All businesses want to engage with their customers; it's how they develop relationships and boost revenue. Companies need to monitor how customers search for their business and the way they interact with it through social channels. Of course, this is easier said than done.

Apply the equation of 'search + social = engagement' to the travel industry and you realise that the way consumers research and purchase travel these days is far from simple. Here's some of the signals you need to watch out for – and blend together – to fully engage with your audience.

Search signals

  1. First up are the words typed into a search engine; these are the starting point in revealing a user's intent. The search term 'campsites Cornwall' gives a very clear idea of what that web user is looking for and where.

  2. Users can also demonstrate brand preference at this stage. For example, the search term 'EasyJet flights Berlin' is more detailed and shows a more specific intent.

  3. The next consideration for marketers is the type of device being used and the location of that device (and its user) when the search is being made. A smartphone, for example, throws out a signal indicating whether an individual is in Edinburgh while searching for 'Edinburgh restaurants'. This indicates the need for immediacy and is crying out to be acted upon. Giving a customer what they want when they want is always going to be a winning combo in the quest for engagement.

  4. Fourth on the list is the wealth of behavioural data gathered from visitors returning to your website. This information offers a valuable insight into the actions taken by consumers, their decision-making process and path to purchase. When analysed and used in the right way this data can help marketers to optimise the user journey and focus their attentions wisely.

Social signals

  1. Top of the social media signals list is consumer interests. Social profiles can reveal a lot about who consumers are and what they like to do. This info can then be used to segment and target specific audience groups with relevant content. Another thing to look out for is customers' levels of engagement with competitors and other travel brands.

  2. Next up are shares. What are the kinds of messages that consistently get the most likes, retweets and comments? Use this to inform the decisions you make about what you post and tweet about – and boost engagement in the process.

  3. Thirdly, you can't discuss social media in any great detail without mentioning hashtags. From a marketing point of view they allow relevant conversations to be monitored, which in turn help shape future marketing efforts and strategies. A successful hashtag can form the crux of your wider marketing activities.

  4. Last but not least, there's a brand's online connections. Get this right as a travel company and you will experience a far greater amount of reach and exposure – neither of which you'd ever want to turn down.