Travel agents can make a splash with the next destination, group departure or cruise line that they promote by effectively using Facebook groups and compelling content, said Catherine Heeg, an industry speaker and trainer who is founder of consulting firm Customized Management Solutions.
In an email interview and in blog posts for the Travel Institute, Heeg recommends that Facebook marketing campaigns be filled with a mix of content, including links to related articles, personal blog posts, supplier videos, agent-produced videos, images, tips, inspiring quotes and graphics and questions to stimulate interest.
Last on the list of preferred content is sales messages, which should be kept to a minimum if they include price, Heeg said. Price-based content is a turn-off to consumers, she said.
A Facebook group is different from a Facebook page, which is designed to be more permanent and broader in scope.
To target a particular audience, Heeg recommends creating Facebook groups and invite those who are interested in a destination, group tour or ship. She used a trip to Ireland as an example.
"A Facebook group can be set up as a spot for folks interested in that tour to Ireland to learn more about the tour and to have conversations among themselves and the agent about traveling to Ireland," she said. "It's a great way to segment your clients by interests.
"Once the space is sold and the group as traveled, the Facebook group is still useful to share stories of their trip to Ireland to keep in touch with their fellow group travelers. The agent can still continue to use the group for future marketing tailored specifically to that audience."
Agents may want to set up a separate group for each block of group space that they hold.
Agents also can create Facebook groups for each niche market that they serve. "For example, if one of their niches is cruise, they could set up a Facebook group for clients interested in cruising. The conversations in that group would focus on cool new things in the world of cruising."
Agents could reach a point where they have too many Facebook groups, Heeg said. They'll know when they reach that point -- it's when they can't keep up with all the group conversations and posts.
Heeg's instructions for setting up a Facebook group are found on her page.