4 Social Media Branding Lessons We Can Learn From #ExpediaChat

4 Social Media Branding Lessons We Can Learn From #ExpediaChat Lucy Hitz Blogger Extraordinaire Simply Measured

How do you make a Twitter campaign that’s built to last? What makes a recurring Twitter event popular, an “institution,” on a social media platform that by its very nature is ever-evolving and jam-packed with endless content? How do you make yourself heard?

#ExpediaChat, a Q&A session moderated by a travel expert every Wednesday at 1:30 PM ET, has found its own answers to these questions and sees a reliable 3,000-5,000 tweets using the hashtag on Q&A days. This is a great return for the travel company. The weekly event builds brand engagement by creating a community of travel lovers, all eager to ask and answer questions, and share tips on globe-trotting adventures.

How can you implement and judge the success of a similar strategy for Twitter event longevity? Read on for some tips taken from Expedia’s success.

Set a clear, not-necessarily-traditional goal

Pick one metric to track as your campaign progresses. Community-building and Twitter-eventing aren’t magic bullets for social media success, but choosing your primary priority can help you tailor your content to win in one particular area. And success in one area, such as hashtag mentions, often bleeds into another, like follower counts. What’s most important to you? More followers? An uptick in sales? Increased traffic towards your site? Depending on the campaign you’re working on, it might be time to benchmark differently. The chart below shows the first month of #ExpediaChat, back in January of 2013.

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Note that every Wednesday there’s a large and reliable spike in audience engagement, whether by retweet, reply, or mention. Below is what this same time period looks like a year later:

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Still going strong every Wednesday, except with an increased average for mentions, retweets and replies. This is fantastic news for a Social Media Manager who wants to measure her campaign’s success by its longevity and reliable mentions. But focusing on engagement totals doesn’t give you the whole picture.

She could also choose to measure program success by tracking the amount of unique people that engage with @Expedia on Twitter week over week, then dig deeper into the data to discern which percentage of this activity was #ExpediaChat-related, using this fluctuating number to determine which Q&A topics are working, and which are less successful. Not only will this give her a good idea of how well the chat is working, it will help her understand the value it’s driving for the brand’s owned properties as well.

Remember: the more targeted the measurement goal, the more targeted the content. 

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Get your influencers lined up

Increase your net reach by asking relevant bloggers and industry experts to host your Twitter chats or Q&A’s. Expedia uses Spencer M. Spellman, the self-described “Traveling Philosopher” and popular blogger. He’s always there (consistency is king, see below), but gets joined every week by guest co-hosts who help moderate the chat. Combining forces with other socially engaged experts helps spread the word about #ExpediaChat and exposes it to people who otherwise might not have been interested. Here are the top users of #ExpediaChat from 1/2/14 to 2/2/14.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 10.52.34 AMNote that in addition to travel bloggers like Trip Styler and Dave & Deb Travel, major partners like American Airlines and LIVEKellyandMichael weighed in, widening the net of influence for #ExpediaChat. A great example of this came during last week’s #ExpediaChat, when South African Airways chimed in to talk must-sees in Africa:

You have to give to get

A major component of #ExpediaChat’s success comes from its giveaways. Participants have a chance to win prizes and trips just by engaging (retweeting or mentioning).

#ExpediaChat also gives travelers an opportunity to share their tips and tricks, providing them with free knowledge for future vacays–which, in turn, builds Expedia’s reputation as the site to visit for smart travelers. These giveaways attract larger audiences but are clearly tailored to their desired demographic.

By providing your audience with value they can count on, you’ll not only gain followers and mentions, but keep them reliably present.

Consistency is king: 3 Crucial Standards

    • If you’re rolling out a campaign that’s set to run every Wednesday at 1:30 PM, make sure it’s happening every Wednesday at 1:30 PM. Fresh content paired with consistent timing is a winning combination. 
    • Pick a format and stick with it. #ExpediaChat has stayed close to the Q&A format every week, sometimes using an additional hashtag (like this week’s #storybook), but always maintaining their OG hashtag (a great way to achieve accurate tracking of your campaign’s success, by the way).
    • If you do change a major component or direction of your campaign, make sure the whole world knows about it. #ExpediaChat started as #ExpChat on 12/1/11. On 12/26/2012, Expedia announced that they’d be switching the hashtag to #ExpediaChat. They made sure to Tweet a reminder about this switch every day leading up to it, and responded directly to everybody that queried them about it.

Moral of the Story

There’s a lot to be learned from a job well-done, and if you’re seeking a way to better connect with your audience and/or strengthen your Twitter presence, #ExpediaChat is a great teacher. Added sweet, sweet bonus: the in-built market research that Twitter Q&A’s can provide.

This is Expedia crowdsourcing package ideas and fostering audience engagement at the same time. What’s not to love?

Do you have innovative ideas about how to structure effective Twitter Q&A’s for reliable audience engagement and growth? Which goals are most important to you when planning a campaign? Let us know in the comments section below!

Lucy Hitz

I’m the Content Marketing Manager here at Simply Measured. I manage our blog, produce longform content, head our co-marketing initiatives, and host the Simply Social podcast, among a few other things. I love yoga, The X-Files, peaty scotch, hiking, and poetry. If I were a social media channel, I’d want to be Instagram, but I think I’m Twitter.