The Berlin-based deals specialist's UK and North America head of market Phil Salcedo tells Travolution that he's encouraged by the brand's UK debut on the popular video sharing platform as it looks beyond Facebook to engage its young audience
HolidayPirates goes fishing for emerging generation of travellers on TikTok
HolidayPirates has always been very open about how it was able to build its considerable brand presence on Facebook for free by tapping into the social platform’s millennial audience.
But nothing sits still in the world of social marketing for long and now the German travel deals publisher is turning to other channels like Instagram and YouTube and, most recently, TikTok as it expands the online pools it goes fishing in for followers.
A UK TikTok account went live just before Christmas following earlier launches in the German and French markets and it is currently seeing follower numbers double week-on-week.
Phil Salcedo, head of market for the UK and North America, said he was encouraged by the early momentum it has achieved as the brand looks to emulate its success on Facebook.
“We grew as a brand on Facebook when there was colossal reach to be had. For a long time we really did not pay for marketing at all.
“The audience growth to 10 million across the group was mainly achieved through organic reach.
“But the Facebook algorithm has changed, and the audience has changed. We still get a good audience on Facebook, but it tends to be more parents rather than young folk.
“The audience is still there, but that exponential growth is difficult to achieve. It’s Instagram, and now TikTok, where the people who are part of our brand tend to be active.”
Salcedo said Instagram had been a “good stepping stone” into learning how to create content for TikTok because, as with YouTube, both are video-based sharing platforms.
And he said that it allows the brand to be more true to the informal, slightly irreverent, persona it has curated on Facebook among its many followers, or ‘shipmates’.
“What we’ve learnt is you make it entertaining you can get significant reach, it cannot be transactional. If you just use TikTok to list your deals it will go nowhere.”
HolidayPirates posts on TikTok range from conventional travel advice about the best things to do in certain destinations to tips like about how to get the most time off work in 2023.
There are also posts picking up on trending topics for the TikTok audience, like advice on what to do in Paris based on hit Netflix show Emily in Paris.
“Some of what we post is deals, some is information and some is pure entertainment. Obviously, the dream is it’s us that’s setting the TikTok trends.
“But we look at what’s resonating across the platform and if we have something valid to say on the subject we will. It’s more reacting to and following the topics that are trending.”
As of writing this article the account has just breached the 15,000 follower mark and amassed nearly 240,000 likes.
Experience to date on TikTok has taught HolidayPirates that it is important to post regularly on the platform.
“You have got to have a decent frequency because you are never certain what’s going to blow up and what’s not.
“You never know until it’s out there whether it’s going to have that viral effect so you maybe need to publish once a day, you don’t want to inundate people.”
HolidayPirates has teams dedicated to each of the markets it operates in to ensure that the content it puts out is relevant to the local market and culture.
“Everyone in our team creates deals,” says Salcedo, “we want people who know travel and can find good value.
“We hire what I like to think are very smart people. We are really after the right mix of being award of the trends and also having the editorial integrity we are looking for.”
Salcedo said although HolidayPirates’ personality has always been playful and irreverent it does not intend to go as far as budget carrier Ryanair in pushing this to the extreme.
“Ryanair has always been ballsy as a brand and has not cared too much about other people’s opinions. Good on them for doing it, but I’m not keen to go that far.
“We would not go as far as to criticise any of our users or competitors. For every Ryanair that gets away with that there’s probable a hundred brands that have just been insulting.”
So what does success look like on TikTok for HolidayPirates? “We are still in the growth phase of the audience,” says Salcedo.
“I have no particular expectations of conversions or sales, what I do hope for is growing the brand among this new generation who we have spoken to in the past on Facebook.
“So right now, it’s pretty much about exposure and reach. It’s mostly about getting the conversation going with an emerging generation of travellers.
“You get it right and the numbers are impressive. Down the line, as people become familiar with the brand, that will feed into the more transactional platforms.”