Still not convinced of the influential role of social media for travellers? A new survey shows just how important it is to reach out to travellers via social media platforms – and to establish a long-term relationship that lasts beyond the point of purchase but during their trip too, as their experiences will be used to inform other travellers.

Specialist marketing agency Social Media Link (SML) used its Smiley360, which is a community of social consumers who help brands build their consumer advocacy with reviews of products and services, to survey a total of 26,663 travellers for the study.

The research revealed that more than a third (34%) of travellers have changed their plans after seeing a post on social media, and almost half (49%) have altered travel activities based on social media posts. Another 42% have changed their restaurant reservations.

It's a phenomenon that SML is calling the 'Fickle Traveller Syndrome': travellers no longer have rigid plans for their trip and can be influenced by social media.

Social Media Link co-founder and CEO, Sue Frech, explained the implications for travel firms – marketers must engage with travel consumers on a long-term basis, rather than promoting one deal and ending the conversation, she said.

"Marketers should realise that they can still impact that decision when it comes to travel choices up to the last minute. They should really think about that decision the consumer makes from the time they make it to the time they're actually on their trip because that's impacting other people."

Social channels don't just provide ideas for those planning a trip, though. They're also used by travellers who post about their own experiences. Almost all the respondents – 94% – said that they chronicle their trip on Facebook, along with photos. Meanwhile, 45% use Instagram and a quarter post about their trips on Twitter.

A significant proportion, 40%, of travellers go so far as to post about their trip multiple times a day, according to the study.

So, what does all this mean for travel brands? They need to pay attention to consumers who are talking about their companies on social media, and then turn them into advocates, says Frech.

If a specific airline or hotel is mentioned on social, then that brand should take the opportunity to listen, follow and engage with the traveller, she advised.