Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with Ayoub El Mamoun from Skyscanner, on the future of social media in the travel industry:

Carlota Pico 0:14
Hi everyone, I’m Carlota Pico from The Content Mix, and I’m excited to be here today with Ayoub El Mamoun, who is Skyscanner’s global social media manager, and has over six years of experience in marketing and communications. Welcome Ayoub, and thank you so much for joining us today on The Content Mix.

Ayoub El Mamoun 0:32
Thank you Carlota for having me.

Carlota Pico 0:34
Well, let’s just jump straight into the interview. And let’s start off with a little bit of information about your background and about the company that you’re currently working at, which is Skyscanner.

Ayoub El Mamoun 0:45
Sure, so I’m Ayoub, I’m from Morocco. I graduated in 2013. And I studied computer science with a minor in business administration and marketing. So after graduating, I went to Dubai, where I worked at Socialize, which is a social media agency, for five years, before moving to London and joining Skyscanner, and I’ve been there since October 2018. So over a year and a half so far.

Carlota Pico 1:16
Wow, okay. Well, let’s talk a little bit about Skyscanner’s structure. It’s a massive company, so within your team, do you work with several community managers? Are there several global social media managers? What does content, the communications, the marketing team look like?

Ayoub El Mamoun 1:30
Right, so we’ve got a central, global social team, social and community team. And then we’ve got three regional community and social teams in APAC, in EMEA, and then in the Americas. So in my team, which is the global and social and community team, we’ve got multiple global managers looking at different areas within social and community, and then we work very closely with the other regional teams. So I would say that we focus on the strategy and the definition of success. And we should be aligning on content, on the channel voice, and how we work with influencers and how we work with other communities. This is something that we try to frame in the global social and community team. And then the regional community teams, they’ve got their own strategies for the region, for the different markets that they are working on. So at the end of the day, it’s one big team with different roles defined for the different teams. But we work very closely and we communicate a lot, just to make sure that the strategy and the tone of voice are the same across all the regions on the market.

Carlota Pico 2:43
Why is communication so important at Skyscanner? Because that seems to be… part of your team is dedicated towards correctly communicating with your audiences worldwide, whereas other brands decide to use their resources for other developments and departments. Why is communication such a key aspect of Skyscanner?

Ayoub El Mamoun 3:07
I think it’s the nature of the industry and the nature of travel. So travel is a very personal thing. And you need to be, you need to communicate well with travelers, a lot of people come to us to look for inspiration to plan their trips, a lot of these trips are very important trips, there are last-minute cancellations or last-minute changes that they need to make to these trips. So we need to be very careful. And we need to be very good in the way that we communicate to these travelers. So again, as I said, when it comes to things like changing their plans, or getting help finding the partner that they booked with, or finding inspiration, and have an idea about where they go next. So for us community and marketing in general, it’s very important. And yeah, it’s just because it’s travel and it’s a very personal thing. So you need to hear the right thing from the travel brands that you are booking with.

Carlota Pico 4:05
Do you find that the majority of the travelers that are using your platform get in contact with you through your social networks or through your customer service desk?

Ayoub El Mamoun 4:15
I would say it’s multiple channels. So we’ve been around since 2003, and during these years we’ve built our presence across multiple channels. We’ve got social, community, newsletter, app, affiliation, all of these channels. So I would say that we acquire new travelers and we strengthen our relationships with existing travelers across multiple channels. Obviously, social and community is one of these channels. I think we’ve got around more than 13 million people following us across all of the social accounts that we have in all of the regions and all of the markets. So yeah, social and community is a great and important channel for us.

Carlota Pico 5:04
Well, I’m actually one of your followers as well. I’m a big fan of Skyscanner, I love what you’re doing there, use it—well, when I was able to travel, would use it every single month. Now during the pandemic, obviously, traveling is limited. So unfortunately, I haven’t been a recent user, but I hope to resume my travels very soon after the pandemic. We’ll get into how the pandemic has affected Skyscanner later into this interview, but at the moment, I want to focus on social media because you are the global social media manager of Skyscanner, focusing on European markets as well. How has the rise of user-generated content impacted your social media approach?

