Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Now, destinations can talk with consumers directly

Engage into the conversation!
Social media empowers destinations to reach consumers to open direct conversation channels with them. Yet few are taking the opportunity and use social media in the same way as they do with the Internet: as a window to feature their product in the best possible light. A beautiful picture with a glossy paragraph may get “likes” but few “share” as these PR styled posts do not generate comments or questions because they fail to engage the audience into a conversation. Worse yet, the most glorious paragraphs describing nothing short of paradise are likely to attract even fewer “likes” and only scant “share” as consumers recognize advertising when they see it and no one wants to share advertising with their friends unless they have a strong economic or emotional motivation to do so.

Engaging conversations with consumers directly is the most effective means of making a sale, that is obvious. But social media does not return immediate and easily measurable results as would be readily accountable in a store environment. With no clear metrics to show at next week's sales meeting, it becomes difficult to justify the resources required for a sustained effort. There is also a misunderstanding about the size of the audience being reached as conversations occur with only a few people at the time. A conversation on social media is similar to that taking place in a space where many more people nearby are listening and watching. The passive audience builds a similar degree of confidence and trust than the participants do as they see the attention paid to one of their own with useful knowledge being conveyed. It is in fact the passive audience that is being targeted when talking with the few engaged participants.

Leverage your online resources

The drawback of social media conversations is that they are brief, so the information needs to be concise and to the point. On the other hand, links in the dialogue are common and well accepted, you most frequently see them in Twitter where each tweet is limited to only 140 characters. Leverage your online resources by posting links pointing to the relevant information you wish to convey, but never link to a main page, like that of your web site, expecting the visitor to go look further from there, it is annoying and badly perceived. It may be a good time to review your web site to make sure that important information is readily visible on specific pages, if not, then make more pages! Consider adding a blog with stories and content that can naturally extend your social media conversations. You can link back to it and you can link to the social media from your blog.

Keep talking and respond promptly!

This is where social media campaigns often fall apart: You can't post and forget about it until next week or next month, but you also can't flood the social space all at once. You need a steady stream, not occasional crashing waves. Have a calendar with posts ready to go once or twice a week and if posted to several social media, stretch out your posts over several hours to give each post a longer exposure and allow shares to spread out on their own. If your posts are attracting comments, respond to them quickly so that your replies follow the querying comments closely to create a smooth conversation and show the audience that you are actively participating. Realistically, you can't respond promptly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but you certainly can cover more than 8 hours a day and fill the weekend void by training staff to participate with the additional benefit to motivate them to engage directly in the promotion of your resort or destination service. Training is neither complicated nor overly involved, it is mostly common sense: Tell the truth with simple and positive words with no hype and no lie. If they are motivated, you will probably have to cool down their enthusiasm to sell your product.

What is useful information?

Useful information is typically what is left out from hyped up press releases being that it may not be all that exciting for the media to pick up and publish. A new pool at a resort needs a great splash to get featured in the media, but what may sway someone to book at this resort could be an explanation given in a conversation about how the pool is maintained and how frequently the water quality is checked. Even brief without technical details, that conversation may seem boring, but will build more trust and confidence with the consumers than either the splashy PR or the resulting media article.

Watch your language!

Remember how many seconds it takes for a visitor to decide to stay on a web page or move on to the next one? A few seconds. Open Facebook on your smartphone and browse your news feed. How fast are you scrolling through the posts? How about a half-second each? Titles longer than 3- words are barely noticed, keywords typically associated with promotion or advertising instinctively move your eyes to the next post. As you scroll, you are looking for “new”, “intriguing” or at least of interest to you. A casual and upbeat title directs your eyes to the leader, the dozen words below the title that will make you decide in the next two seconds or so to open it or move on.

Writing social media is more difficult than writing press releases or blogs as you have so little time and so few words to get the viewer to want to read more about your little news. In addition, people have become accustomed to instinctively scroll through paid ads and sponsored posts because they are mixed in the visual flow unlike that of a web page where they, generally, remain visually separated from the content. Anything with even a remote flavor of advertising and promotion is scrolled through unless there is a prior interest in the product or the brand. This last bit will actually become quite important and useful to you in time as you build up your presence in a positive contributing manner that will develop that interest in your product or brand and build a following that is far more likely to “share” your posts and help you spread your word.

No comments:

Post a Comment