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From motivating Indonesians to explore untouched local destinations with a photographic competition to surveys on the saucy airborne antics of passengers, Wego is making waves with its social media strategy. Pamela Whitby talks to the company’s managing director about its recent Indonesian score, social moves and why content really is king.

Forget about ‘likes’ and focus on engagement. Think engagement and what you need is ‘extraordinary content’. But before engaging people with incredible customers, know your customer and your market inside out. In other words be social, but be local too.

In essence this sums up the social media strategy of travel meta-search firm Wego in Indonesia. Wego Indonesia recently won an award for best social media strategy at EyeforTravel’s recent Social Media and Mobile in Travel Asia conference. Aside from recognising the company’s innovative and engaging campaigns, central to the judges’ decision was the inevitable question of ROI. Says EyeforTravel MD Tim Gunstone: “All judges agreed that this was the most financially viable strategy.”

It is certainly one that has delivered tangible results. According to Graham Graham Hills, Wego’s managing director, the company has witnessed an increase in branded search results and increased bookings via partner sites as a direct result of its social media efforts in Indonesia. “These aren’t just coming from Facebook but from branded search terms in Google,” he says. There is no question, he says, that the strategy is delivering a return on investment and so the company will continue to invest in its social media strategy.

Fact: Traffic for SEO branded search terms has been peaking at 36% month-on-month, with social media ranking as Wego’s top channel for brand marketing.

So how has Wego gone about it? Here are just some of the highlights.

Going local

Understanding your market is always a good first step. To really get under the skin of a country you need local employees so Wego employed local people with a strong interest in and understanding of social media. Hills points out that Indonesia is still a relatively young and new market but its people do love to travel, though mainly closer to home. On a closer look the company quickly found that many of its users were searching for well-known, local travel destinations. So one of the first campaigns, involved convincing the already active and proud travel community in the country that there were far more destinations that Bali and Lombok in Indonesia. After all, Indonesia is a country with many exceptional landscapes and beaches, something its citizens are incredibly proud of.  One campaign involved a competition that got people inspired to submit their images of these unexplored places. Entrants were invited to submit photographs for the chance to win a trip to Wakatobi, which in another Wego poll came up as the most aspirational destination for travellers. The winners were published on Facebook, with the aim of driving interest in the destination.

In anotherearly poll, Wego asked fans what preferred nickname they would like. One fan suggested ‘Wegonesia’, which is how fans are now addressed providing an emotive and personal connection between the brand and customer.

Focusing on engagement

A big advantage for Wego in the region is that Indonesians are highly active on social media and there is a really active online community of travellers. It is not uncommon to find Twitter users with as many as 10,000 followers. In fact a member of Wego’s social media team has 70,000 personal subscribers, which Hills admits is unheard of in his home country, Australia.Right from the start the social team focused on getting users to engage directly with the brand via social media.  It does not measure its success with ‘likes’ alone, rather by how many people are commenting and sharing content. 

And the result of this engagement is that users are not just coming to Wego and leaving they are going onto partner sites to book their travel.

Content really is king

It may be a bit of cliché but content really is king in the world of social media. You simply cannot engage people without exceptional content. On top of two dedicated social media managers in the region, there is are four experienced and local writers and ex journalists who write a travel blog, the Travel Editor’s Desk. This aims to share destinations and unique hotel profiles, travel industry news (especially relevant for Twitter), and to give Wego executives and staff a friendly face and personality as they share tips and advice from their frequent international travel. 

Of course video is important too and in conjunction with the Hifatlobrain Travel Institute in Jakarta, Wego created a travel video to inspire exploration and travel within Indonesia.  Vaastu, meaning Sanskrit for ‘direction’ appeared on all social media channels, including the Wego Travel Group pages and on Vimeo and YouTube and gained thousands of views and countless comments.

There are ongoing initiatives to create engaging, inspiring, or even a bit cheeky content. Recently, for example, Wego ran a survey of users to establish how many have witness sexual conduct on an aircraft. This week the results (15% respondents from a total of 3,000 in the Asia Pacific region said they had witnessed some form of sexual conduct on an aircraft) made the front page of the Times of India, says Hills.

Numbers tell the story

If all this isn’t enough to convince you that social media is working for Wego consider these numbers:

1. Today Wego Indonesia has 280,000 Facebook followers, up from 20,000 in September 2011.

2. Traffic from social media sites ranked the third most loyal source of overall site visits

3. Subscribers to Wego’s newsletter up 141%

4. @WegoID, Indonesia’s Twitter account has grown by 648% since February 2012

5. The most viral post reached nearly 3.5 million people.


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