Any marketing strategy these days cannot ignore the potentially enormous power of social media. Wikipedia describes social media as “the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio”.
Social networking sites or platforms replicate in an online environment the behaviors that people have in an offline environment (e.g. being part of an association or a special interest group). The online environment is especially suited to networking as it doesn’t involve location or time constraints. Leveraging off social media to market tourism products has proven to be an excellent strategy. Businesses use social media to build their prospects and customer communities, and to network with other businesses. It allows your business to publish online and to create, share, exchange and comment in virtual communities.
Social media needs to be scheduled as a regular business activity in order to be effective and manageable. The content needs to be relevant, shareable and usable across different social media platforms. For example, the content you produce for your blog could be reworked for your email newsletter, which redirects people to your blog. Or, what you post on social media, such as Facebook, could be a summary of your blog, with a link to your blog if readers want more information.
Social media content is also a vital search engine optimization tool to improve your website rankings. By its nature, social media is heavily interactive, which means that you need to be prepared to respond to those people wishing to interact with you. Sometimes this means handling negative comments and feedback, which on social media platforms are not just addressed to you, but for the whole world to view!
Responding well to online criticism, rather than ignoring it, or flying off the handle and entering an online battlefield, is the key to managing how your current and potential customers view you online. If someone comments on what you have posted, ‘like’ their comment to show that you have read it. If someone posts a criticism or poses a question, it is important that you respond accordingly:
- Acknowledge the reader’s question, concern or criticism,
- Add to the dialog – this could be another resource, a question or further thoughts of your own,
- Be professional, friendly and understanding, not patronizing or critical – remember, social media acts as the personality behind your business, so it is important not to appear defensive or angry when someone posts a negative comment. The point of social media is to engage and encourage comment, rather than to close people down.
Like any form of marketing, online marketing via social media must be measured, so that you can gauge your return-on-investment. Social media analytics primarily measure:
- the number of click-throughs from social media links back to your website
- level of engagement – how many people are sharing your posts or pictures, ‘liking’ your content etc.
Some social media platforms do offer tools that enable you to assess the success of your social media strategies, while others measure very little. The analytics available for your business Facebook pages is an example of a social media measure.
Instead of individually accessing each social media platform, you can sign up to a social media measurement tools. These tools measure your impact or ‘influence’ across a range of social media channels. As these tools measure daily activity, they can assist in measuring the level of interest, or reach, in social media campaigns.
You can read more on the power of social media on tourismexcellence.com.au