In just four years, Utah agency owner Toby Nash went from thinking of social media as “freaking scary” to landing $100,000 in sales via social media in one year.
Now Nash is a social media convert who feels she has perfected her skills and strategy with Facebook, blogging and LinkedIn. But it didn’t come naturally, said Nash of Cruise & Travel Masters, a Vacation.com member that does $17 million in sales a year.
And she still struggles with getting conversations going online – and with convincing her independent contractors of the value of online visibility.
Here, in her own words, are Nash’s views on the value of social media, her strategies and how she overcame her fear.
Social media visibility essential
Social media doesn’t feel comfortable and natural at first. You still have people that are not believers in social media. All day long I’m talking to my agents here saying, ‘You need to get a Facebook account,’ and they tell me they don’t want to be that visible. Well, as a company you need to be that visible. We need to be displaying the world.
Classroom learning lessens the fear
I ended up taking Adam Lapsevich’s social media class twice – so two sessions of everything – because there’s so much. Even though he gives it to you on paper, and you hear it coming from his voice, and you can watch him create it, it goes so fast. [Lapsevich, CEO of SpoonDrawer Media, is a web design and online marketing expert.]
The class made everything make so much more sense. It took the scary out of it and made the fear go away. You know, I can’t do anything wrong if I push this button.
Avoid price pitches
The customer doesn’t want a screaming price. We shouldn’t be screaming $399 Carnival cruise; we shouldn’t be screaming $899 all-inclusive Funjet; we shouldn’t be screaming at all.
Instead, share the world
We should be gently sharing our view of the world. I feel as strong or more strong about that today then when I first started because, my responsibility to the public is to let them see travel through my eyes. Let them see the beauty in pictures and the experiences that our agents are having, and the experiences our customers are having.
Sharing posting duties
One of my service people does something on Facebook every day and I usually post something. And our blog posts come onto Facebook as well. And I encourage our travel agents to post their travel experiences.
Typical Facebook posts
We share articles like the top 10 destinations for 2012 via the New York Times. And I post things like National Geographic pictures of whales in Baja. My posts are more visual. Also my YouTube videos cross over onto my Facebook page.
Personal in nature
Facebook tends to be very personal, so it’s your high school, college and church friends and then it just spreads out from there. And because its more personal you can learn about someone’s kids, see their pictures. I like the combination of interactions on Facebook because it’s not just one big self-promoting platform.
Connect through caring
The number one thing that I do [when interacting] is make them think that they matter to me and I really care about them. So, ‘Oh, my gosh your grandbaby is beautiful’ or ‘Have you been to Disneyland with those two cute grandbabies yet?’ Then what happens is whenever they see the name Toby or Cruise & Travel, at least they take a second look versus just scanning down the list really fast.
Challenges include interactivity . . .
My greatest challenge is how to get followers to talk on the page. I’ve tried contests but contests don’t work; giveaways didn’t work. So now all I do is talk and they talk back if its right for them.
. . . And agent participation
The agents here are not committed to the cause. They aren’t as sold on social media as I am. All of my people are independent contractors so I can only suggest it to them and encourage them to do it. But since they are independent they should be marketing themselves.
What we do on Facebook is more visual; the blog is more verbal – it talks a lot. It’s community based. So we talk about the types of food that you’d eat in Peru; or the holidays that they have in Canada. The blog is written by a blogger who shares my same passion for the world. She’s traveled extensively and writes from her viewpoint. All by its lonely the blog is attracting other bloggers and that’s really good for our visibility.
LinkedIn for corporate prospecting
LinkedIn is touching and attracting the corporate accounts that we’ve done business with or can potentially do business with in the future. I personally spend the least amount of time on LinkedIn, but the blog and Facebook posts come onto LinkedIn making it look like I spend a lot of time on it, which adds huge credibility to my account.
In the beginning, with creating and making changes I was spending a lot of time maybe 15 hours a week. Now I probably spend more like 5 to 7 hours a week. I try to do it at different times of the day for 20 to 30 minutes here and there just so I’m able to be seen by different people.
First thing I do when I have coffee in the morning is open Facebook and read through my emails to see what my vendors are doing just to get ideas. But it doesn’t take long, if you do 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes after lunch and 10 minutes before bedtime. And if you don’t do it every day, do it every other day.
The value of Facebook in dollar figures has been sales. Last week I sold a Tahiti over-water bungalow trip to honeymooners only because we have contact online. I met her once about five years ago and I’m very confident that I wouldn’t have had that sale otherwise. Every week someone says ‘we’re retiring and we’d love to go’ or something similar. It’s absolutely beneficial when it comes to sales.
Advice to others
Take a course. Maybe a local college has them. Start with your own Facebook page, then step out of that comfort zone into adding pages.