This is worth a read: “Why 2012 is going to be The Year of SoLoMo“. I’ll agree pretty much with what Ritesh Gupta says in this article, but allow me to drill down into the tactical “why” elements of the argument–specifically from a travel agent perspective.
Social will be important for travel agents–and this mostly Facebook, and maybe a little Google+. People often choose a travel agent by getting a referral from a friend, just like many other local-type services. And for the majority of agents, business will come from local customers, as it’s become dizzingly difficult to compete in ordinary web search for even niche terms like “Bora Bora honeymoons”…way beyond the ability of most small travel agencies to either do themselves, or pay an SEO consultant to do for them. Facebook posts about places the agent has recently visited are a gentle reminder to all their 160 (if they’re average 🙂 Facebook friends that they’re a travel agent, keeping that agent top-of-mind when that friend either needs assistance with travel, or is talking to another friend who’s looking for a travel agent.
But the travel agent needs to be careful on the STYLE of what they post: the typical Facebook user does NOT want to be “pitched”, and is browsing Facebook in a mode of social interaction, catching up with friends, seeing cool stuff their friends are doing. That’s one of the reasons that Facebook ad click-through rates are so dismal compared to other channels. Sharing photos from a fabulous destination will work; also using a tool like our very own Visual Itineraries to show a fantastic trip you just arranged for a client will be appealing. These kinds of posts are likely to be successful at getting a Facebook friend to click through, take a look, and maybe start getting interested in planning their own trip.
Local search will be important for travel agents, as it’s a place where most can compete (with some effort & SEO knowledge) for a top-7 spot in the Google Local results, especially for niche terms like “honeymoon travel” or “africa travel specialists”. FYI, two great sites for the travel agent and/or their webmaster to get up to speed on local search are David Mihm’s blog, and also GetListed.org.
Mobile search I’m not so sure of–at least when it comes to travel agents. I just can’t be convinced that people are going to be whipping out their mobile phone and searching for a travel agent, or a hotel, etc. If you consider restaurants and activities and excursions, sure…but not selecting an agent or booking a hotel or flight. Geo-location offers I’ll buy, however…spa or restaurant specials in a hotel, for instance I think can work. But this doesn’t do anything for travel agents.