Once or twice a year I do a deep clean of my computer. Like going through a box of photos or knick-knacks, an old memory usually distracts me, so the process takes much longer than expected.
Tucked away in a random folder from 2008 was a PowerPoint file for a workshop I had presented to travel consultants. It was called “What Is Social Media?”
At that time, only a handful of travel pros had heard of Facebook, and most dismissed it as a silly waste of time. To be fair, it could be just that. Sadly, even today most of the content I see on travel agency Facebook pages and Twitter feeds is a waste of time.
From ASTA surveys to trade-press studies, it seems that the majority of travel professionals now say they are using social media. It’s curious because some report seeing little to no evidence of increased sales or profits as a direct result.
In contrast, others report that social media brings them sales and profits like no other resource in history! Clearly, the difference between success and failure in this arena has nothing to do with the medium itself.
You might think that those succeeding with social media are all tech-savvy millennials trying to attract other tech-savvy millennials. They are in the mix, but it’s not the dominant model. After all, the current most active group of Facebook users is made up of women over the age of 55.
The agencies and suppliers that have transformed Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms into marketing powerhouses (knowingly or not) are applying principles that pre-date the computer age.
… and that’s where my mother comes in.
Found in the slides of that old PowerPoint presentation I mentioned, were nuggets of brilliance and the “secrets” of social media success.
You see, a long time ago my mom was both an Avon lady and a Tupperware lady. Sometimes she went door-to-door with the latest smelly skin cream or fancy plastic lettuce keepers. At other times she hosted parties where cupcakes and Kool-Aid were accompanied by trading gossip, sharing photos, and catching up with friends.
Then, after all the socializing, at just the right moment, she’d bring out the skin cream and lettuce keepers. Sales always followed. If she had started by trying to sell stuff, it would have been a silly waste of time.
People are still going “door-to-door” and being social, but they’re doing it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and more. They’re still trading gossip, showing photos, catching up with friends, buying smelly skin cream, lettuce keepers… and travel.
Without realizing it, my mother was practicing social networking. Facebook is the new social network, but the same old techniques are perfectly paired for success today.
- Make friends first – sell later
You can’t share cupcakes online, but everyone loves cool travel photos and videos. Friends are more likely to buy from friends. Talking about your interests and hobbies will attract more people to you and expand your network. But just like my mom, you need to go door-to-door sometimes. In other words, you too need to seek out people of common interest and start sending some friend requests of your own.
- Get involved and become known
Discussion groups in Facebook and LinkedIn are some of the best places to strut your stuff! There are literally millions of groups on every imaginable subject. Find one (or twenty) on subjects you know and love. Important: think outside the travel box. Remember: make friends first – sell later.
For example, join a group on French Cooking. Post a recipe or two and comment on other postings. Then, once you’re known in the group, try something like this: “…thanks for the quiche recipe Marie! I was thinking of taking a group of 20 or so people to France to try the food first hand. Anyone interested?”
Never post something like this in a discussion group: “Save $500 on European river cruise…” It’s a silly waste of time and it’s annoying.
- Nobody likes a braggart or a fake
People join Facebook to have fun and connect with people of common interest. Blatantly promoting yourself or your business will quickly become boring and irritating to your network. You’ll just be ignored or “un-followed”.
Instead, be real; be human. Communicate in social media like you do with your real-world friends. “…I loved Joanne’s pics of the temples. I have real passion for this place. It’s one of the reasons I became a travel pro. Thanks Joanne!”
A Personal Experience
After publishing my book “Visionistics – The Process of Success” I was disappointed with lackluster sales. So, I decided to create an audio version, give it another shot, and submit it to the iTunes store.
I was initially very discouraged. I had accidentally submitted it as a “spoken word album” instead of putting it in the “audio book” category. It would likely be lost in obscurity.
So, I decided to put the power of social media to work. I posted in dozens of discussion groups on Facebook and LinkedIn on subjects related to my book (vision, living your dreams, ethics, integrity, etc.). I also tweeted my thoughts and ideas on Twitter.
I NEVER tried to SELL my book. Instead I just posted my opinions and engaged with others in a real, human way. Of course, I also said things like “…great point Bill! That’s exactly what I was thinking when I wrote my book.”
After a two-month wait, my book finally appeared (as a spoken word album) in the iTunes store. I posted this everywhere: “Yippee! My audio book is finally on iTunes!”
In less than twenty-four hours, my audio book (hidden in the wrong category) rose to the number-two most downloaded album. I was pleasantly shocked. It’s still in the wrong category, and it’s no longer number-two, but it doesn’t matter. I still smile when the royalties arrive.
Success Is Simple
My inbox is filled with messages from travel consultants who regularly fill cruise-groups, win corporate accounts, and attract fee-paying luxury FIT clients using nothing but social media.
It’s not complicated and it’s not about technology. It is deceptively simple: be nice, be involved, and be real. Nothing can make you or your business more attractive. Thanks mom!
Nolan Burris is an author, former travel agent, failed musician and self-professed techno-geek. He’s also a popular international speaker both inside and outside of the travel industry. He is the founder and chief Visioneer of Future Proof Travel Solutions (futureprooftravel.com) based in Vancouver, Canada. Nolan’s believes that if can change the way business works, you’ll change the world. His goal is to spread the message of integrity and ethics in a techno-driven world.