For many travel professionals, social marketing and media has proven its worth. Those who have succeeded using Facebook, Twitter and the like to generate business are actively engaged by being both creative and authentic. No doubt, the fundamental marketing tactics of local, community oriented public relations, networking, and advertising are far more important and necessary to most travel agents than any social marketing efforts will ever be. However, layer your social marketing tactics on top of a solid foundation of fundamentals and truly excellent results can be the order of the day.
What works? First, narrow your social marketing platforms to one or two and then become an expert. Once you decide on a media choice, make a study of it and work hard at perfecting your online persona, as well as the ins and outs of the technical side of the media. Assist others with learning as well. Be useful to others and your online reputation will soar.
Be interesting. These platforms demand creative content. The best travel companies at social media inspire their followers. Part of being creative and engaging in social marketing is accepting the fact that not all feedback will be complimentary or even gracious. You, however, need to be complimentary and gracious. Everything you say can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion. Keep in mind that you will live with your posts, so think twice and choose wisely.
To make friends and gain followers, be a friend and be a follower. Everyone is a peer in social media. When you follow others, they are more likely to follow you. Participate and engage. Exchange ideas. Forward good ideas to others with proper credit and take part.
Have fun with social marketing. Most importantly, be a human first and a marketer second. Facebook, Twitter and online forums are all about relationships. Don’t forget to inject every ounce of personality you can muster into your efforts, filtered by an intelligent professional persona – a balancing act but crucial. Know your demographic well and speak with it – not to it. Remember to engage clients in conversations, not one-way commercial dialogue. Give them a quick a reason to speak with you – remember it’s all about them and the benefit to them.
Don’t stream out a constant flow of “travel specials” to your audience. Boring! Demonstrate your expertise. Help out with problems. Talk to issues about which your community cares. Every now and then, let them know about a truly amazing special if one is out there for them, but the point, as Nolan Burris reminds us, is to socialize. If you come across as though you are trying to monetize your position or their attention, the community will turn you off.
Cross-market and cross-reference your brand through the various media you use. If you are using Facebook, build a Page as well as a Profile and feature your website. In your Twitter profile, customize the page with your logo and place your website URL in your profile. On your website, give people a chance to join you on Twitter. Go back to basics and look at your mission statement – make sure that you are clearly articulating who you are and what your company is all about in each of your new social marketing efforts.
About politics: post at your own risk. The divisive nature of politics almost guarantees you will alienate approximately 50% of your readers. If that is your goal, go for it. If not, stick to travel. Keep your business and personal profiles very, very separate.
Think globally, act locally. Next, think locally and act globally. Smart travel agents adopt a marketing mind-set, constantly looking at and exploring new possibilities for raising their brand profile. Certainly you can market “to the world” using social media. But for the vast majority of travel agents, the most important community is the one that is within 50 miles of your office or house. Include your local market into your social media world. Seek out early adopters and users in your home town communities and your social marketing efforts will have a far greater impact.
Spend some time learning the fundamentals of marketing and them applying them to social media. Be authentic, be creative, and have fun. That is a formula that easy to comprehend and strangely demanding.