Carrie Finley-Bajak
Carrie Finley-Bajak

I had so much fun using Twitter to keep up with the buzz from the FIFA World Cup, and based on the numbers reported by Twitter, I was not alone in my enthusiasm for using the microblogging site during the tournament.

In fact, Twitter use during the World Cup's final game was impressive: 618,725 tweets per minute at one point during Germany's 1-0 win over Argentina. Overall, there were 32.1 million tweets during the final match.

As a travel professional, my takeaway from the World Cup was that people are using social media to connect with others about shared-affinity topics. Learning how to find affinity groups and ways to provide value to ongoing conversations on Twitter can help generate leads, build brand awareness and assist with customer relations.

There are many opportunities for agents to provide value to Twitter conversations. Consumers are already interacting there with suppliers, media, brand advocates and bloggers, so it makes sense for travel agents to join the conversations.

Of all the social media channels available for agents to interact on, Twitter is by far the hardest to master. Here are some tips that can help fast-track success:

Tip No. 1

Above all else, value Twitter as a tool to promote conversations. The goal is to engage with others. The first step is to define your audience, then share pertinent information that addresses the needs and interests of your travel niche.

Social media posts are most effective at the early stage of the buying cycle. Think of Twitter as a relationship-building tool for sparking conversations about travel to help agents build their brand reputation and identity.

For marketers looking to communicate with customers in real time, there is no better site platform. Depending on the number of people an agent is following, keeping track of updates can be a frustrating experience. What helps me save time is the Twitter lists feature. I have a handful of lists that I use to quickly filter tweets. For example, I have a list of cruise lines, and I frequently look at the list to get ideas for blog posts as well as material to use to engage with the brands; I will also retweet a post to share with my followers if it is something of value.

I also keep lists for airlines, hotels, travel agents and destination marketing organizations. Lists are easy to use, and there are detailed instructions for how to set them up at the Twitter Help Center.

Here are some more ways to make sure your tweets get as much traction as possible:

  • Use hashtags in your tweets to put context around your updates. When at a loss for what hashtag(s) to use, simply look at trending topics, and make sure to study the Twitter streams of your favorite suppliers and destinations as well as your competitors for clues about what to use.
  • Tweets should include a mix of content types, such as images and outbound links to your website.
  • Ideally, keep tweets under 100 characters, to allow space for retweets.
  • Engage followers and influencers by using Twitter user names in your tweets.
  • Tweets should reflect keywords and key phrases that support your website. Your goal is to become an expert in your travel field, keep personal opinions to a minimum.

Tip No. 2

Participate regularly on Twitter chats for networking and to grow followers.

One of the biggest challenges new users face is finding people to have a conversation with. The easiest way is to attend Twitter chats.

The travel industry generates a large number of chats, many of which are listed at Travelogx.com, which also offers recaps and transcripts. Spend time reading the transcripts to get a feel for what you might have been missing on the travel chats.

In addition, Travel Weekly hosts a monthly Twitter chat about trending travel news topics. It's a great place to interact with influencers, suppliers, other agents, travelers, social media experts and Travel Weekly editors. Find out more at TravelWeekly.com/twitterchats.  

Tip No. 3

When it comes to managing multiple accounts or numerous streams, use a free social media dashboard app. If I had to keep track of a Twitter chat using Twitter.com, I would give up. The site is not designed to handle multiple streams at a time, and it tends to be slow, which can be super frustrating.

The best solution for overcoming those limitations is to use Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, free social media dashboard apps that make it easy to juggle multiple Twitter tasks. Users can add columns such as mentions, scheduled tweets, direct messages, the results from custom searches and lists.

Another benefit of using Tweetdeck or Hootsuite is the ability to schedule future tweets. Scheduling tweets is a great way to be "present" on Twitter in peak times while you get your other work done.

Tip No. 4

Customize your Twitter account to reflect branding. After you sign up and choose your username on Twitter, take advantage of opportunities to brand your account. Besides a keyword-rich bio that includes your website, change the images to make your account stand out.

There are three key image areas where agents can control their branding on Twitter: the profile picture, header and background.

Image-editing apps and programs come and go. The current app I've discovered to help me quickly change my header image is Fotor. This program is easy for beginners to use.

Tip No. 5

Consider using Twitter ads to generate leads.

If spending time creating and maintaining relationships on Twitter seems like a lot of work, perhaps you would be interested in Twitter ads.

Twitter offers tools to help amplify brand messages with targeted tweet ads of three types: promoted tweets, promoted accounts and promoted trends. It clearly marks ads with a "promoted" icon, but users can interact with promoted content in much the same way as organic content.

At the end of the day, the decision to advertise on Twitter is going to require some testing to see if there is a positive return on your investment.

I ran an ad during a travel chat and was not overly impressed with the results. With that said, however, I might have had better luck if I were trying to market a specific product. The good news is that the Twitter ads interface is easy to use, and agents can set daily spending caps (similar to Facebook). What I did like about Twitter ads was that I only had to pay when a user engaged with the tweet, because impressions are free.

To learn more about advertising tools available on Twitter, visit Twitter Ads.

Hopefully, I will see more of you on Twitter. Make sure to send me a tweet at @CruiseBuzz to let me know how it's going. And if you find yourself totally at a loss about how to get started, Twitter's new user FAQs are a great place to begin your journey.

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