Ayoub El Mamoun 5:46
User-generated content is something that’s becoming more and more important over the years, and I think that brands in general are being, are using this type of content more because they realize how important it is. So there was a shift from using stock images and stock videos and content that looks very polished to using content that looks more authentic. This is for two reasons. I think a) it increases the authenticity of the content, because you are featuring real people who have been creating real content about your product. And the other reason is that it just makes your content look diverse, so when someone goes to your social media account or your social media feed, they don’t see the same themes and the same things over and over and over. It also adds another element, which is basically celebrating and championing your community and the people who are very, very loyal to your brand. So you’ve got lots of content that’s created there by these people, and by sharing it and using it in your own verified social media channels, those people feel that you’re actually giving importance to them and what they are saying about your brand. So over the years, we’ve started working very closely with UGC experts, who help us find and source user-generated content, get consent to use this content and use it in our content strategy. So it is a crucial part of our content. And I think even when it comes to travel, where a lot of people create content about travel, right, when you travel, when you go somewhere, you share these adventures and holidays, and you actually spend some time to make them look good and polished, and use filters and the best angles, and the best of your mobile photography skills. So there is a lot of great amazing user-generated content out there. And we want to make sure that this is captured and this is used in our strategy.

Carlota Pico 8:02
You’re making me so excited to jump on a plane again, I cannot wait until I’m able to travel and also be one of your snapshots, snaps from around the world. I’m a frequent traveler, and I always use Skyscanner, so…

Ayoub El Mamoun 8:20
Hopefully this can happen soon.

Carlota Pico 8:22
Yeah, I hope so as well. I hope so as well. So speaking about social media, how important is localizing your content to you and why? I’m assuming that you have several fan pages across several different markets, and that you’re localizing your content to your different audiences. Could you talk to me a little about the strategy and also the importance?

Ayoub El Mamoun 8:41
Yeah, absolutely. So it’s super important. I mean, the message that might make sense in the UK, for example, might not make sense in other markets like Korea or Brazil. So, we need to make sure that we are speaking to the community in the language or in the in the way that it will make sense to them. Localization is very important. And this is done through multiple ways at Skyscanner. So in these regional teams, we’ve got native speakers and people who know those markets inside out. We also have a localization team, which takes care of localizing the content that’s created globally and making sure that it’s translated and it’s adapted to these markets. But we try to make sure that everything that we create and everything that we push across our multiple social accounts that we have actually makes sense to the community that’s seeing it in those markets. So we try to think like community first and traveler first and whether that makes sense before publishing it on our social media accounts. So we try to move away from the idea of creating something you know, for the UK only, and starting to localize it and see if it can be translated or not. So this is something that we keep in mind while creating this content. But yeah, localization is something that’s very important. And not only when it comes to social and content, also when it comes to the product and our website and app, and we want to make sure that we’re doing the right thing for the right traveler in the right market.

Carlota Pico 10:24
Well, that makes complete sense, especially in the tourism and hospitality industry. Because I mean, public holidays aren’t the same worldwide. And I’m sure that your app and that your website sees an increase in demand during a public holiday of a certain market. So you’re communicating with that market in a different manner than you would be communicating to a market that’s not on a public holiday, for example. Does that make sense?

Ayoub El Mamoun 10:47
Exactly. And also when it comes to the partners that we’re working with in different markets. So if someone is looking for flights or hotels or car hire in India for example, then obviously the first options that they will see are local partners and results that are more tailored to that specific Indian traveler. And same thing if somebone is searching from Mexico. So just to make sure that people are seeing things, and hearing things that are relevant to them.

Carlota Pico 11:17
How are you addressing your partners? So besides looking for flights on your app, one can also search for other resources when traveling. Could you describe those resources and how you attract those partners to your network?

Ayoub El Mamoun 11:31
Right. So we’ve got a lot of partners around the world. These partners are either travel agencies or airlines or car hire companies, or hotels or hotel providers. So we’ve got great commercial teams who manage these relationships with the partners. But yeah, I mean, it’s something that’s very important to Skyscanner, because when people come to us to search for trips, we want to make sure that they see many options that they can choose from. And same thing for the partners. So we also want to provide them with as many insights and as much data as possible so that they’re also getting something out of their partnership with Skyscanner.

Carlota Pico 12:21
Okay, well, your response is a perfect bridge into my next question, that I’d like to quote actually, your LinkedIn pitch says the following: “At Skyscanner we’re leading the global transformation to modern and sustainable travel.” What do you think modern and sustainable travel will look like after COVID-19?

