Social media can be a complex, confusing world of hashtags, likes and unpredictable customer engagement. But there's no doubt that if applied correctly, a strong social media marketing strategy can drive traffic through your website and help build your brand. Here are a few social media tips for professionals in the travel industry.
Don't make the mistake of rushing into social media campaigns across various platforms until you are ready for it. Good preparation means having in place a brand voice and style which is consistent across Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Instagram. Things as simple as having a matching colour scheme across all platforms can make a big difference to how the professionalism of your brand is perceived. It's also important to know where your customers are hanging out, and tailor your focus appropriately.
There's an awful lot of competition for engagement on social media. Other brands are seeking attention and the limelight just as much as you are. Because of this, it's important to treat potential clients with respect, and not simply spam them with offers and promises of discounts. Social media success is all about providing value to your followers, whichever platform you are using. Aim to become a hub of interesting debate, with topical stories and insightful comment. Think about how you would go about things in the real world if it were a group conversation - nobody likes the guy who talks about himself all the time. Whilst it's important to build a community and make them aware of your offers and services, do this sparingly; the majority of your messages and posts should be focused outwards.
One of the joys of social media is that whichever platform you are using, you will probably have the ability to share messages via a variety of mediums. Videos, pictures, articles - the content world is full of avenues for engagement. Keep your community engaged by providing them with insight and entertainment in various forms. Mixing it up is also a key content marketing strategy, and helps make your content go further as you mould it to suit different forms.
One of the most common activities of social media users is to post pictures and stories from their travels. Tap into this by encouraging your audience to do the same. If they share posts related to you or your services, even better! Why not run competitions or campaigns with the help of your customers?
Social media is rapidly becoming a conduit for customers to voice their opinions. Whether it's a complaint, compliment or suggestion, you need to be on hand to respond as instantaneously as possible. Holding the position of an online concierge to your travellers has its risks and rewards. Bear in mind that feedback and your responses are there for all to see, so as well as keeping your brand voice consistent you need to be as helpful, engaging and informative as possible.
Depending on which social media platform you're using, each will have a certain set of conventions that it's best to stick by. This is the case if you want to be taken seriously and reach as large an audience as possible.
The conventions will depend on what you're using. For example, on LinkedIn, keep it professional. People using the platform do not appreciate unsolicited, salesy nonsense, and they will quickly shout you down if they come across it. On Instagram, try to keep your posts relevant to what you're offering. There's no point in building a fanbase up unless it includes people genuinely interested in what you are sharing. In a world where people follow in the hope they get a follow back, you can never be too careful.
When using Twitter, if you post a message that makes you look stupid, first of all it makes you look stupid. That's bad. Second, nobody is going to share it because they won't want to be tainted by your stupidity. A great example of this is with hashtags. For God's sake, use them properly, use them sparingly, and don't think they are a necessary part of every tweet.
So what's a hashtag? In short, it's a quick way to mark your content and make it easily discoverable to people searching for information on that topic. There are a few basic rules.
First thing's first. Using them properly means avoiding punctuation - tweets saying "I've just learned a great new dance move #Can'tTouchThis - NO NO NO. Nobody knows why, but punctuation is just avoided, most probably because it saves valuable characters.
On top of simply getting them wrong, don't be one of those agencies that spams hashtags. Yes, you might get a bunch of followers, but these will most likely be people not generally interested in what you have to say, and your message is going to become diluted as a result.
It's important to realise that not everything you produce is going to need a hashtag. People often play on this ironically, using multiple hashtags as a joke. If your post isn’t adding substance to a wider, trending conversation, don't bother. Stats show that engagement is actually lower the more hashtags you use. This is because, sadly, hashtags are slowly becoming synonymous with spammers. Having said that, if you write some original content or a new blog post, that's certainly a good time to use a hashtag for sharing purposes.
Using hashtags will allow you to reach a wide social media audience. Just make sure you draw the right kind of attention and make a positive impression.
If you're managing several platforms, it might be a good idea to invest in a content calendar. As well as planning future content and seeing everything all nicely laid out in front of you, most of these services, such as Hootsuite, can post automatically to whatever schedule you set.
This can be a great time-saver, particularly if you're managing multiple accounts across multiple platforms. It's also a great way to ensure that your posts go out at exactly the right time, and can be vital if you're a travel agency trying to reach people in different time zones. More obviously, you can reach people when they are commuting to or from work, and are likely to be using social media. But don't get lazy and make the process a thoughtless one. You still have to target your posts, think carefully about your audience and interact when they respond.