An earlier version of this article was published on Tro Smith on November 13, 2013.
If you are using Facebook to promote your hotel or travel destination, you are probably not taking advantage of the social network’s biggest opportunity.
Referral marketing is at the very heart of what effective marketing is all about.
Think about it.
Don’t you value a recommendation from someone you know much more than a commercial or an advertisement?
Aren’t you less impressed that a celebrity endorses a resort than if your old college buddy says, “Wow this place is freaking awesome”?
Therefore referrals are a function of relationships and everyone knows new sales are a result of referrals so:
New relationships = new sales.
What is the biggest relationship management system in the world?
With over half a billion active users, the travel industry has been missing out on leveraging the biggest network on earth and has been doing so in grand fashion.
THE TRUTH IS:
It’s not about the traditional channels of marketing:
Advertisement > Impressions > Conversions
It’s all about engaging relationships:
Recommendation > Testimonials > Referrals
BUT FACEBOOK SUCKS FOR MARKETING I HEARD?
Many travel resorts are not happy with the results of their Facebook marketing campaigns after many months.
The primary reason is they are misusing their facebook page as a “broadcast advertisement” platform.
This “blast a message repeatedly” approach may work well for branding where image and perception is the priority but on the internet sales are a result of meaningful conversations.
The more meaningful the relationship the more valuable the discussion and the more likely a sales referral or conversion will be the end result of the interaction.
Meanwhile most travel resorts are still getting it wrong.
They insist on using their FB page as an advertisement feed when they could be pursuing valuable recommendations and testimonials from recent guests which is surprisingly easy to do.
These satisfied guests would be much more likely to discuss their positive experience which will then be shared with their friends and followers and can lead to a new sales referral.
However, very few travel pages on Facebook are using this strategy.
Even less take the extra step to find their most satisfied and “popular” customers and ask them to write a review or record a video testimonial.
This is a very large opportunity missed—and again, that’s not very difficult to accomplish.
This is how most travel destination use Facebook: post a goog looking pictures with happy people in bathing suite, or a palm tree at sunset, and offer a 25% discount for their next vacation. I’m not saying that nice pictures of a vacation resort is not a good idea, what I’m saying is that the impact of the bottom line will be thin compared to leveraging raving fan’s testimonials the right way.
EVEN THE BEST IN THE BIZ CAN IMPROVE.
Case in point.
Most leading resorts are basically using their Facebook page to broadcast “advertisements” to their fans instead of “hosting” a real meaningful discussion.
This is easy to do as obviously there are many people who enjoy traveling to Sandals and Breezes so surely there are tons of facebook users who would also be willing to discuss their experience.
The question is how can you find them?
Facebook works really well when it comes to finding “fans” but locating “ambassadors” or users who have more influence than average is more difficult.
However, a third party tool can make it easy to identify the most active and influential users and find the best related posts and comments.
With this valuable information travel destinations can now share more relevant and engaging content on their page which will create a real discussion founded on a positive experience that someone had at their resort.
A key driver for this strategy is the fact that people love to talk about the places they’ve visited AND had a great time. This is the reason why popular resorts like Sandals and Breezes have so many likes on their facebook pages.
However, all facebook users are not equal.
Some have more influence than others and this can make a big difference in the results of your marketing campaign.
This is where a fan ranking feature becomes extremely useful.
Now you can view your facebook fans by rank and use this information to determine who you should approach for a testimonial.
Then, once you start the discussion on your page you can then use timeline management tools to make managing the feedback and assigning follow up to team members a piece of cake.
How to find your ambassadors
The first step to finding an ambassador for your resort is to make sure that your customers are in fact satisfied.
This question has to be asked:
Are your customers’ expectations being exceeded or do they feel buyer’s remorse for choosing your resort?
This powerful strategy is extremely effective but completely dependent on having actual satisfied customers because only they would be motivated enough to share how awesome their experience was.
A best practice is to establish an ambassador program with the objective of providing incentives for your satisfied guests who want to share their positive experience on Facebook.
The details about the program should be published on your website which will make the process of explaining your program easy for current and potential ambassadors.
You can also add a wrinkle of competition into your ambassador promotion by using the new Facebook feature which allows contests directly on the timeline. You can use free tools to help you manage this kind of contest. If you want to find inspiration for such an effective timeline contest, I highly advise you to read this blog post with a lot of relevant Facebook timeline contest ideas.
This can result in having multiple ambassadors all over the world promoting your destination, as they “compete to win”.
Also, don’t hesitate to promote your ambassadors competition directly on site, while travelers are enjoying their trip with you. Read our previous article here about how to leverage your travel destination to get more qualified fans on Facebook.
- An avid traveler and facebook user visits a new destination for the first time.
- Impressed by the facilities and awesome experience of her trip she posts about it to facebook and goes to the destination’s facebook page to become a fan.
- The new fan discover (on site, on the website or on the Facebook page) that the travel destination will reward her with an enticing promotion if she share her good experience.
- The avid traveler posts a long detailed and candid post about how awesome her stay was at the destination, she even includes pictures
- The destination resort uses the right tools to identify, tag and archive the positive comment and then reshare that testimonial on the page giving credit. Agorapulse can definitely help with that process!
- The destination resort then re-shares this avid traveler’s post on its facebook page, giving credit to the concerned fan.
- All the other fans of the destination resort’s facebook page see the update in their feed when they login and join the conversation.
- After seeing the post, friends of the avid traveler consider booking a reservation at the resort for their next vacation.
- Due to the increase of likes, comments, and re-shares; Facebook ranks the destination resort page higher in its search rankings, increasing the visibility of the page for competitive search terms such as “Caribbean resort” or “island vacation” for example.This results in more new page visitors who’s first impression with the resort is positive due to the active discussion that they notice which was originally started by the avid traveler’s experience.
- Finally, the travel destination take the Facebook post with all these positive comments from existing and potential clients and embeds it on its website for maximum exposure.
What’s your take on this? Does your travel destination still publish promotional content or have you started to focus on your relationship with your enthusiastic clients to benefit from their positive experience with you?