Ayoub El Mamoun 12:43
Oh, that’s a tough one. I think well, there is a lot of uncertainty at the moment. There’s a lack of clarity on what, not only travel, but what the world will look like after COVID-19. I think so many things are changing when it comes to travel. I think that there will be, there’ll be a lot of changes, starting with the way people think of travel and the way people travel itself. So I think that after the pandemic is over, people will start to be a little bit picky about the destinations that they go to. So historically, people have been going a lot to big destinations like New York or London or Rome or Dubai or Rio de Janeiro. And I think after the pandemic, a lot of people will start exploring destinations that are less known or less crowded, because they might be afraid that, you know, there is a high risk if you go to these big destinations. I also think that there will be a lot of additional security and safety measures in the airports and the airplanes, to make sure that the social distancing is respected in the airports and airplanes. A lot of people also care about the cleanliness and the sanitation of hotels and airplanes. So this is something that they will ask our partners a lot, as in what are you doing to keep the hotels clean? What are you doing to keep the airplanes clean? Is it going to be safe for me to jump on this airplane? Yeah, I think these are some of the things that we think might happen after the pandemic is over. But yeah, we’re also seeing a lot of signs of recovery. So hopefully, all of this will be over soon, and people will get to travel again in the near future.

Carlota Pico 14:34
How are you going to incorporate some of that information onto your different platforms? Because I’m sure you’re already speaking with your partners and your partners are requesting that their different measures are being attached to the offers that are being pitched on Skyscanner. So how are you going to engage your audience about this very tough subject, which is still very much in the air, because nobody really knows what’s going to happen. But Skyscanner is one of the leading industry apps that’s used by millions of users every single day for their travel plans. So I’m sure you have a contingency story behind that as well.

Ayoub El Mamoun 15:11
Yeah, so it’s actually something that we started doing in the early days of the pandemic, when plans started getting canceled, and airplanes were grounded on all of the… So we wanted to make sure that we are giving our travelers the right information or redirecting them to the places where they can find the right information. So when it comes to these changes that we are seeing, whether it’s airplanes and limiting their capacities or resuming their flights or introducing new measures, it’s something that we communicate to our travelers and social and community is actually one of the channels where—and content—who have been doing this a lot. So if you go for example, now to our social accounts you will see a lot of posts directing people to the hub pages that we’ve created for COVID-19. And in these pages, you will see a lot of up-to-date information about places they can go, places they cannot go, where they can find the latest information about travel events, travel advice. Also lots of partners and airlines and hotels and car hire companies are doing in the meantime, and what they’re going to introduce in the future. So we wanted to make sure that when someone wants to find travel-related information and advice, related again to COVID-19, then they will come to us to find at least like where they can go and find this information. So for example, in that space, you can see, if you are in this country, then this is the best place to find travel advice for that specific country. This is where you can find what our partners are doing here when it comes to COVID-19. And we’ll continue obviously to do this moving forward as we see new measures or new updates or new changes to the situation.

Carlota Pico 17:09
Okay, that’s smart. I wasn’t under, I didn’t know that you had already been communicating with your audiences about what your partners were doing worldwide, and that there were actually landing pages per market where your audience could go to for more information about what’s happening in that market when it comes to COVID-19. So that’s a tool that I’ll have to use later on once I resume my travels, definitely. Before joining your role as global social media manager at Skyscanner, you were Skyscanner’s growth manager for the Middle East. Taking into consideration your global experience and your past experience in Dubai as well, as you mentioned earlier on in our interview, how is working and marketing and developing communication campaigns different in Europe than in other parts of the world?

Ayoub El Mamoun 17:57
Right. I think the first thing is that every market is completely different, right? And you actually get to see this if you’re working at specific markets, and then comparing what other markets are doing. So you can see very clearly the differences and the similarities. So right now in this role, the focus is on global and all of the markets that we are managing at Skyscanner. But in the previous role, I was looking after the Middle Eastern market, and that’s considered under the EMEA region. So there were a lot of conversations obviously, with our colleagues who are managing the other markets in EMEA. But also conversations with other people who are managing markets in Americas and APAC. And I think it all comes down to what is that market? What does it look like? What are the insights? What are people interested in? What is the behavior of our audiences in those markets? And how can we create like tailored campaigns, marketing campaigns and communication that would make sense for those markets? Because, as mentioned earlier, what would make sense in France, for example, in the UK, might not necessarily make sense in the UAE or Saudi Arabia. So it was a very interesting exercise to look and manage the specific markets, and seeing how things are different in the other markets. And you get to learn so many things, which obviously help you with your career. Because you can see, if you ever move to work in another market then this is what’s gonna be required, and this is what’s gonna be needed in those specific markets.

