When Ashley Grush was hired as a jack-of-all-trades travel coordinator by Plaza Travel in Encino, Calif., she noticed immediately that the travel agency’s social media presence was pretty poor. So without further ado, she threw herself into improving the travel seller’s online presence.
Grush upgraded the agency’s Facebook page. Then she launched an agency blog that highlights the travels of its agents. Within three months, her job title was changed to social media and travel coordinator.
Today, 18 months later, social media generates at least one booking a month for Plaza Travel, a member of Signature Travel.
Among the agency’s social media successes are numerous bachelor/bachelorette cruise bookings that came Grush’s way after she blogged about her own experience on a friend’s bachelorette cruise.
Here, in Grush’s own words, is how it’s done.
The strategy: “The return on investment for social media is getting exposure for our company and what we can do for our clients. We make a lot of bookings, but it’s more about helping people understand the world of travel. People truly enjoy our posts and learning more about travel.”
Content is king: “When I first joined the company, they had a Facebook page and a Twitter page, but the only things being posted were news articles and a few pictures. The content just wasn’t there.
“No one just wants to read news articles. They want to read exciting things about the travel industry, such as the newest and hottest upcoming destinations, what’s new in the cruise world, etc. It’s important to keep your content interesting so your fans keep checking back.”
Facebook updates: “I’m the only one that posts. I post travel tips, news articles related to things everyone could benefit from, pictures and cruise/hotel packages, with the amenities that we provide for our clients.”
Posting travel tips: “The first thing I do in the morning is the travel tips post. A lot of the tips are from our own experience. For instance, the airline lost one of our client’s luggage, so a tip was: Make sure you always have an extra pair of clothes no matter what. And if you’re going to a tropical destination always carry a bathing suit in your carryon bag.”
Experimenting: “I see what people like, what they don’t like and what gets more responses. Sometimes you’ll get a lot of fans in one day and then sometimes it’s just slow. You just never know.”
Posting frequency: “If you post too much or too little you might lose your fans and clients. You don’t want to post so often that people open their Facebook page and all they see is your stuff. Even if it’s really good content, you don’t want to put up too much.
“I do anywhere from three to five posts a day and I spread it out over several hours. I’ll post until 6 at night, because even though our office closes at 5:30, some people can’t use Facebook on a work computer, and they see stuff later.”
Facebook followers: “They’re anyone: a lot of our clients, and people that follow us and we don’t know how they became fans. A lot of it is word of mouth. We do have the Facebook logo on all of our signatures.”
Blogging: “I felt a blog was necessary, so all the agents, including myself, could share the trips we’ve taken. It’s good because we always try to sell something we’ve experienced ourselves.”
Using Twitter for shout-outs: “It’s more checking in when we’re at hotels and giving recognition to the preferred hotels. We build up good relationships with the hotels through Twitter. We shout out to them, and they shout out to us.”
Time commitment: “I probably spend about four and a half hours a day on social media, spread out over the day.”
Return on investment: “Social media has been very profitable for us.”
Facebook success story: “I went on a cruise for a friend’s bachelorette party. After I came back, I wrote about it on Facebook. I can’t begin to tell you how many people we have booked for weekend cruises for bachelor and bachelorette parties. We just had a group of 35 for a combined bachelor/bachelorette party come back.”
Blog success story: “I always write about places I travel to. It’s great to pair up something to do with a hotel close by, to make it a mini-vacation. I went to Santa Ynez [Calif.] one weekend, so I did a blog on the wine country in Santa Ynez, with information about a Four Seasons package in [nearby] Santa Barbara.
“Shortly after I posted the blog entry onto Facebook, a mother called asking about it, because she was planning a girls’ getaway weekend for her and her daughter. Sure enough, she booked it.”