TikTok's Travel Lead on reaching and engaging new audiences

TikTok's Travel Lead on reaching and engaging new audiences

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We sat down with Hannah Bennett, Travel Lead at TikTok, to find out how accommodation partners can benefit from engaging with the platform’s travel-focused users.
Hannah Bennett

Hannah: Travel is a hugely popular topic on TikTok. There have been 165 billion views of the #Travel hashtag, and that interest is continuing to skyrocket with global views of travel content on TikTok doubling year-on-year in 2022.

I think this scale can be surprising to some people who’ve never used TikTok. To non-users there’s sometimes an assumption that it’s all dancing and lip-syncing content, but the reality is that everyone’s TikTok experience is unique.

The platform works by seeing the kinds of content you engage with and sharing more of that with you. If you like the lip-syncing content, you’ll see that. But if instead you enjoy travel content, you’ll see more of that.

What kind of content do travel fans go to TikTok for?

Hannah: For many, it'll be slightly escapist browsing. People might be sitting at home on a rainy Tuesday evening, but TikTok allows them to be taken to a beach in Mexico, or walking the side streets of Madrid.

Then there are more active ways for consumers to engage with the content. In fact, TikTok is increasingly becoming a search engine for users looking for ideas for places to visit, looking for travel tips or hacks, or even looking into a specific property. For example, would-be travelers might find a video of someone entering the lobby of a property they’re thinking of staying in to check whether it still looks like the pictures on the website.

This means there’s a passionate, engaged community who comes to TikTok for travel-related content – and are always eager to hear more from brands willing to get involved.

How can accommodation providers use TikTok as a branding tool?

Hannah: People who love TikTok go to TikTok for entertainment – whatever the source.

That means TikTok users don’t balk at brand-generated content and automatically scroll away. In fact, many actively want to hear what a brand has to say, even newer, less-established brands. That’s one of the reasons Kantar have ranked TikTok at or near the top of their list for ad equity three years in a row, recognizing that users are receptive to brand-generated content.

A big part of this is being authentic. Traditional “travel influencers” used to be all about polished videos, luxury beaches, and such, but the truth is almost everyone likes to travel, and travel can mean many different things to many different people.

Plus, because of TikTok’s user interface, users can see the brand’s handle and logo while viewing so they know it’s an ad – saving the need to put branding all over the video itself.

If you can display your brand in an authentic, human way, then you’re likely to find the audience very receptive to what you have to say.

So it’s not limited to just bigger brands?

Hannah: Definitely not! Of course, there are many big brands on TikTok, but because the platform is based on content rather than a user’s network, it’s possible to get your content in front of the right people at the right time without the need for millions of followers. This makes it a perfect opportunity for smaller brands or even individual properties too.

You don’t need a huge budget or extensive skill set either. The camera quality of a standard mobile phone is usually more than enough, and you can record and edit straight in the app so you don’t need any other software.

It ties back to that authenticity aspect. We often call it “lo-fi” – it’s not low quality, but it doesn’t have to be highly polished either.

How can our accommodation partners get started with TikTok?

Hannah: My advice is to simply download the app and spend some time just browsing the content. Engage with the current travel trends, see the kind of content that’s out there, see what appeals to you and what doesn’t, and ask yourself why.

By doing that, you’ll soon start to get a feel of what might work for your brand. After all, a big part of engaging with TikTok is establishing yourself as part of the community. 

Your ads shouldn’t be “book now,” but instead give people who might be thinking about a trip in the next six months a reason to consider your property.

Another effective method can be to partner with an existing, established creator. These people know the audience and might even be known to the audience. They know what works, they’re up on trends, and how to get involved with them, so paying them for their expertise can be a win for both of you.

What about posting content – any tips?

Hannah: Because of the nature of the platform, it’s almost impossible to give any “rules.” It’s about knowing who you want to be as a brand, and knowing who you want to attract as a guest. For example, some might find success using humor and self-deprecation, while others might use a more “exclusive insights” style.

But if I did give one tip it would be – just go for it. Post. See if it works. Learn from it. Post again.

Brands tell me all the time that they spent weeks deliberating a post that just flopped, whereas a quick post from someone on the social media team that took five minutes to make got great numbers.

It’s about being flexible and giving yourself long enough—at least around six months—to start seeing the results.
 

tom van gessel
Want more traveler behavior insights?

Take a look at our interview with Google Travel Lead Tom van Gessel.

Read now

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Takeaway
  • Travel is a big topic on TikTok – with 165 billion views of the #Travel hashtag
  • TikTok is increasingly being used as a search engine for users looking for travel tips, ideas, or reviews
  • Users aren’t put off by brands producing content but instead are happy to engage with anything that entertains them
  • Authentic, human content is valued as much as highly polished content. The keys to success are posting often, staying flexible, and engaging with the community