Social media is no doubt a hot topic but it has effected every industry differently. The travel sector has been hit hard by the economy so travel agencies are branching out and learning how to communicate with their customers in a more close and personal manner. For those not yet on the social media bandwagon (you know who you are), let’s take a step back and look at how all this has evolved and how one can get started.
The evolution of social media communication:
- The web used to be “read only”
- Then it progressed to “contribution”
- Then it became “conversational”
Today, the social media audience totals 122 million. That is 64% of the total Internet audience! Time spent on social networking and blogging sites is growing at over 3x overall Internet growth (Nielsen). Take a look at this example of how time spent on Facebook has drastically increased:
Many sales and marketing folks used to more traditional mass media often do not think their (older) audience is on the social web. That just ins’t the case anymore. Take a look at this example of how the age demographic has drastically changed in recent years:
How does this affect marketing?
- More cost effective marketing & communication
- 10% of all Internet time spent on social networks
- Relationships VS advertising and messaging
So how does one with no experience get started in social media?
- Define your target audience
- Discover where they communicate
- Listen to what they are “talking” about
- Get involved in the conversion & add value
Start with the basics by creating a Facebook profile, group, and/or fan page. We also recommend Twitter but we’ll get to that in a minute. So, why these two platforms? Because, these two platforms dominate the online space as far as information transfer is concerned:
Keep in mind that once you start, you really have to commit to using social media marketing tools and be consistent. Doing it half way will not work. This is nothing new, its just basic networking and communication.
Once you are all set up on Facebook (have a friend or colleague show you how to use it if you are having issues), get yourself set up on Twitter. So what is Twitter and why is it important to incorporate this into my Internet marketing plan?
Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging platform that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who are known as followers. Unique visitors to Twitter increased 1,382% year-over-year, to 8 million unique visitors by February 2009, making it the fastest growing social network (Nielsen Online).
So you travel too much and don’t think you have time for Twitter? Not to worry! Recent studies show that about 20% of users access Twitter via their mobile device. No more excuses! Also, take a look at some very busy executives who are leading by example:
Once your profile is set up, consider having a custom background created (I like TwitterBackgrounds.com). This will give your page a more personalized feel and increase followers. You can also add more contact information like email, website and phone numbers. Now start tweeting. Ad value by offering links to your blog or other great articles. If you don’t have a blog, we’ll get to that in a minute. Keep things relevant and give people a reason to follow you.
If you do not current have a blog, consider getting one. In 2009, an estimated 96.6 million users will read a blog at least once per month. By 2013, that number is expected to reach 128.2 million – which accounts for 58 percent of all U.S. Internet user (eMarketer.com). Set up a simple Word Press blog (yes, its free) and start writing. Keep it conversational but well-written. Again, add value and give people a reason to keep reading.
Now that you have these three components, tie it all together. Let’s look at Facebook for example. Their are great applications that will help you incorporate your blog, Twitter, and even YouTube videos. Notice in the screen shot below the tool Social RSS. This box feeds your blogs and Tweets right to your Facebook page – another great way to add great content. You can also set up feeds from your blog to Twitter.
So what about tracking all this? There are many ways to track progress and a new kind of ROI. Return on Influence. Get started first and get your current clients, friends, and family involved. Offer links to all your special offers and great last minute deals. You will start to see an increase in conversions over time. The more effort you put into it, the more value you will create on both ends.