Carrie Finley-Bajak
Carrie Finley-Bajak

Social media is all about staying agile and making adjustments to remain on track for success. Fall is a great time to revisit best practices and to fine-tune social media marketing strategy for the upcoming year.  

For those travel sellers who are not achieving positive outcomes on social media, a best-practices audit might be in order. These seven social media strategy tips can serve as a guide to creating a winning plan in terms of engagement, promotion, content creation and network building:

1) Leverage interactions to achieve business objectives.  

Learning how to successfully achieve one's business objectives through social media marketing can be as easy as reinforcing messaging while focusing on engagement with an existing audience.  

In the early days of social media, a lot of emphasis was placed on the size of one's social network. Now, we are seeing a shift toward a more concentrated focus on interactions instead of number of fans or followers. Shifting the focus away from growing a fan base toward maximizing interactions and increasing engagement levels is a great way to strengthen relationships and to provide service.

Some suggestions to increase engagement can include asking open-ended questions, responding to comments, and encouraging people to contribute to ongoing conversations.

2) Be authentic.

Travel agents I know are fun, helpful and very social, traits that are highly valued on social media. When it comes to creating a voice on social media, travel sellers should have no problem expressing themselves in a positive manner.

Since we live in a hyper-connected world, there are more ways than ever to connect with people. Maintain a consistent presence and share relevant information to achieve maximum results. Cater to the needs of the audience. Share milestones, events, destination ideas and special offers to provide variety. Some examples of ways to demonstrate authenticity on social media include using photos or videos that an agent took for a personal touch or encouraging your audience to share their experiences with you.

3) Master the art of content curation.

This is the practice of researching and collecting information about a relevant topic. The best way to curate content (articles, images, infographics or videos) is to use Flipboard.com, a social network aggregation magazine mobile app, to easily gather relevant information and to share links.

Curating content is always a great way to overcome writer's block on social media. Content curation can also be used to showcase one's expertise. By sharing digital discoveries found on the Web, agents can leverage other people's content to their benefit.

Of course, the best way to curate content is to find comments, posts, shares, photos and video links that can be embedded into a blog post on your website. Taking a screenshot of a public post left on social media, giving attribution to the author and then providing a link to the original post is a more time-consuming way to curate content. However, sifting through copious amounts of information found online and then adding your expertise is a real service.

Here are some content curation tips:

  • Pinterest is a great place to practice curation. Start by making inspirational boards related to one's travel niche. Then go to your favorite suppliers' websites and pin photos directly from their sites. At first it might seem like you are driving traffic to the supplier's site, which could be true, but the trade-off is that you can populate an interest board quickly, which can then be shared on social media or embedded into a website. The goal is to get fresh content that reinforces your travel brand and gives prospects and clients something to comment about.
  • Incorporate user-generated content and feedback into your marketing pieces.
  • When typing descriptions, use at-mentions (tag suppliers, influencers or clients) and hashtags to attract an audience.
  • Survey Facebook fans to find out what types of content inspire them.
  • Showcase client photos on your Facebook page.

4) Use a variety of content types.

Experiment with video and imagery to add visual impact to social media streams. Facebook, Instagram and Vine offer users the ability to upload video content.

When working with images, make sure to craft keyword-rich captions, and post useful information for curious travelers on a variety of channels. Infographics do well on Pinterest and Facebook.

Video content is good for Vine, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube but be sure to give attribution (credit) to avoid violations of copyright laws that protect the owner of the photo or video.

To avoid copyright violations, look for images that are tagged as Creative Commons. This type of license is used when an author wants to give people the right to share or use work. Flickr.com is a good source for finding imagery to repurpose with an advanced search feature enabling people to locate Creative Commons marked images.

Focus on making the most out of visual travel content on social media by collaborating with brands. Ask suppliers if they have new campaigns that have sharable links. For example, Royal Caribbean International has a lot of sharable ready-to-go video links and photos for the Anthem of the Seas. The cruise line has professionally developed these marketing materials for mass distribution.

5) Have a multiplatform approach.

One of the biggest challenges travel agents have is deciding what social media channels to use. The most effective platforms include a combination of updates and posts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. That said, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Vine and Snapchat are also good options. Live streaming video on Periscope is a hot new trend.

To assist with formulating a plan for where to spend time online, know what channels existing customers and prospects use. If you have not asked or researched where your target audience is online, make that a priority.

6) Use a data-driven approach to grow your audience reach and revenue.

Since it can be measured by quantifiable outcomes, it is the best way to stay on track. Utilize website and customer data to target travelers and inspire visual content from images, videos and infographics.

Align content by platform to maximize impact to drive traffic back to your website and blog. Pair content with relevant links to drive higher rates of site referrals across channels. For example, while crafting descriptions on Instagram, include your website URL to drive click-throughs.

Use Facebook Insights, Google Analytics and user stats from other social media channels to develop a strategy that contains a blend of organic and paid tactics to see what works best for lead generation.

Leverage Facebook's Custom Audiences (a feature that lets you reach customers you already know with Facebook ads) to turn interactions into site visits and sales.

7) To increase visibility, influencers make good strategic partners.

They have established audiences and can be counted on to boost engagement and reach. Travel and lifestyle influencers are the best fit.

Influencers get a lot of solicitations from brands and businesses wanting to partner with them, so the best approach is to slowly build a relationship on social media first. A lot of influencers are bloggers, and doing some preliminary research to identify the topics they're interested in will ensure that your influencers speak to your brand's target buyers. Influencer marketing is about building relationships.

To locate travel influencers, head to Google and do a search for "travel influencers." Klout is also another resource, a social media metrics company that ranks individuals' social media clout.

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