The quest to remain relevant in the lives of connected consumers takes an investment in time and a commitment to being open to new ideas. Incorporating small changes to one's digital strategy is a good idea. The benefits for staying on top of trends can include increased website traffic, more fans and followers and more exposure to potential customers.
The latest buzz these days concerning digital marketing revolves around harnessing the power of GPS technology and becoming more aggressive when reaching out to prospects or clients on social media. These two areas are in addition to content marketing, engagement with one's existing audience, running targeted ad campaigns and studying analytics.
Savvy travel professionals can use GPS technology for location-based marketing. The amount of people using mobile devices continues to rise. Mobile consumers use their devices' GPS technology to search for businesses and products. Marketers can take advantage of this behavior to reach potential customers.
What follows are some tips for making sure your business is ready for location-based services.
1. List a physical business address
To ensure that your business can be found through location-based searches, a travel agency needs to have a physical business address listed online.
Sites such as Facebook, Google Maps, and Yelp are the best places to begin. This is a disadvantage to home-based agents who don't have an office location, but for brick-and-mortar agencies it is a great way to be discovered by consumers who search for local businesses.
Google offers two ways for people to find your business: Google Search and Google Maps. Using location-based intelligence, customers can find a business based on the device's location.
Make sure to take advantage of tools available from Google My Business. Post your business hours, phone numbers and directions.
Since 2004, Yelp's mission has been to help people find great local businesses. According to its website, Yelp attracts on average 26 million unique visitors per month on mobile devices. Travel professionals can set up a free account to post photos and message their customers.
To list a travel agency on Yelp, the business owner needs to make a claim. To "claim your business" on Yelp is easy; just find your business and create your business user account.
Other map sites to try:
2. Ensure you can be found on Facebook
To enable people to check in at your business, your Facebook Page category needs to be listed as a local business. A physical address for the business listed on the Page is required.
Encourage people to check in when they visit your office. Create incentives like contests, rewards and promotions to encourage clients and prospects to check in. The more check-ins the better because you gain more exposure and access to a wider audience who will see their friend's activity.
Another Facebook application that tracks a user's location is "nearby places." This tool is available on the Facebook app for iPhone or Android. A travel agency most definitely wants to show up on the nearby places search results.
To learn how to create a location, visit Facebook's help center or set up an address, visit facebook.com/help and click on "popular features" and then "locations."
3. Be aggressive on social media.
In addition to location-based marketing's best practices through a local search, travel professionals can step up their game when it comes to reaching leads on social media. The benefits of a more aggressive approach can be increased website traffic and lead generation.
Tip: Use Facebook Groups to reach affinity groups.
It's no secret in the travel business that affinity groups are the quickest way to profit in the competitive world of sales. By handling logistics and servicing the needs of all members of a group, travel agents who succeed at selling in bulk gain loyal customers who can be counted on for repeat business and referrals.
Recently, Travel Weekly published a story about arranging affinity groups ("Group Think," April 11).
The article featured some advice about using social media to identify affinity groups by shared interests. I decided to take the tips from the article one step further to share more ways to find, build and go after groups using social media.
Start prospecting on Facebook Groups, which is a great place to connect with potential group leaders and to add value to existing conversations for the purposes of lead generation and for building brand awareness.
Be the leader of a closed Facebook group for booked guests, which can serve as an added service to customers. Encourage customers to post updates, links and photos.
For example, set up a private Facebook Group for a family reunion group and post ideas about what to pack, where to eat and links to potential activities that members of the group might be interested in.
Use LinkedIn to find affinity groups. While most leisure travel agents are interested in business-to-consumer relationships, don't underestimate the power of LinkedIn and the potential of business-to-business contacts. Travel agents who want to get inspired by the size of potential groups can use LinkedIn to help get motivated.
Check out LinkedIn's directory of groups to connect with existing members, find potential leads and to add value to ongoing discussion.
Tip: Tag more than one person or business in social media posts.
Social media users tend to have short attention spans. A quick way to get the attention of followers is to post engaging content and to utilize the tagging option.
Tip: Send direct messages to individuals and groups of up to 15.
Craft personal messages and calls to action using sites such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. For example, on Instagram send a direct message of a short video announcing an upcoming event or an image with an exclusive offer.
Tip: Use video content to rise above the noise on social media.
Vying for attention in an oversaturated space can be a nerve-racking experience. One way travel agents can stand out in the crowd is to post video content. Shooting short videos using a smartphone is quick and easy. Also consider making a live broadcast.
- Use Vine, Instagram video or Snapchat to share short videos announcing a travel show, product, cruise night or live broadcast.
- Broadcast live on Periscope the next time you are on a site inspection or fam trip.
- Set up a private Blab video chat. This site is similar to Periscope, but it is intended for groups of friends.
- Add GIFs to promote engagement. These short video loops can add some fun to social media posts. Besides Facebook, Twitter also has GIFs to choose from.