Blogging, anyone?

Using blog sites like WordPress and/or “microblogging” sites such as Twitter, I have found that blogging is a very effective social marketing tool.  According to the 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, “blogging holds the top spot for future plans.  A significant 68% of marketers plan on increasing their use of blogging, making it the top area marketers will invest in for 2014.”

There’s something about reading a blog that shows an individual’s (or brand) personality.  Blogs are informative, interactive, and allows people to post comments.  Today, more and more travel destinations have joined the “blogosphere” and now offer blog sites that provide readers with information about a particular destination.  Prior to moving to San Diego in 2012, I researched the city using San Diego’s tourism web/blog sites like SanDiego.org and SanDiego.com to help me pinpoint the areas in which I would like to live as well as to find out the top things to do in the city, the best restaurants, attractions, and more.  And what made these sites attractive, is the fact that they regularly “tweeted” about the happenings in San Diego.

Here are some great links to articles about the best practices for blogging.  Check out Best Practices in Travel Marketing: Blogging by Frederic Gonzalo and 10 Twitter Practices for Brands by Michael Brito.

What blogging best practices do you currently use?  Feel free to leave a comment.

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Got Mobile Apps?

I compare today’s mobile application technology to the iconic slogan “Got milk? It does the body good.”  However, my slogan would be something like “Got mobile apps? They are convenient time savers that provide instant access to a plethora of information using smartphones and mobile devices.”

Know Before You Go

Are you looking for the best travel deals for your next trip to San Diego?  If so, you may want to consider using a travel & tourism mobile application like TripAdvisor to help you plan your trip. TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel site, according to TripAdvisor.com.  The site provides all sorts of travel information for travelers.  You can use the website and mobile application to book flights, car rentals, hotels, and vacation rentals.  You can also read and write consumer reviews of hotels, restaurants, and attractions as well as view photos and receive advice on any destination in the world.

TripAdvisor also offers these free travel mobile applications:

City Guides (offline maps, reviews and tours)

SeatGuru (seat advice, flight status, and more)

GateGuru (airport maps, stores, tips, weather and flight status)

The Fork (make reservations at the best restaurants)

The TripAdvisor mobile application is easy to navigate and includes all the necessary travel tools.  I especially like the “Downloaded Cities” tool for those of us who want access to a particular city’s travel and tourism information without having to be connected to the internet or having to wait on 3G and 4G connections.  For example, if you are traveling to San Diego, and want to “know before you go” you can simply login to your TripAdvisor mobile application account and download your destination city to your smartphone or mobile device.  After download completes, you can launch your destination city’s travel information without having to connect to the internet.  How clever and convenient is that?  Give TripAdvisor’s free travel mobile application a try today and see for yourself.

To learn more travel and tourism tips and insights, checkout the TripAdvisor Blog.

What travel sites and/or travel mobile applications do you currently use?  Feel free to leave a comment.

Future Implications

Social media is rapidly changing, for the better.

Consumer behavior has favorably shifted towards mobile technology and as a result, businesses and brands will need to change their social strategies to reflect this new trend.  According to Global WebIndex, 80% of internet users own a smartphone while 91% own a computer/laptop.  Today, consumers use their mobile devices to access the internet, view social media accounts, conduct consumer research, price comparisons, book travel—hotel, air, car rental—shopping, customer reviews, gaming, and much more.  Mobile technology gives brands a competitive advantage, and especially for businesses and brands who have a mobile social strategy in place.

A new start-up, mobile-based travel company that is doing a great job of incorporating its mobile strategy is Hotel Tonight—last minute, real-time hotel booking via mobile application.  Hotel Tonight recognized how people enjoy being on the go while using their mobile devices, and came up with a great concept of using a mobile-based application to book space at the last minute.

The Hotel Tonight mobile app features:

  • Geo-location targets nearby hotels for the “on-the-street” traveler
  • Entire booking process—from initial browsing to final purchase—is conducted within the app
  • Users can book as late as 2 a.m., long after travel websites stop taking reservations
  • Easy app navigation and unbeatable prices make the booking process fast
Mobile Application Photo

Hotel Tonight

“Mobile technology gives people the power to adapt to changing conditions in real-time. Our goal with Hotel Tonight is to enhance the user’s mobile lifestyle by offering them affordable hotel options when they are ready to call it a night.” SAM SHANK CEO, HOTEL TONIGHT

It is clear that mobile technology is here to stay.

For more information on trends read Robert Rauch’s Top 10 Hospitality Industry Trends in 2015.

What mobile strategies are you implementing for your business or brand?  Feel free to leave a comment.

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.

