brand's story.

Create and target advanced Instagram ads based on custom audiences, look-alike audiences, Facebook categories and partner categories. Facebook's Ads Manager is the easiest way for small businesses to start running ads on Instagram.

To learn more about Instagram for business, visit

• Twitter: Whether you're looking for more followers or website traffic, Twitter ads might be a good option.

To make the most of Twitter ads, make sure to understand where potential leads spend their time on the service. For example, one way travel agents can generate leads is by using promoted tweets during travel-related Twitter chats. (For a list of weekly chats, visit Another way is running ads on popular hashtags.

There are three kinds of Twitter Ads. 1) Promoted tweets (with or without an image or video) are messages like an announcement of an upcoming product release, a sale or an event you're hosting; 2) A promoted account is an ad that invites targeted Twitter users to follow your brand; and 3) Promoted trends are leverage time-, context- and event-sensitive trends promoted by Twitter's advertising partners. These paid, promoted trends appear at the top of the trending topics list on Twitter and are clearly marked as "promoted."

Like most platforms, Twitter enables you to target your ads based on location, gender, languages, interests and devices.

To learn more about Twitter ads for business, visit

• Pinterest: Ads on Pinterest consist of "promoted pins," which refer to content that will appear in search results. As with other pay-for-click models, a travel professional will only pay for promoted pins when a viewer clicks on or otherwise engages with an ad. There is no minimum cost to run an ad campaign. Instead, it varies based on targeting audience and bid amount.

Pinterest wants promoted pins to be among some of the best pins members see on the social network. According to Pinterest, ads should contain "beautiful, actionable and interesting" content. Before getting started, make sure to review Pinterest's advertising principles and rules.

In May, Pinterest offered a new motion-based mobile ad format called cinematic pins, which are a nice way to enhance storytelling for a brand.

To learn more about advertising on Pinterest, visit

• LinkedIn: For B2B networking and to access affinity groups, advertising on LinkedIn can raise brand awareness, build relationships and drive quality leads.

 LinkedIn Ads enable travel advisers to create and place ads on prominent pages on Target which LinkedIn members view ads by selecting a target audience according to job title, job function, industry, geography, age, gender, company name, company size or LinkedIn group. Advertising costs are controlled by setting a budget (paying only for clicks or impressions). LinkedIn ad formats include text and image ads, video ads or text-only ads.

To learn more about advertising on LinkedIn, visit

Best practice tips

  • Set your advertising goals first. Create both daily and lifetime budgets for your campaigns. Ask suppliers for co-op money to help offset the costs associated with running ad campaigns.
  • Understand the types of actions available from social ads. Are you looking for an increase in reach, followers, engagement or website traffic?
  • Choose targeting keywords that make sense for ads while adhering to an agency's brand standards and travel niche.
  • Use A/B testing to see what ads perform best. A good rule of thumb for independent contractors is to use variations of popular posts from individual accounts to reduce costs associated with market testing.
  • Analyze data to determine what time of day consumers are engaging with ads, then target leads when they are most active online.
  • Don't be shy. Interact and engage with leads who respond to ads.
  • Think global, but deploy local. Take advantage of ZIP code-targeted ads to promote travel products to niche communities. 
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