Experts at a Travolution Business Breakfast dismiss claims that Facebook is in decline. Lee Hayhurst reports

Claims that Facebook is in decline because younger generations are abandoning the site for other social platforms have been dismissed.

Mike Fox, chief marketing officer at Culture Trip, who formerly worked at Facebook as director of marketing, said: “It’s a total myth. Take a look at their recent financial results. They’re crushing it.

“There are a lot of people in the press who love to write a negative story around Facebook. It’s a good clickbait headline.

“There are certainly things that could be done better, but for the most part people working at Facebook are trying to do their best.
“It’s very complicated and it’s uncharted territory and there’s a lot of trial and error that comes with building something.

“Yes, the kids aren’t adopting it [Facebook] as quickly as they did 10 years ago. But maybe they’re not ready for it in their life stage yet.

“I use Facebook a lot because I am a grown-up with parents who live in America and relatives all over the world I need to keep I touch with.”

Nena Chaletzos, founder and chief executive of online travel agent Luxtripper, said many social media users are on several platforms but tend to use one the most.

“We are always looking at which platform is more relevant for which demographic,” she said. “Just because they go on to Instagram doesn’t mean they’re going to leave Facebook.”

Nick Cooper, head of UK market at HolidayPirates, which has built its business targeting millennials on Facebook, said: “The main thing for us is how successful Facebook has been. Being too reliant on Facebook and only knowing how to do business one way can leave you vulnerable. Diversifying is going to be really important for us.”

Firms urged to get handle on all social channels

Travel firms serious about social media cannot afford not to experiment with alternative channels, according to Culture Trip’s Mike Fox.

The chief marketing officer of the global content platform, which plans to launch a travel division this year, said: “Facebook is pretty well-established, so you have to be good at it.

“What’s challenging for us is the new platforms that are still trying to figure their way.

“For instance, Snapchat, what do you do with that? We’ve done a lot of experiments, but it’s hard to figure out where you scale.

“What’s unclear is how we bring the Snapchat customer to our ecosystem. It’s a lot easier on Facebook.”

Fox said companies must now “spend a lot” to be successful on Facebook, but added: “I saw so many people in the early days of Facebook crush it, so I don’t think you can afford not to be experimenting on these new platforms because if you solve it for yourself you’re so far ahead of the game.”

Last October, Culture Trip launched its Hungerlust food video series on Snapchat, which Fox said “saw a ton of engagement”.

Experts say human touch is key to social success

Success on social can be measured in many ways, but panellists agreed that the only way companies can ensure they meet their goals is to be human.

Speakers agreed a more sophisticated approach to social has emerged since the early days when firms prioritised amassing ‘friends’, ‘followers’ or ‘likes’.

Today, success is measured more by engagement, which can take many forms, including direct bookings, although attribution remains a challenge.

HolidayPirates’ Cooper said: “We’d love to see that direct link between the deals we post and conversion into bookings. Essentially that’s what we’re trying to do.

“With multi-channel attribution, it’s quite difficult to pin down a specific booking with something you’ve done on social media. “So we look at how viral a deal goes, if a deal is shared by our community and how engaged the audience is.”

Luxtripper’s Chaletzos said: “Travel is social, it’s personal, so social media lends itself brilliantly to travel. It is sometimes difficult to attribute a user because they might have seen you on Facebook but come direct to your website.

“There are multiple ways to measure success, and for different organisations what counts as success will be very different. We get a lot of leads.”

Allison Busacca, travel product marketing lead at Facebook and Instagram, said 80% of Instagram users follow a business, indicating a desire to engage with brands.

“The shift we’re seeing is towards engagement rather than just ‘likes’ – having a really strong conversation,” she said.

“It’s about creating engagement so your followers feel they are a part of your brand, looking beyond just one metric and thinking about all of them together.

“And it’s about being human. Social platforms are essentially just different ways to communicate with your consumers – where they are and how they want to receive information.”

Fox tips the online world to split into three

Different approaches to online privacy around the world is causing the internet globally to fracture in to three distinct entities, it was claimed.

Culture Trip’s Fox said the online environment was now shaped by the GDPR data-protection regime in Europe, the “free internet” ethos in the US and the restrictive approach in China.

“There are huge differences in culture,” he said.

“We are probably at the very beginning of this new trend.

“We used to build digital businesses for the global community and there was one internet, but there’s probably going to be three in the future.

“That has huge implications for how you structure your business and what you do with your content and how you treat your users.”

Panellists like Facebook’s integration plan

Panellists said they were excited about Facebook plans to integrate its platforms.

This month, the social media giant announced its intention to bring Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp together.

HolidayPirates’ Nick Cooper said: “That could be massive for us. At the moment, we have three separate strategies. [In future], you could have someone who’s inspired by your brand on Instagram and be able to WhatsApp their friends or share it on Facebook.

“Because the success of our business is in engagement and our deals going viral, having them combined will only increase that.”

Luxtripper’s Chaletzos said: “Having a better ecosystem that connects is definitely better for business. It will be amazing if we can manage it all through one platform. Messenger is becoming a bigger channel for us.”

Facebook’s Busacca said the platform had recognised that firms don’t have the resources to support all of its channels. She added: “We are thinking about the integration to make it easier for you to support those conversations, to engage as humans across the three platforms.”

Gallery: Travolution Business Breakfast