Social Media & Tourism: Connecting the dots with photos

Have you noticed an increase in the amount of people who freely share photos of their most recent travel destinations on social media?  Okay, I admit, I’m am one of those people who freely share photos on social media of beautiful places that I have visited, or in the case of San Diego, reside in.   The adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” is very true.  There is something intrinsically moving about a photograph and especially when it is shared on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  Whether it be two people holding hands while walking on the white sandy beaches of San Diego at sunset, or a picture of a pina-colada cocktail with a pineapple and an umbrella, graphic images call us to action.

Social media within the travel and tourism industry is on the rise as people have grown accustomed to sharing their destination photos and travel experiences with others online. This is great news for the travel and tourism industry and especially for tourism agencies, cities, and states who have implemented social media strategies into their marketing plans.  Social media is not only vital, but is a cost-efficient way to promote tourism, engage with visitors/tourists, and increase the number of visitors.  Businesses within the travel and tourism industry are now beginning to utilize social media and they are connecting the dots with photos—visual images.

Did you know?

  • Social media has a huge influence on travel bookings. Of those who used social media to research travel plans, only 48% stuck with their original travel plans
  • 33% changed their hotel
  • 10% switched resorts
  • 10% changed agent/operator/website
  • 7% holidayed in a different country
  • Post-vacation, 46% of travelers post hotel reviews
  • 40% post activity/attraction reviews
  • 40% post restaurant reviews
  • 76% post vacation photos to a social network
  • 55% “liked” Facebook pages specific to a vacation

For more statistics, checkout the 2012 & 2013 Social Media and Tourism Industry Statistics, as reported by Stikky Media.

Welcome to Voyage San Diego BLOG!

It’s official!  Voyage San Diego (aka, me, Darla) is now blogging about beautiful San Diego, “America’s Finest City”.  For those of you who currently follow me on social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, you already know how passionate I am about living in this great city and being surrounded by sparkling white sand beaches, aqua blue Pacific Ocean, pristine coastlines, breathtaking panoramic views, spectacular romantic sunsets, perfect year round temperatures, diverse cultures, amazing cuisines, and so much more.  I must say, the beauty of Southern California, specifically San Diego, has definitely inspired me to not only pick up my camera to capture every moment, but also to write a blog to share some travel insights, for those who are planning on visiting San Diego, and to discuss how the travel and tourism industry can benefit from using social media.

What is Social Media?

Merrriam-Webster Dictionary defines Social Media as forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos).

Social Media Tools

So, you have an upcoming special event but you’re not sure as to how you should go about promoting it.  You’ve considered using traditional marketing such as print advertising, direct marketing, TV and radio, however, you are now interested in adding social media to your marketing campaign.

With there being a sea of social media sites, where does one begin?  Facebook and Twitter would be a great start for promoting your special events while interacting with consumers/tourists.

Facebook and Twitter are the two most popular social media tools—Facebook #1 with 900 million unique visitors per day, and Twitter #2 with 310 million unique visitors per day—according to eBizMBA’s ranking which averages each website’s Alexa Global Traffic Rank and U.S. Traffic Rank.  Although both social media sites are free to set up as well as fairly easy to access and have some similarities, they are very different in how the tools are used.

What is the Difference?

Facebook’s platform is designed for users to connect with family and friends while engaging in ongoing discussions, constant status updates, sharing photos, milestones, and other information.  Facebook can also be used to directly interact with consumers in two-way conversations via personal pages, fan/business pages, group pages, as well as to share important updates/news, build relationships, and increase brand awareness.  Facebook is a great tool for consumers and brands alike.  While brands promote their products, services, and special events, consumers have an option to “like” brand pages, join groups/conversations, and post comments.

Twitter’s platform is designed for users to create content that is 140-characters or less, stay up-to-date on the latest news and trends.  Users can follow, interact, and retweet posts as well as “tweet” updates in real-time.  Twitter conversations are more so “happening now” and followers are able to stay abreast of what is going on. For example, many people use Twitter to receive the latest news, promote their favorite sports team, artists, celebrities, brands and/or to simply promote whatever they are interested in (hobbies, careers, affiliations, etc.).  By posting “tweets” or “retweets” in Twitter using either mentions (@) or hashtags (#), your tweets will reach a greater amount of other twitter users, especially if your tweets are set to “public” where others can view the tweets without having to follow you.

Facebook and Twitter are powerful social media tools that should be integrated into your marketing campaign.  If you use both tools, together, you’ll have a greater opportunity of reaching an abundance of people.  To learn how you can use Facebook and Twitter to reach more customers, checkout “Practical Tips to Reach More People on Social Media” by Ann Smarty.

What are your thoughts about social media?  Which platforms do you prefer?  Feel free to leave a comment.