Is Your Brand Social?

Say what? You have yet to launch your social media strategy, what are you waiting for?  I’m sure you’ve heard the news that social media has taken every industry by storm, and yes, that includes the travel and tourism industry.  If you—your travel brand—have not launched a social media strategy, you will be left behind wondering what just happened as the dust settles.  Meanwhile, your competitors—you know, the ones who have already successfully implemented their social media marketing strategies—are sitting somewhere on a beach soaking up some vitamin D while reaping the benefits of their social media marketing campaigns.  Convinced yet?

As with every business decision and strategy, there are challenges and risks associated with taking your brand social, or not.  I’d like to first remind you that social media marketing is an added layer to your current traditional marketing campaigns.  Social media marketing doesn’t replace your traditional marketing efforts—the two strategies go together like peanut butter and jelly, you cannot have one without the other.

Social Challenges and Risks

Although social media has taken the travel industry (and other industries) by storm, there are still a large amount of hospitality, travel, and tourism organizations that are “slow to go social” or in other words, they haven’t embraced social media.  Some fear social challenges and risks such as the learning curve of social technologies, competition, public relations crisis, brand reputation, security breaches—brand hijacking—loss of control of brand communications, legal issues, and many other challenges and risks that I haven’t mentioned.  However, the benefits of social media far outweigh the risks, especially if you have a strategic social media marketing plan in place.  By utilizing social media, you have a competitive advantage over your competitors who aren’t using social media.

To be successful in your social media campaigns, you must not only signup with more than one social networking tool (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+) to reach your target audience, you must also provide relevant content, high-resolution graphics, videos, creative phrases (status updates), and most of all—you must engage with your customers, regularly.  And I don’t mean SHOUTING at your customers by continually posting advertisements, discounts, etc., all the while ignoring your customers when they reply. Customers (your target audience) want to engage with your brand.  They want you to post thought provoking and clever status updates, they also want you to listen and respond to their concerns.  Additionally, it’s very important to monitor what your customers and potential customers are saying about your brand.  Using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Social CRM (SCRM) monitoring tools like Hootsuite, SproutSocial, Conversocial, HearsaySocial, eBuzzConnect, and others, will help you manage interactions with your customers, publish status updates to multiple social platforms, analyze data, and will assist in managing your company’s reputation and public relations.

Speaking of reputation/public relations, a great example of a pioneer company who took charge of their PR crisis using social media and is now “driving change”, is GM (General Motors).  Earlier this year, GM was (and still is) in hot water regarding the massive recalls of its Chevy, Pontiac, and Saturn model vehicles due to faulty ignition switches and other defects that resulted in 13 deaths, spanning over a ten year period.  The company’s CEO, Mary Barra, utilized social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to profusely apologize to the public as well as to offer information and updates and to answer questions regarding the recalls.  It is clear that the company understands the power of social media and they have conquered the fear of “social PR” by not running away from it, but more so embracing it while communicating and listening to their customers and stakeholders.

Did you know that social monitoring can generate revenue for your brand?

Yes, it’s true!  Social monitoring can generate revenue for your brand.  By actively monitoring your social platforms, you can stay in the loop on what your customers are saying as well as find out what their needs are.   For example, according to a recent Journal of Travel and Tourism report, “the Omni San Diego demonstrated how active monitoring of social media could lead to revenue generation and product distribution.  Their response to a wedding planner’s tweet about a potential choice of hotel for a wedding won them business because they responded on Twitter but others did not”.

So how can you implement a social media strategy that is similar to GM and the Omni Hotel for your hospitality, travel, and tourism brand?  First, you must “take your brand social” by actively utilizing social tools such as Twitter and Facebook to monitor and engage with your customers, you will increase brand awareness and gain loyal customers.

If you want to learn more about the benefits of Social Media, read this article “The Hidden Benefits of Social Media Marketing: Why Your Strategy May Be Working Better than You Think” by Stephanie Chandler, Speaker & Author, Forbes Contributor.

What are some of your experiences with social media?  How has your company benefited from social media?  Please leave a comment.