Travel agents can use social media very effectively to supplement their existing, more traditional marketing and promotional efforts.
But assuming that social media is the same as other forms of advertising or marketing is like saying a lion is the same as a house cat. Sure, they share some basic characteristics, but don’t try to train a house cat to take down a gazelle. In the same way, social media requires an entirely different mindset than traditional marketing.
If you want to be successful using social media to support your agency’s growth, you need to conduct thorough research and develop a detailed strategy before you begin. If you don’t, your results are likely to be minimal at best, and you’ll end up feeling lost, confused and frustrated.
Here are a few pointers about what you need to do get started, and to begin crafting a customized social media strategy that is right for your business:
Do your research: If you haven’t already done so, sign up on a couple of social media sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn and investigate how they work and what is being said on them. This will give you ideas as well as examples of what works (and what doesn’t).
Focus on your specialization: It’s useful to examine what is being said on social media sites about travel in general and about your sales specializations in particular. You can’t be all things to all people; if you specialize in selling South American equestrian tours or family cruises, focus on gathering information in those specific areas.
Scout the landscape: There are a variety of tools that can help you find out what is being said in your areas of specialization. Some of my recommendations:
- Social Mention is a website that allows you to enter keywords and search the web to see who is talking about specific topics, industries or companies.
- Google Alerts tracks mentions of companies and individual names.
- Radian6 is a fee-based service that monitors the web and provides detailed reports outlining who is saying what about any topic, anywhere.
Use this research to immerse yourself in the communities that address your areas of sales specialization. Ask yourself, “What can I talk about that others are not already talking about?” And, “What will set me apart from what others are saying?”
Develop your strategy by asking questions: Once you have completed your research you are ready to start developing your own social media strategy.
Answering the following questions will help you develop an approach that works for your business:
- Whom do I want to reach?
- What areas of my expertise do I want to get across?
- How will I measure success?
- How often will I post something on my page?
- Who will write the blogsposts, Facebook notes or status updates?
- How much time will I dedicate to this?
- Do I want to tackle Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all at once or just focus on one?
- Do I have any photos or videos to post on Facebook to make it more interesting, rather than just posting the same thing all the time?
- Where can I get help if I get overwhelmed?
It’s okay if you are just starting out with social media for your business. Remember, the iPhone was not the first to market and it is now leading the pack. The same can happen with your social media program, if you based on solid research and a sound strategy. You may be starting as a kitten – but you have the chance to end up being a lion.
One last word of advice: if you don’t have the time and resources to manage your social media strategy effectively, don’t jump in. Having an infrequently updated blog or Facebook page is worse than not starting one at all.
Kate Koziol is president of K Squared Communications, a travel industry consulting firm specializing in growing client businesses by finding, refining and promoting positive client stories. More information about K Squared is available at www.ksqrd.com, via Facebook, Twitter and You Tube or by calling (773) 774-7847.