I don’t claim to be a social media guru. In fact, I usually distrust anyone who uses the moniker (or similar). But, I have learned a few things in my years working various social sites, and I will gladly share a lesson or two.
First – the big mistake businesses make in using social media is to chase the latest gimmick. Like anything in life, success in social media is the result of consistent, persistent effort. There are no shortcuts. What the gurus sell may result in more followers; however, it won’t result in more sales. And isn’t that the goal?
So, if you’re new to social media, be patient. It will come if you work it. I have been at it for six years now. Only in the last two would I say I am happy with the return on time invested. Like any marketing or branding strategy, it takes time to see the payoff. Fortunately, with social media all you need to invest is your time. The best part of social media is that it is free.
Second – quit treating social media like it is something special or a mystery. It’s not. Virtual friends and communities behave exactly like real-life friends and communities. Getting involved in a group on Facebook is just like getting involved in the Chamber of Commerce or Kiwanis. Would you run through a Chamber meeting shouting “Hey ook at me, I’m a travel agent!!!!” and then leave? I doubt it.
Then don’t “hit and run” Facebook groups or Twitter with your latest specials, and then disappear. That doesn’t work. Show up on a regular basis, and make friends. Engage people in conversation. Let them know you are a travel agent. In fact, become the expert. But also let them know you are a living, breathing human being.
I have a Facebook profile, a business Page and several other Pages. I have a Twitter account and a Pinterest page. I am on LinkedIn. I probably still have a MySpace page. I am also an administrator for several Facebook Groups, and belong to a dozen more. Some travel-related, some not.
The Facebook Groups are by far the most successful in terms of attracting bookings. Groups are where people go to hang out, talk, make friends. Become an active member in a couple of groups. Or start your own. Especially one related to your niche. It’s not that time-consuming, if you are disciplined about it. You will soon get people messaging or emailing you with inquiries.
The most crucial thing I have found…LET THEM COME TO YOU. The travel agents who join groups and immediately message people don’t have a very high conversion ratio. You might as well be cold calling from the phone book. If you do that as a “newbie to the group—you are just another spammer!
But when the client initiates the conversation, you’re golden. The contacts I receive from groups are as good as referrals from existing clients. These people “know” you. They trust you. They tend to be “laydowns”, to borrow an old sales expression. I’m not saying they don’t shop your pricing; but, I find most do not. They tend to accept what you tell them, and most are easy to sell. They are, in short, ideal clients, and a very high conversion ratio.
So, that’s my $.02 on social media! Happy Hunting!
David Holman is a Partner at Bridges & Holman Worldwide Travel, The Mobile Agent Host. He has been in the travel business since 2005, and the author of “Live From…Cruise Ship Reviews” and “Top 8 Cities in America”, both available on Amazon. www.holmantravel.com