Social Media Lessons from a Conference on Tourism
Social media has taken over the world - or so it seems. No issue is complete without a discussion of how social media affects it. The International Tourism Security Conference was no exception. After much practical advice on managing a crisis, cooperating with government organizations and creating standards for tourism safety, the conversation turned to social media.
Of course, the strategies that work for tourism are also relevant for marketing pretty much anything.
Andrew van der Feltz of Expedia led with the case of the recent storms in Florida. He described how Expedia and Florida tourism boards worked together to dispense information about finding alternative accommodations for people who were booked in the danger zone. The result was that 75% changed the dates of their trips without changing their destination.
We often think that if we ignore an issue it will go away on its own. Sometimes it does, but the nature of social media is such that a post can also go viral and increase in negativity. If you made a mistake, own up to it. If you can’t help, apologize and refer to someone who can. If a situation is beyond your control, let your audience know what you can do.
An inspirational presentation by Mor Schlesinger of Google demonstrated how information could be disseminated to those who most needed it during a crisis. Google SOS Alerts lets tourists, locals and volunteers know what’s going on, where they can go for help and how they can donate funds.
SOS Alerts knows if you are in an affected area and will provide information to help you make a decision within seconds. You will get official updates, emergency phone numbers, translation into your native language and a map with road closures. The Google SOS team is working on more features, including prediction before an event occurs, ways to reach people faster, more crisis types and methods of leveraging locals on the ground for accurate information.
Most of us who engage in social media are not saving lives, but that doesn’t mean that what we’re doing isn’t useful. Most of us still remember when information was much harder to get hold of. Today, information is readily available, and the job of marketers is to reach the people who want this information, when they want it and in a form that allows them to act on it.
What’s the role of listening in social media marketing? Merav Borenstein from Buzzilla told the story of the shooting in Las Vegas and the organic outcry on social media, using the hashtag #VegasStrong. She then demonstrated how a brand misused this hashtag and was bashed online for trying to monetize a tragedy. Instead of channeling support into positive action, they had people calling to boycott their brand.
Before you post, you need to listen to your audience. Get to know their terminology, thinking and behavior. Analyze the public sentiment and jump on the bandwagon. And be very wary of being insensitive or irrelevant.
Justin Reid of TripAdvisor demonstrated that searched for destinations on the website were not particularly affected by crises that occurred in those locations. He attributed this to the fact that users trust the reviews left by other visitors, and that photos, videos and articles which highlight the conditions on the ground are more influential than media news stories.
Let your customers tell your story. Readers often ignore marketing-speak in favor of recommendations from acquaintances and people like them. Encourage honest reviews and get regular people talking about your product or service. Your potential customers will pay attention.
Whatever it is that you are promoting online, these strategies are sure to help you get noticed. Want to share your social media strategies? Comment below.