Virgin Holidays: Trending Travel Guide
The world’s first travel guide curated through the power of social media.
ForwardPMX has been working with Virgin Holidays since 2016 across SEO, content marketing, paid search, paid social and data science. While working with the brand on various content projects, our team found that Virgin Holidays performed well for brand awareness during peak periods, especially immediately after the holidays, due to heavy above-the-line advertising campaigns.
However, despite being a prominent brand, Virgin Holidays was seeing their authority in the eyes of Google diminish compared to core competitors, making it particularly challenging in the off-peak season. With the difficulty in navigating the peak and off-peak travel periods, accompanied with the current geopolitical climate, ForwardPMX and Virgin Holidays wanted to come up with an innovative strategy to increase brand awareness.
This inspired us to create the ‘Trending Travel Guide’ project – the world’s first travel guide curated through the power of social media. We aimed to create an inspirational and interactive piece of content to keep the Virgin Holidays brand top of mind all year round, powered by our specialist data capabilities and social listening technologies.
With competitors churning out generic keyword-led articles at volume, travel-related SERPs are often saturated with low quality content, providing little to no additional value. For younger holiday planners, however, it’s clear that social media is now much more than just hot dog legs on the beach and selfies at Machu Picchu. It is a critical part of a consumer’s research phase. With Virgin Holidays’ younger target market in mind, the team decided to use social media to create a dynamic picture of what people are talking about in ‘almost’ real-time.
Powered by Social Media
The guide collates social media post volumes, filters out negative sentiment, and then ranks holiday attractions according to popularity over the previous seven days. This allows social media to curate, in a very literal sense, the order of recommendations based on millions of opinions. This ultimately provides a fresh look at what’s currently popular in holiday destinations, like NYC and Las Vegas for example. The list of recommendations updates automatically each day, allowing users to see what’s trending in their holiday destinations right now, and plan their trip accordingly.
With authenticity increasingly valued by online consumers, the new Virgin Holidays guide aims to address consumer fears that established review sites, such as TripAdvisor, are being unfairly skewed by negative/fake experiences or by paid-for content.
Goals & Objectives
Strategize new ways to increase brand visibility throughout the year and not just in peak periods. ForwardPMX worked with Virgin Holidays’ internal teams to build a creative solution to keep the brand top of mind for when that important booking time arrives.
Achieve higher levels of user interactivity and which improves with more audience participation.
Drive link authority back to category pages of the Virgin Holidays site through the creation of a new interactive tool to deepen value and insight to customers.
API integration with Crimson Hexagon and Datasets
Our teams used social listening API integration through Crimson Hexagon, a tool that understands emerging consumer trends within any audience, and leveraged state-of-the-art AI technologies to collate social media post volumes. We integrated Crimson Hexagon’s API into our in-house technology, Datasets, a data analysis platform that gives our teams access to any data, and allows them to very easily perform large-scale analysis using data across multiple systems. By doing this, we were able to collate post volumes for the most popular restaurants, bars, nightclubs, attractions, museums, waterparks, casinos and more, across three key Virgin Holidays US destinations. Filtering out negative sentiment and using automation to update the front end every day allows us to show a true reflection of what’s popular on social media.
The guide pulls unlimited post volume data from over 600 brands – a scale that no one else has achieved before. This was an unconventional usage of the tool, as it’s normally used for brand campaign and conversion tracking; instead, we used it to inspire content with the objective to update the front end of the website with a dynamic picture of what people are talking about in almost real-time.
UX and Cross Channel Promotion
The UX teams helped create an optimized user journey, and ensure call backs to the main site. They also integrated Hotjar tracking, a tool that reveals the online behavior, to give a ‘big picture’ of how to improve the user experience and performance/conversion rates on the guide to measure how an audience interacts with higher funnel content.
By integrating our digital PR outreach with Virgin Holidays’ PR agency, we diversified our link building tactics into different outreach streams including: marketing press, design websites, travel news websites, travel writer partnerships, and outreach to the 600 different brands recommended by the platform. To give credibility, Virgin Holidays also partnered with influential travel writers around the world to create exclusive content for the guide, and provide Virgin Holidays’ customers with valuable information not found anywhere else online.
Paid social was utilized to reach new audiences with Facebook carousel driving traffic to the site. We partnered with Virgin Holidays’ CRM team to create an email campaign promoting the “Trending Travel Guide”, who, alongside the organic social team, have since built it into their editorial calendars for 2019 and beyond. We also utilized our relationship with our partners (bloggers and brands mentioned on the guide) to share the content on their social media and websites. Our innovative use of technology has led to case studies and promotion from Crimson Hexagon and CraftCMS (the CMS we used to host the content).
Nothing like this has ever been done before at ForwardPMX, and it is the very definition of innovation, marking several firsts for both Virgin Holidays and ForwardPMX. This was the first time Crimson Hexagon had been used in this way by anyone globally, and it was our first integration with Datasets. We crunched over 29 million social posts, and this number will continue to increase.
Above Link Target
with Over 287 Referring Domains
Ranking Position for Travel Guide
New Users to Virgin Holidays Site
Increase in Landing Page CTR
Decrease in Cost Per Landing Page View
Paid Social Reach