Travel agents, or anyone involved in associated businesses, have recently been handed a gift on a golden platter: online social networking. The travel business has long been driven by good word of mouth and similar forms of personal interaction. Facebook, Twitter, and the many other new venues raise those methods – and their benefits – to new heights.
In days past, travel agencies relied chiefly on newspaper ads and the recommendations of a relatively small network of existing customers. The old “she tells two people, and they tell two people, making four, sixteen…” and so forth, could really only go so far. The problem is that the threads of the ‘people web’ got broken in too many places, crippling the spread.
Today, that amplification effect is, well, amplified many times over. There are millions of people on MySpace, Facebook, and the rest. That ups the odds quite a bit that word of mouth will continue in one direction, even if it stops in another.
Facebook is an excellent example. Create a Facebook Business Page that perform multiple tasks for you and you’ll soon see. You have an opportunity to “soft sell” your travel business in myriad ways. Here are just a few…
The travel business frequently offers advice on places to go, things to do. But it’s easy for travelers to get information overload. It’s like drinking from a firehose. The travel agent provides a service by sifting through that gold mine, panning for the gold and discarding the stones.
Using Facebook, it’s possible to become the go-to guru in your niche. Announce a series of online seminars. Think about using sites like BlogTalkRadio to do a weekly travel show and post your upcoming topics on your Wall. Create some audios and direct your potential customers to a place they can learn how to get the most out of travel at the least cost or hassle. Use your ‘Wall’ in your Page to post great photos, newsfeeds, and links to articles from a variety of travel experts (including you, of course).
You could let them in on the secrets experienced travelers know about how to find the cleanest, safest hotels. You can direct them to helpful information on relatively quiet hostels. Fill them in on places that offer the best opportunities for getting to know an international crowd.
Twitter offers still more chances to target your audience and create a unique brand in double-quick time.
Since the travel business is filled with exciting one-time events, you have a golden opportunity to pass them on to your followers in real-time. That gets the buzz going in your direction. No need to pump it with a hard sell. This is one place where “build it and they’ll come” really works.
You can provide wary travelers with lots of advice on places to avoid in otherwise exciting and desirable countries like Mexico or Egypt. Such places sometimes get an undeserved bad reputation as countries to skip, when there are really only a few easy-to-bypass cities or regions that are risky.
The travel business is, maybe not quite unique, but certainly distinctive in depending so strongly on trust. You gain your customer’s trust by providing reliable information on places to go and how to get there. The casual, friendly nature of the travel business syncs perfectly with Twitter for building that trust.
Extend that genial atmosphere as you share your personal passion for travel. All kinds of people travel with all kinds of interests. Share some of your other passions besides travel and you’ll find they’ll become inclined to come to you first for all things travel related, too. Let them get to know you in multiple ways.
Lucky for you, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, and all the rest make it simple to expand “them” to include millions.Both Facebook Pages and Twitter are where you can –
- Build a community surrounding your business and gain extra exposure
- Inform visitors of what’s going on in the travel industry. Where are the HOT vacation spots? Where are the best destinations for the deepest deals?
- Ask fans for input and comments about their vacationing experiences. What have been the most exotic, the most kid-friendly, the most historic, the scariest, the most eco-friendly. This list could go on and on.
- Create contests and special offers
- Get a little crazy and creative – loosen up and have a bit of fun
- You could provide valuable information for those that want to do a road trip with their children and/or pets. Hotels that have special amenities for kids and pets are a huge hit with this crowd. Even if you don’t know much of the information yourself, I’ll bet you know of websites you could link to in Twitter and on your Facebook Page. Remember, you don’t have to be the one creating all the content yourself, but that doesn’t mean you will not be providing extreme value when pointing your visitors in the right direction.
- Announce your newest or best services
- In this economy, extensive travel to exotic places may be out of reach for many. What if you do a series of posts dedicated to “staycationers”. Provide ideas on ways budget travelers can pamper themselves.
- What about other related topics your audience is interested in? Could you provide information for them about: packing tips, pet boarding tips and alternatives, travel games, house-sitting resources and related information, trip planning and how/when to start saving for the big trip, eating do’s and don’t s while you’re traveling – and related information. I’ll bet there is a light beginning to shine above your head right about now, right?
- Upload your videos and pictures of hot vacation spots, near and far. Encourage your Facebook fans to upload their funniest vacation picture and have people vote on it. Pictures and videos will be your best friend. We all like to dream about taking great vacations. Help your visitors realize that dream.