Opinion Going Social Put a clear data plan in place By Carrie Finley-Bajak / August 04, 2016 Share 1 -- As the American author, salesperson and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, "Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have 24-hour days." I talk with a lot of business professionals who tell me they want to devote more time to social media marketing tasks to improve their brand presence, attract new customers or engage with clients. Many social media managers feel that social media moves at a fast pace, which makes it hard to keep up. Also, if a business does not have a clear plan in place, then competing priorities will most likely bump social media marketing tasks off the to-do list. If this sounds familiar, keep reading to discover five action items to keep social media marketing tasks on track. Action item No. 1: Use data to set goals and establish priorities.At the cornerstone of any social-media marketing strategy is data. Analyzing data can provide valuable insights to help guide decisions. Every three months, travel agents should be taking a deep dive into social media metrics to make decisions about where to spend time and money on this form of marketing. There are many ways to analyze data. For example, does video, text or imagery generate comments, shares and likes? How about other engagement performance statistics that track reach or interactions by social channel? And don't forget about website traffic reports that reveal acquisition and conversion stats. Travel professionals need to know how visitors are coming to a website and also how many of those visitors are responding to calls to action on specific landing pages. There are free metric reports available on each social media channel for business owners. You can combine those reports with website data details via Google Analytics for a complete picture. To learn more about metrics and how to create a social media marketing plan you should read: "61 Key Social Media Metrics, Defined" "How to Create a Social Media Marketing Plan in 6 Steps"Action item No. 2: Tidy up social media profiles.Making sure that consistent branding meets your online audience is necessary for public relations and for presenting a professional image online. If you don't have time to devote to posting regularly on social media, at least the online audience can find out more about your company.Some people set up social media accounts and forget to check back with the descriptions to make sure the information is accurate and full of keywords. Make sure there is an address and that details about your travel niche and images are consistent and up to date. Consider making a spreadsheet that lists all your company's social media handles and stats. Not only will a spreadsheet of all the social media channels with links to the websites be a time-saver; it can also serve as a file to keep track of growth numbers for setting goals. Do a search for your business name on all social media channels to see if there are orphan accounts, which someone at your company or you set up and then forgot to use (this does happen). In fact, a Facebook search on your business name might show results for competitors or spammers who are using the name of your business. Facebook Search is also helpful to glean information about suppliers. Pay attention to other travel agents who are ranked on Facebook search along with your suppliers because of keywords in their business descriptions.Action item No. 3: Use social media tools for better time management.To combat the frustration caused by not knowing what to post or not having enough time to post on numerous social media channels, consider using tools to help curate content and to post messages on multiple accounts at the same time. Here are some tools to help accomplish more with less time.Find content to share with online audiences with tools such as Google Alerts, Feedly, Scoop.it or Storify.Use a tool such as Hootsuite to manage multiple social media accounts in one location. Action item No. 4: Develop an asset library of sharable content.Can you relate? It is Wave season, and your competitor seems to have sponsored ads all over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You have a budget set aside for social media advertising (in fact, your preferred suppliers are even willing to co-op some of the expense), but you don't have the time it takes to edit photos and to create compelling paid-ad campaigns.Why not create a content action plan to anticipate the needs of consumers looking for travel products?The following are suggestions for planning ad campaigns that increase brand awareness and engagement (remember engagement means access to more people who will become familiar with your brand; social selling is all about relationships). Collect and save photos from suppliers or recent site visits to use for ad campaigns. Use a photo-editing app on your smartphone or a program such as Canva.com or PicMonkey.com to compare two vacation destinations side by side and ask the audience to pick their favorite. The image can be used on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter with a call to action asking the audience to pick the best one. Generate small videos to share online. Next time you are on vacation or on a fam trip, start recording video. These can be edited quickly with Google Photos or with iMovie on an iPhone. Add music and narration later.Have a list of popular hashtags at the ready. Hashtags are very versatile and can be used for building one's audience, promote an event or develop a sweepstakes campaign.Action item No. 5.: Research the competition and use your suppliers to help with social media tasks.Travel agents are competing for screen time for consumers who are on information overload. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to finding generic content to share with the online audience, it makes more sense to get inspiration from your competition and suppliers.Because social media is a public forum, there is no harm in exploring how the competition is using it. Perhaps there was a new product launch that you forgot to mention online; maybe there was a press release about a new cruise line, hotel or promotion that you did not read. All these scenarios are realistic ways that travel agents can miss the boat when it comes to opportunities to share usable information with a target audience.Instead of trying to develop original ideas, get inspired by the competition and use your suppliers to help with social media marketing tasks.The following tools help find useable content to repurpose and keep an eye on the competition:Research with Tagboard. Use hashtags to search for and collect public social media within seconds to streamline work flows. Use DrumUp to explore keyword searches and curate trending content. Discover hot topics with Google Trends. Let me know how your quest for the information presented will inspire travel professionals to re-evaluate their approach to social media marketing tasks to save time and generate maximum results.