Carrie Finley-Bajak
Carrie Finley-Bajak

Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay, so remaining agile and willing to respond to the ever-changing landscape while maintaining a culture that supports quality content can mean survival in the digital world.

About the only thing you can count on in the constantly shifting landscape of social media is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Keeping up is crucial.

While the popularity of specific social channels like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus or Tumblr might decline, one thing that remains constant is consumers' appetite for quality content. As a travel professional, your ability to use social media tools to help grow your business is contingent upon being able to create or acquire such content.

In the early days of social networking, there was a big emphasis on follower counts, number of friends or the number of likes a business had. Now, we are more concerned with the ability to spark online dialog and engagement. To gauge your social media efforts, use Klout.com to determine how you stack up to your competition.

Your goal is to develop content that can amplify your brand's messages, events and campaigns while driving traffic to your website, where prospects and customers can respond to unique calls to action.

Quality content will do the following:

  • Define your brand while demonstrating thought leadership and expertise.
  • Drive engagement among clients and prospects.
  • Assist with lead generation and customer acquisition.
  • Help retain clients though customer service.
  • Increase website traffic.

Collaborate your way to quality content through the creation, curation and a constant quest for quality materials from suppliers, clients and partners that fit the needs of consumers with limited time and resources.

The challenge most travel professionals have is finding the time it takes to develop a digital strategy and then devoting the resources it takes to execute the plan. Most travel agents don't have the time or desire to write original content. The good news is that you don't have to. Instead of getting frustrated or discouraged, ask for help and foster a culture of collaboration to find and share quality content.

The first place to find potential collaborators is your database. Make sure to do everything possible to maintain and nurture existing relationships. Have you told the people in your database that you are using social media? Do you acknowledge your customers or prospects contribution's when they mention your agency or service?

If not, make it a priority to reach out to your existing mailing list and invite them to share, comment and become a vital member of your online community. Incentivize if necessary with prizes, perks or feature their photos, tips or comments on your social media channels.

Another place to find quality content is to collaborate with your sales reps. I always looked forward to sales calls from my reps, but I always felt like they could do more to support me in terms of social media.

I really don't see why sales reps are not working harder to show their agents how to be more successful at social media. I believe it goes back to the great divide between sales and marketing and having access to resources. In this day and age, reps should be providing you with tweets, status updates and links to images and video content to share with your audience. With Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, a travel agent could pick and choose appropriate content, then auto-schedule updates across multiple channels.

Keep asking and maybe the suppliers will start sharing their marketing resources with you so you can use social media to sell the experience rather than the deal.

Another option for locating quality content that you do not have to create from scratch is to deploy a crowdsourcing strategy. User-generated content that is shared with you via contests, events, hashtags and Twitter chats can be leveraged on your network to provide new content.

Find brand ambassadors who love your agency. Have them share observations about your service, favorite products and travel experiences. Let them evangelize for you to help build awareness about your brand.

Another way to save time developing content is to curate. Content curation refers to the process of collecting and displaying information from multiple sources about a relevant topic or interest. The practice of resharing or repurposing popular content from the Web and sharing links to it on social media is a good way to provide value to your audience. And at the same time, you will stay top of mind.

Collaborate on Pinterest by creating shared interest boards. Invite your top clients, influencers, fans and followers to pin their favorite photos. The result will be a fresh new story.

I rely on Google Alerts and Flipboard to keep me informed about content that would benefit my audience. In turn, I quickly share the information, or I auto-schedule posts to remain active online even when I am not available to monitor my social media channels.

Show and tell your content on a variety of social channels. When it comes to quality sharing, different kinds of content perform better on certain sites. Take time to discover what makes each service unique.

You can show image-based content on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or Google Plus, video on YouTube, Vine, Instagram Video and Tumblr and tell your story on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Tumblr.

For those that are looking for strategic partners with which to collaborate, this is a good way to monitor what suppliers, competitors, and consumers are posting:

Use the Interest List feature on Facebook, a feature that enables you to quickly see a summary of recent posts from the members on the list. The Interest List feature is for your personal Facebook page, but the information can easily be shared with a page you manage or on your news feed.

Google Plus enables users to create circles, which are a great way to segregate suppliers, media, prospects and clients on Google's social networking platform.

Use Twitter lists to organize tweets from suppliers by categories. I have them set up for cruise lines, airlines, hotels, and people with whom I like to engage.

To ensure quality control, manage, measure and analyze your way to fresh content.

Besides having the ability to generate actionable content via words, videos or images, the ability to benchmark and measure your progress is crucial to social media success.

Make sure you have access to data that shows where content is performing well and where content is failing to reach your audience. There are many analytics options available to help with the task:

  • Google Analytics, a helpful tool to track where website traffic is coming from.
  • Iconsquare, an analytics tool for contests & brand community management.
  • Viralheat, a social media management tool that combines monitoring, publishing, analytics and reporting for all major social networks.
  • SumAll, a metrics tool for individuals or teams.
  • Simply Measured enables users to download analytics on different profiles.

If you have any tips to share about other ways to create and maintain quality content, please leave a comment or email me.

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