If you wanted to take a vacation, you wouldn’t just hop in a car and go. You’d have a road map.
If you were going to bake a Boston creme pie, you wouldn’t just start mixing ingredients together. You’d have a recipe.
Seeing a trend? Most successful ventures in life generally start with a plan. Unfortunately, most who decide to use social media for marketing tourism and travel forgo necessary goal-setting and strategy. This typically leads them to wonder what they are doing wrong on sites like Facebook and Twitter when they don’t have as many followers or fans as they would desire.
Having a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter doesn’t “just happen” overnight. However, through the careful planning and interacting on these networks (and others), you can drive traffic to your destination. Here are a few steps to improve your social media presence.
First thing’s first: Set your goals.
This is probably the most valuable takeaway from your plan. If you are aimlessly wandering into the world of Facebook and Twitter just because every one else is, you will have no way to measure your success because you won’t know what “success” is. What specifically do you want out of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube? Increased sales of at least 25%? More inbound traffic to your CVB’s homepage? Be specific. Also, what’s more important: 1,000 fans or more hotel bookings? Decide this early on so you can determine what true social media success is.
Secondly: Know thy tourist.
You should have at least a general idea of who your audience is. The more specific, the better. This will help determine what networks you should participate in. For example, if your target audience is older than 45 or 50, MySpace is probably not the best network to join. Also, if you deal with niche audiences such as mothers, sports lovers or business travelers, there are specific niche social networks that you can join to help attract those groups.
Facebook seems to be a catch-all social network for most demographics, but knowing your audience will help develop strategies within Facebook that best targets your future tourists. Facebook marketing strategies range from paid advertising to fan pages and groups.
Third: Give them something to talk about.
This is the part that most jump into right off the bat, but it’s only after careful planning you enter this phase. Even after you begin this step of your master plan, you still need to know how to talk and what to talk about. For example: What are you going to do if someone negatively bashes your destination or staff? Respond openly or privately? Who is going to be the person updating your status everyday and does that person have a clear understanding of your online branding efforts? How much time daily are you going to commit to each social media account?
Also, remember conversation is two-fold. Don’t just talk. Listen, then listen harder. Go beyond comments written on your wall and find out what your fans are interested in on their own profile page. Learn what they like and don’t like and apply that to what you can do better.
Finally: Measure your efforts
Each month, measure your growth. Are you meeting your goals? Can you make better use of your time on Facebook and Twitter? Use tracking software and analytics to gauge where your traffic is coming from and learn from these reports.
Keep comparing your goals month after month and continue to improve on your efforts. Social media isn’t easy just because everyone does it these days. Creating a successful social media campaign means work and much time invested. However, if proper steps are taken in the set up and planning stages of your social media marketing plan, you will lay the ground work for destination marketing success.