The Travel Agent’s Guide to Social Marketing – A Facebook Overview
In the world of social marketing platforms, Facebook holds the unique position of most visited, most utilized and most full featured. Next week, The 365 Guide will go into depth with the possibilities of marketing on Facebook as it promises to be the most significant social media for the small service business like travel agencies. Today, however, we are going to focus on a broad overview and some key aspects of getting started.
The mechanics of getting started are not as overwhelming as it might seem. Start slowly, spending time learning Facebook as a media. As a business person, you can not treat Facebook as a consumer might – you must have more than a passing acquaintence with Facebook as a media if you are going to use it professionally in your marketing efforts. From the outset, think continually about the tenor of your online personality. Facebook “helps you connect and share with the people in your life” as the company’s tagline simply states. Joining is very easy, just sign up with your name and email address. However, from that moment on, keep in mind that you are on a mission and there are some important considerations as you project your business persona into the Facebook community. The persona you project is the absolute key to successful marketing on Facebook.
Facebook offers more than one way to market a business, and it is quite permissible to do so. However there are a few etiquette rules that are important to the Facebook community. Firstly, keep in mind the difference between Profiles and Pages. Your “Profile” is for you as an individual. A “Page” is typically for your business. When you create your Profile, be sure to use your own name, not your business name! Using your business name on your personal Profile is a violation of Facebook’s terms of service and can result in your account being closed by Facebook.
Your Profile and your Page are the two key “faces” you will have in Facebook. You can create your Page at any time, so many begin first with their personal Profile and then later create a Page. Your Facebook Profile will contain the personal information you wish to communicate about yourself including a picture and the personal information you wish to share. Certainly you will include some information about your business and your passion for travel. Your Page will contain all of your business information: a logo to represent your brand, a brief company overview, and contact information. Keep in mind that you are essentially launching new marketing collateral in this exercise. Use the same good judgment and sense of professionalism that apply to creating any good marketing collateral. Remember that Facebook is about people, about interests and sharing those interests. Thus, as you design your Profile and Pages, think in terms of your readers – what will interest them? Facebook users are there to have a good time and to enjoy themselves….it’s all about them. The information you provide must interest them, enrich their lives and add to their Facebook experience. Your content should make it very clear how readers can gain and benefit by engaging with you. Don’t create a sales pitch – it won’t fly!
For example, let’s assume you have a real specialty in small ship cruising and a personal interest in animal rights and scrapbooking. Your Profile will reflect both your personal and professional interests, as well as the other aspects of your personal life that make you a personality. Your Page will reflect your unique selling points in a professional context – why are you different from all other travel agents? Why should someone be interested in what you have to say? What is it about small ship cruising that is interesting? What don’t people know about it? What are the benefits in engaging with you in conversation about small cruise ship sailing? For the small service business like travel consulting, it is important to showcase the people and personality behind the business. Remember – you are the brand. Facebook is about relationships, so emphasize the human side of your practice and give readers something to which they can relate. On your “Wall” in both your Profile and on your Pages you can post interesting pictures, newsfeeds and links to articles. Wow your readers. Engage!
Once your Profile and Page is in place, it’s time to begin making Friends and gathering Fans – engaging the Facebook community. There are a number of ways to do so. One of the best and most simple is to send requests to the people in your immediate circle of known acquaintances to add you as a Facebook Friend. You will find Networks on Facebook comprised of people who went to particular schools that you also attended or who live in your city. Join these groups and look up current and old acquaintances. You may be surprised to re-establish contact with people from long ago. You may find new acquaintances from your hometown. You might join groups devoted to scrapbooking and to animal rights. In those groups it is likely you will make many new Friends.
As you invite these individuals to become your Facebook Friends and Fans, and as they invite you, your profile will be read many times over. Conversations will occur, mostly about scrapbooking, dog, cats, and the music you listen to, but eventually about small ship cruising, your expertise and your company. Some will become Fans of your Page to learn more about your business. As people become Fans, that information appears in their Profile and their Friends will see their interest in you. Likewise, you will become a Friend and Fan of others. And so it goes.
Facebook also offer opportunities for you to send Updates to your Fans. Here is where the delicate balance of presenting benefits, not spamming, not being overtly commercial and being truly useful and engaging is all important. Fans who feel like you are simply using them as a marketing opportunity can shut your Updates off and will quickly begin ignoring even your personal messages. Remember – just because Facebook is the virtual world does not mean it is not the real world. The lessons you have learned about marketing in general apply on Facebook as well. As a service oriented business, don’t be overly eager to begin seeing commercial results from Facebook. Remember that Facebook is about relationships and those are cultivated over time. Early on, go slowly and spend time learning the media. You are farming, not hunting.
This introduction should get you started. Next week we will spend the entire week looking at more complex interaction marketing and actual advertising on Facebook. Tomorrow, however, we will move on to blogging’s little cousin, Twitter.
Tomorrow – Twitter