The days of consumers researching and booking travel offline are long gone. The Internet brought a new, easier and more cost-effective option for travelers at every stage of the travel process. But that’s not all – it also opened up a whole world of opportunities for those in travel marketing to reach this adventurous audience. A great example of this is the inclusion of social media in your marketing strategy. While some industries have been slow to the game, the travel and tourism industry has picked up the social media ball and ran with it, finding innovative ways to use it to its advantage.

So what, you ask, are they doing right? Here are five innovative ways the travel industry has been successfully utilizing social media within a marketing strategy, as laid out by Social Fresh:

1. Competitions and Promotions
Due to the  nature of the service provided, competitions and giveaways are a great tool for the travel and tourism industry (free trip for two to Cancun, anyone?). Through social media, travel marketers can easily open these up to entirely new audiences that would either be too large or too expensive to reach through traditional methods. It also provides the opportunity to grow your brand’s social presence and following, requiring participants to ‘Like’ your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter in order to be entered into the drawing.

2. Special Offers and Group Deals
In the past couple years alone, group deals have taken consumers by storm. Brands have the ability to offer a single deal to a very large audience in a short amount of time. And because the deals are short-lived and only available once a large enough group has signed up, it creates a great incentive for consumers to not only sign up, but to also share your brand’s deal with friends.

3. SEO and Boosting Awareness
Companies that maintain a social media presence on one or more channels with regularly updated content and ongoing discussions among consumers are not just creating a community around their brand, they’re actually improving their SEO. The more optimized your website is for search engines, the more relevant traffic will be driven to your site.

4. Customer Reviews
Ah, customer reviews. Although transparency of this kind can be a scary concept for some business, customer reviews can actually tell you a lot about the internal workings of your company, where you can improve, and can bring consumers to your site that may not have found you otherwise. People take advice from other people they trust. A good review could easily be a few new customers. And by gauging the conversation taking place, brands can pinpoint consistent issues within the company and takes strides toward fixing them. Plus, online customer reviews give brands an opportunity to respond to negative comments, showing the consumer and the public that they care and will do something to remedy the complaint.

5. Engaging with Customers on a Personal Level
Social media allows companies in the travel industry to interact with consumers on personal level, providing a channel for two-way conversations rather than a blanketed one-directional advertising message. Social consumers like to be heard by large companies that may feel inaccessible otherwise.