Social Media = Advantage For Smaller Agencies
Clearly the Internet has provided some real heavyweight competition for independent travel agencies, however in many ways it also leveled the playing field. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and user-generated resort review sites provide small travel agencies with new cost-effective ways to promote themselves. These platforms allow you to compete on an equal playing field and in many ways have an advantage over big agencies and online giants like Expedia, Orbitz & Travelocity.
In social media, big agencies are at disadvantage to you because the people in charge of posting are scared to death of loosing their job if they post something that doesn’t meet strict corporate policy. The result is either bland “who cares” type of information or the constant sales pitch. Either way, you have the advantage. They may have the big name, but you have personality and experience!
Social media allows you to brand YOU. In social media you must have an opinion. Otherwise, who’s going to care what you have to say? If you share your opinion, people will be interested in your thoughts, perspective, humor and insight and YOU become your brand. People will want to do business with YOU.
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With this huge opportunity, I’m asking what are you doing to increase your online footprint in the effort to brand YOU? Social media, user-generated review sites and other online communities all provide a way to increase your online presence or footprint. Each time you post an article, vacation review or response, you post your name, web-link and/or e-mail. Each of these posts creates an opportunity for people to find your information and click through to your web site.
The neat thing about social media is that it’s cost effective (free) advertising to get your message out. The most important aspect of social media is that these sites provide the platform to sell your knowledge and the travel experience more than traditional advertising venues like newspaper and radio. One of the major factors in the demise of traditional advertising was that it’s so expensive. On a typical small business budget, you have to buy the minimum size and that limits you to price based advertising. Competing on price is never a smart move, but communicating knowledge and expertise in a personal way is, and social media provides a great way to do so. Therefore, the goal now is to take full advantage of these promotional opportunities by creating as large an online footprint as possible.
- Do you use Twitter?Post your web-link on your Tweets and it will send traffic to your website. The more you tweet, the more followers, the more traffic you drive to your site. Goal is to build followers. Follow other people and follow-back if they follow you. Post Tweets on Twitter 5-10 times a day.
- Do you have a business fan page on Facebook?Facebook is one of the highest traffic sites on the Internet. You can set up a fan page for your travel agency…FREE. Post travel insight and deals on your Facebook business fan page to drive traffic to your website. Join groups and become fans of others.
- Do you have a BLOG?This is the cheapest website you will have. Blog software is free from WordPress.org. You only have to purchase hosting space which is like $50 a year. Blogs allow you to enter the Blog community, linking and posting comments to other blogs and provides another excellent way to send more traffic to your web site.
- Do you post hotel and cruise reviews on user-generated review sites?Show people your knowledge and worthy of contacting to help plan their vacation. Did you know Trip Advisor allows travel agents to post reviews? For a shameless plug; http://www.reviewresorts.com/ actively encourages travel agents to post resort and cruise reviews. In return, you get your name, web-link and e-mail posted on the review. FREE Advertising!
- Post vacation classifieds on Craigslist and other classified sites .Once again in my shameless attempt at self-promotion, travel agents can post vacation classifieds on http://www.reviewresorts.com/ More FREE Advertising!
- Do you publish press releases?Type into Google; “Free Press Release” and you will find hundreds of sites to publish your press releases free.
- Have you thought about creating a social community for your particular travel niche? http://www.ning.com/ is like a Facebook forum only created and promoted entirely by you. If you cater to a special interest or destination travel market http://www.ning.com/ might be your best bet. Once again, the goal is to create as large an online footprint as possible to create momentum for your business.
Good luck and happy posting!
George Oberle is a second generation, travel industry veteran. He owned and operated two travel agencies over a 20 year period. Currently he works for a large west coast agency as a webmaster and operates http://www.reviewresorts.com/, a user-generated resort and cruise review site that welcomes travel agents to post reviews in addition to the public. George has a bachelor’s degree in management from Saint Mary’s College of California.