You know social media has (or can have) a positive impact on your travel business. But understanding exactly what that looks like can be a challenge for many travel agents. You know you are diligently posting, but what result does that have? Is it worth the amount of time you put into it?

It would be a lot easier if you were selling widgets online because then you could just look at your sales. Sponsored ad on Facebook = 150 orders. Success! Not so easy in the travel business. I feel safe in saying that it is rare for you to post something on social media, have someone immediately message you about that exact trip or destination, and it results in a booking. Does that mean your social media isn’t working? NO!

While you may not be formally measuring your return on social media activity, you probably have a sense of whether or not you think it is working. If you are posting frequently and getting a lot of inquiries from clients, you probably feel good about what you’re doing. On the other hand, if you are posting on your social media accounts and getting no inquiries from clients, or worse yet, no likes, then you know something is wrong.

Before you can look at what counts as a social media “win”, you have to first define what a win is to you. So, what’s your goal? It shouldn’t be “to sell travel” because that is far too broad and is a recipe for disappointment. Nor should it be to get a lot of likes or loves for your posts. And getting more and more followers is important, but that’s not the ultimate goal.

So, what should count as social media “win”? It is two-fold for most agents: First, to reach new prospective clients, and second, to engage existing clients. For the first group, the ultimate goal should be to add people to your email list (NOT just have them like your page). For most agents that means the prospect visits your website where they are invited to sign up for their email list. Email marketing is still BY FAR the most powerful marketing tool in your arsenal. It is cost effective, flexible, and delivers results. Therefore, I believe the number one purpose of your social media is to increase your email list. You should constantly be building that funnel.

But it isn’t the only purpose. Social media is also a great way to engage existing clients. It makes them feel great about working with you because you are an expert! It deepens the relationship you have with your clients and increases the likelihood they will refer you. For most agents this is a secondary activity.

So, let’s assume your top priority is to build your email list. You now have one way to measure your ROI on social media: the number of people on your email list. If you have 2,500 on the list at the beginning of the month and 2,675 at the end, that’s success! But don’t forget there is an important “partner” to social media that has to be pulling its weight: your website. It needs to have an easy way for people to sign up for the email. And if there is an IFO (Irresistible Free Offer) tied to it, that is even better!

That takes care of measuring ROI on reaching new prospects, but how do you measure interaction with existing clients? They aren’t going to be joining your email list again, so you can’t use that to gauge success. You could go through and count all the times they liked a post to show they are engaged with you, but that’s time consuming. And who knows if it is even an effective way to measure engagement?

A better approach is to measure the traffic that is driven to your website or blog from your social media activity. Which means you need to be posting things that will interest current clients just as they will new people. This is where you can use all that great knowledge you have about travel. Think about all those tips and information you share with people that they love and you think, “Doesn’t everyone know this?” No, they don’t!

How do you measure that? There are tools out there like Facebook Pixels and Google Analytics that I’m not going to get into because that is not my skillset. But those options exist.

Most importantly, remember that ROI isn’t something you measure once and stop. Just like any strategy, you need to evaluate results periodically and course-correct. That makes it even more important to have a clear idea of your goals from your social media activity, what you want from your website, and how all that ties in with your email campaigns.

I know this is radical, but I think the most important thing you can do with regard to social media ROI is to make sure you don’t have unrealistic expectations. There are many agents out there who feel like their social media isn’t working because they aren’t getting bookings about exactly what they post. That’s really not the role of social media! Think of it more as a brand management strategy. It’s a platform to educate your clients on what YOU can do for them. I encourage you to take a look at your posts for the last three months and see how well those posts serve you in distinguishing you as a travel expert. If you find room for improvement, do it!