The Travel Agent’s Guide to Social Marketing – A Twitter Overview
I’m a convert. For months now I have been shaking my head. I didn’t get Twitter. Who wants to know what everyone in the world is doing right now? How about Now? Now? Not me. But during my research for this article I saw the light. I’m not about to say that Twitter would be my first choice for a social marketing platform for every travel agent, but the potential is obvious and for the most ambitious of you, worth a hard look.
Twitter is often referred to as “micro-blogging.” Twitter allows friends, family, and co–workers to communicate through the exchange of short messages. The writer will post a short update, called a “tweet”. Each message must be 140 characters or fewer. URLs can be embedded in a post, and many use http://www.tinyurl.com/ to shorten the length of the URL. Twitter posts the message to your profile and then sends the message to your “Followers”. Messages can not be edited, but can be deleted. Messages are also searchable via Twitter’s search function. A person using Twitter can read Tweets they follow on the site, on their mobile device or on an application such as Tweetdeck.
For a clever explanation of the consumer use of Twitter, see this short video by Common Craft.
Twitter is one more social media platform you can use to build your personal brand. Keeping in mind the warning from past articles about focusing on one or two social media platforms, Twitter will appeal to those travel agents most comfortable with developing a casual marketing persona. But to Twitter well, it’s important to take a very concerted examination of your branding, the development of your online persona and the content you develop to post.
It was actually the “what are you doing now?” emphasis that initially put me off of Twitter. There seemed a great deal of risk involved in time-consuming information of little value. That risk is real. So for the purposes of marketing your travel agency, let’s back up and examine a slightly different way to engage your audience.
One of the first considerations for a business marketing on Twitter is whether to open their account in a business or personal name. A word to the wise – names are going fast. I was unable to get “TRO” as my first choice when I set up our corporate account yesterday. Because Twitter, like all social media, is about establishing a relationship between your company and consumers, it is a good idea to project a personality to which your readers can relate. You can place your company logo on your Twitter page, or a photograph or other personal image. You can also customize the background of your Twitter page to further establish your brand.
Once your account is established, it is time to begin building a community that you follow and who follow you. Twitter will allow you to utilize a search of your email contacts to send invitations to those you know who might already have a Twitter account or to suggest signing up for an account. You can also search by name for others who might have accounts. When you locate a Twitter account you want to follow, clicking the Follow button will add the account to your home page and you will begin receiving messages from the poster you are following. Often, those you Follow will in turn follow you. In addition, work through some of your key suppliers and begin following their Tweets to learn from other marketers how best to provide relevant content.
Let’s now use TRO’s new Twitter account as an example.
View TRO’s New Twitter Account at http://www.twitter.com/travresearch
Note how we have personalized the look and feel of our page rather than using a generic Twitter background and color scheme. (Note – If you have a Twitter account, and you are either a travel agent or a supplier, we are happy to become one of your Followers. Click our Follow button and we will in turn begin to Follow you as well.)
Throughout our series on Social Marketing the emphasis has been on creating information that is interesting, useful and of direct benefit to your audience. Consumers seldom perceive overt commercialism as having each of these qualities. Since TRO is a B2B media, our market and therefore our Twitter content will be different than what a travel agent will choose to add to their Twitter posts. However, note how the information we have added has a direct bearing and interest to the travel agency community.
As a travel agent, you may on occasion want to post a “what I’m doing now” type of post, especially if you are clever enough to make it truly interesting, and what you are doing will add to the ongoing conversation between you and your community. However, it is likely that your readers will find most interesting news they can use, or which is of immediate benefit to them. A good example is http://www.twitter.com/VacationInfo. Note the interesting nature of the posts, much of which was garnered from other news sources. Where can you find good articles for your Twitter posts? Certainly you can scan your local paper for travel articles and information. Each day TRO’s Travelgram brings articles to you that you can in turn use. Keep the information short and lively, the type of post that a reader will feel compelled to investigate further.
Most of your posts will be of a largely non-commercial nature, in the spirit of keeping up a dialogue with your readers, who can reply to each of your posts. When you do post a more commercial message, make sure to couch it in terms of the benefit to your community. “Airfares From $99 OneWay thru Aug 14. Valid every day except Fri and Sun. 14-day adv purch required. Purchase by Apr 6th.” These items should be largely informational and timely with the “sales” opportunity secondary to the information the message conveys.
By developing interesting content for your posts, Twitter can act as powerful traffic generation tool for your website. Within a few minutes of opening our account, we were experiencing traffic from readers. The placement of links to your website within profiles and conversations is an important feature to incorporate into your posts. With luck, others with Twitter accounts will “ReTweet” your messages and a small viral marketing wind will blow in your direction.
By way of open admission, our direct experience with Twitter to date is somewhat limited. However, the possibilities are evident and we look forward to hearing from others using Twitter. Together we can build a strong set of best practices to put into place for everyone to use. We will be using your efforts on Twitter to do future articles on Social Marketing.
Tomorrow – Online Communities