Carlota Pico 19:40
Speaking of careers, and on a personal note, what’s the one thing that you wish you would have known years ago about developing a career in marketing and social media? Do you have a piece of advice for recent graduates?

Ayoub El Mamoun 19:56
You know, it’s… You’d think it would be something that’s stable, but it’s not. So digital marketing and social media in particular, it’s something that’s changing every day. I mean, I remember I used to go on holiday for a weekend, and you come back and then there’s this new feature that Facebook has launched, or this new thing on Instagram, and know it’s the next thing that you need to invest a lot of time and efforts and budgets in. So this is how it is in marketing, and in digital marketing, in specific, and social, even more specific. Because things keep changing, and there are new features and there are new trends. And it’s not as stable as like other fields or other industries where things have been established for decades and the room for innovation or change is a small part. I wish I knew that things were going to change this fast because sometimes it’s a little bit challenging to keep up. But at the same time, it’s very exciting. It makes your job exciting and working in general very exciting, because you wake up one day, and then there is this new thing, and now you have to shift your focus and everything to that new thing. And you might be actually one of the first brands to succeed in that thing. So it also presents an opportunity where you can shine and lead the way, and provide an example to other brands. So, yeah, it is a challenge, but at the same time it’s exciting.

Carlota Pico 21:22
It’s definitely a very exciting profession, I couldn’t agree more. I haven’t had a single boring day throughout my entire career. It has taken a lot of adaptation. And it has required me to be constantly curious. Because without curiosity, you’re not learning. So if you’re not curious in your field of interest, well, it’s very hard to find new tools to use. It’s very hard to incorporate those tools into one’s marketing strategy as well. Speaking of finding tools, what do you think is the next big social network? What do you think is missing in the world of social networks?

Ayoub El Mamoun 22:02
Well, I think there are so many of them, right. And as mentioned, all of these networks are changing very, very quickly. We are trying to make sure that we, that our presence in the existing networks is solid and that you are using them properly and making the best use of these channels before considering like having a presence in others. But there are also, there are always new networks that appear here and there. And I think the main one that’s come to my mind right now is TikTok. And I think that the pandemic has also helped in increasing the usage of this tool because lots of people are staying at home and consuming more content than before. And the thing right now I’ve started seeing is that on Facebook, and on Instagram, you’ve got videos which were done on TikTok, and then someone is sharing them. So even if you didn’t want to, or if you couldn’t, or if you didn’t have a chance to be on TikTok. You’re still seeing content from TikTok, created by people on TikTok, on your other platforms. So I think that maybe in the future, it will be hard to like draw the line between this is platform one, this is platform two, this is platform three. And maybe we’ll move into like a world where within the same place, whether that’s an app or a website or a platform, you can actually see content from multiple platforms in one place. So you can see an Instagram story and then a Facebook feed video. And at the same time, something else from TikTok within one place. You won’t be able to see, or to tell like where you are: all of these things in one big feed, social media feed. And that’s exciting as well.

Carlota Pico 23:46
That would be really interesting, really useful as well, especially for social media managers, right? To just be able to get all your content from the same place, push out similar messages to different audiences and adapting those messages obviously for the markets, for the audiences, etc. But just having it centralized on one platform would be, I think, really useful. A lot of time would be saved, definitely, than having to be on 500 million different platforms.

Ayoub El Mamoun 24:10
Exactly. And I think that there’s also a shift towards communities and closed groups, compared to what we have right now, which is open feeds where you can see everything from everyone. I think there will be, or there is already an increase in usage of closed communities and closed groups, such as Facebook groups or users communities. And that’s because I think brands are seeing more value in these communities, as they can deliver more value and you can get more from the people in these communities. And it’s also related to behavior of people. I think, these days, people are reacting and engaging and sharing less compared to before, and I think you can take yourself as an example, I don’t know if this applies to you, but like five or six years ago, we used to show lots of status updates and we used to share lots of photo albums and videos. We right now maybe are not doing as much, and instead, we are sharing all of these things via messages, whether that’s on Messenger or WhatsApp, with your friends and family. So I think brands started to realize that there is a lot happening in these dark social, it’s called dark social platforms, where a lot of the sharing and engagement is done within these closed communities. So brands will try to be there as well. So that’s something that I also think will happen in the future.

