I’m sitting in the Boston Sheraton putting the finishing touches on a presentation I will give today on Facebook. I have the great good fortune of having two of the best Facebook coaches in the industry in Nolan Burris and Sophie Bujold. I’m sure there is some synchronicity in the two of them being both Canadian and residents of Vancouver, but the explanation for that fact is beyond me right now.
What I do know is what they have both indicated more than once to me and which bears repeating. Social media is new, but social marketing is not. If you have ever attended a Chamber of Commerce function, or spent an evening at a Christmas party, you were social marketing.
Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and the like are all very potent new media forces. They show great, if not fully realized, potential for travel marketing. Travel professionals are attracted to these venues because each presents a low barrier to entry and, like all good guerrilla marketing, requires a greater initial investment in time than outlay in capital. A smart travel consultant can be up in running with little more than a few hours invested in study, trial and error.
Naturally, that is also where the danger exists for the unprepared.
In my worst moments, I sometimes suspect the low barrier of entry might in some instances provide a dodge away from the more demanding disciplines of face-to-face marketing. But make no mistake, time is money and social media is not “free”. Done poorly, it is a time waster of enormous dimensions, time that would be better spent networking the old-fashioned way in local communities.
The ease with which anyone can be a social media publisher disguises the importance of the fundamental marketing principles that should support every Facebook post or Twitter tweet. Time still must be devoted to planning, goals and objectives. We still have to form relationships and foster trust rather than feed-burning a stream of “travel specials” across our time lines. Strategies and well-planned campaigns still trump sporadic bursts of frenetic marketing activity.
I do wonder as I read the Facebook utterances of our industry compatriots how many have a strategy that informs their efforts. How many actually consider the strategic and tactical merits of their every post or have set goals for their marketing efforts? How many calculate their ROI on Facebook as assiduously as they would on a newspaper ad for which they had paid a few hundred dollars?
In November, TRO will run a series of articles through the end of the year covering the basic elements of a marketing plan for a travel business. Follow along day to day and by the end of a three week period you will have an excellent start on a 2012 marketing plan. We hope you will find it useful and it will provide you a basis on which to grow your practice next year. At least one week will be devoted to all types of guerrilla marketing, tactics that involve more sweat equity than dollars out. Our effort will be to fully demonstrate the fundamental old-school marketing principles forming the basis of every venue, including Facebook.
The new media efforts have a real place in your tactical quiver. But to be fully effective they are due the same respect as the tactics which first demand you to write a check and consider fully the implications of your participation.