Buying holidays online is getting more complicated and the travel brands that can make it easier for customers will be the most successful, according to a digital marketing expert.

Speaking at the World Travel Market Travel Weekly seminar ‘Social Media for Marketers: Unpicking the 2.0 Hype’, iCrossing travel editor Jeremy Head said that social networks such as Twitter and Facebook are fast becoming an integral part of everyday life.

However, the effects of this on the holidaymaker, in terms of getting more recommendations and views about where to travel, has made choosing a holiday more difficult.

While these channels are important – statistics from management consultants McKinsey show that 40% of sales across all sectors are influenced by social media – the many differing opinions are leaving consumers terribly confused.

Head said: “The brands that are able to relieve this confusion will ultimately be the ones who make it big.”

He added travel companies must move away from thinking about web success in terms of big page hit numbers, and start looking at how they engage people.

Future web success will be in creating content that people want to share with each other, rather than a brand shouting about its products.

“Brands must be live and valued in their customers’ networks,” he said. “Those that are aware, active, useful and interested in these networks will be successful.”

Head said a key ingredient of building a brand on social network websites is trust, urging travel customers to listen to what customers are saying in these networks and then responding, rather than wading in. He cited easyJet’s use of Twitter as a good example of this, with customer services responding to every tweet about the airline.

Head’s analysis was backed up by results form Tourism Queensland’s best job in the world campaign. Despite the campaign generating more than eight million visits to its homepage only 9% of traffic was from search engines, however some 40% was directly referred or bookmarked.

Tourism Queensland’s UK director Jane Nicholson said: “This shows the importance of the viral nature of the campaign.”

More on this session: In the run-up to presenting, Jeremy Head used a blog post to invite and discuss ideas on social media in travel.