Carlota Pico 25:36
Yeah, I agree. Several years ago, I used to share a lot more than what I share now. It’s also for privacy reasons, though. I am much more aware of how my data is being used, and therefore I’m also more scared. Before I wasn’t really, I didn’t really hesitate when I used to share something on social networks and now I’m much more like, how is that going to reflect on the company that I work with? How is that going to reflect on my future career goals? I’m much more conscious of how my data and how my posts are going to be used and shared later on. So yeah, that’s something to definitely take into consideration when it comes to managing different social networks: how the audience is going to respond and how the audience is going to also share that information across their channels. I could go on and on about this all day. I just love social networks. And I’m so excited to be here with you because you’re Skyscanner and Skyscanner is one of my favorite platforms in the entire world. Unfortunately, though, we are moving towards the end of the interview, I have to wrap up the conversation. But before wrapping up, I do want to dive into a set of rapid-fire questions. The first one being a lesser-known app or tool that you can’t work without or that you can’t live without?

Ayoub El Mamoun 26:53
Lesser-known—I think all of the ones that I use a lot are very, very known… Well recently we started using a lot of automation tools, which help us with automating stuff, and integrating the different tools that we are using. And this reduces the time that we are spending as a team, but also makes us more efficient. So I love Zapier. It’s an automation tool. It helps us to connect, whether it’s our social listening tool to Slack, which is what we’re using for internal communication and collaboration. It also can be linked to Google Sheets, Google spreadsheets and Google Docs. And it just makes me happy to automate all of these things and focus on other things while these things are being taken care of by another tool. So yeah, Zapier and other automation tools out there.

Carlota Pico 27:49
Yeah, automation makes me really happy as well. It’s like yes, I just saved a few minutes. Whereas you might have to like invest God knows how much time into doing something that was so boring, really. Because anything that could be automated is just not something that’s quite interesting either to do, right?

Ayoub El Mamoun 28:05

Carlota Pico 28:06
What about a marketing influencer in Europe that you follow, that you admire, and why?

Unknown Speaker 28:12

Ayoub El Mamoun 28:14
I follow… so I follow a lot. And I try to focus on the ones who are specialized in social and digital marketing. I think the first one that comes to my mind is Neil Patel, who is creating a lot of content about how to use Facebook and Instagram, how to use paid Facebook and Instagram, and how to create great content on social. And I think that his content is amazing. It’s been helping me a lot during my career. And I would recommend him for the people who don’t know him yet. To follow his blog and his website and the video that he’s doing.

Carlota Pico 28:54
Yeah, me too. I follow him as well. Great content, great information. Great advice, great tips. I couldn’t agree more. What about a valuable European industry group, association or event that may be digital now, that back in the day was in person? Well, times are changing.

Ayoub El Mamoun 29:11
Yeah. I attended Social Media Week London last year. Yeah. It was amazing, because it gave me the opportunity to meet so many people in the field. And it also exposed all the people attended to the great work that’s being done by brands on social and digital. And I know that there are other Social Media Week events in New York and other parts, but it’s definitely something that I will try to attend again this year if it’s not postponed. Because it’s, as I said, it’s such a great event with a lot of content and a lot of insights and a lot of the great work that’s been in the industry. Yeah, so that’s the one.

Carlota Pico 29:56
Okay, well that was the last question of today’s interview. Thank you so much Ayoub for your time, for sharing your insights and your experience with us. It was a pleasure to have you on The Content Mix channel. We look forward to developing our relationship more and following how your career progresses over time. I’m sure that you have great things coming ahead of you. And I can only wish Skyscanner the best of success. And hopefully, I’ll be an active user very soon again.

Ayoub El Mamoun 30:26
Hopefully. Thank you for having me. It was great to talk to you.

Carlota Pico 30:31
Awesome. Thank you, and for everybody listening in, thank you. Thank you for joining us today on The Content Mix channel. If you liked what you saw today, definitely join in for more interviews just like this one. We’ll be publishing interviews every single week with content marketing and communication and social media experts across Europe. Thank you again and see you soon on Bye!

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