Our good friends over at TourismTiger know a thing or two about how to make your mark online as a tour and activity operator. In this post, Senior Content Coordinator Emma Russel takes us through some effective ways to ensure you’re making the most out of your online presence. Social media can seem daunting, but trust us, this article is sure to steer you in the right direction. Thanks Emma!
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Linkedin, YouTube…feeling overwhelmed yet?
You’re not alone. Many tour operators struggle to market themselves effectively on social platforms, and even more fail to get started in the first place.
Here are a few reasons why:
- I don’t have the time.
- I don’t think it’s important.
- I don’t know which platforms to target.
- I don’t know what to post.
- My target market doesn’t use social media.
As a tour operator, your time is valuable, and you want to be sure every investment is worthwhile. You need a guarantee that dedicating time and effort to social media will benefit your company. You may also ask yourself: do my customers even use social media?
The short answer: yes.
A common misconception is that companies don’t need to worry about social media if they’re targeting anyone older than a millennial. In reality, the majority of your customers — young and old — use some form of social media.
A 2018 report revealed 64% of adults aged 50-64 are on at least one social media site, and according to Internet Marketing Inc 76% of travelers post photos of their holiday online, while 52% gain inspiration from their friends’ Facebook photos.
No matter your demographic, social media matters.
Creating an online presence requires work. But ignoring this aspect of your business could mean ignoring direct channels to your customers.
Social media shouldn’t be an afterthought: these platforms present a great opportunity to increase brand awareness, boost traffic to your website, and increase bookings.
Not sure where to start? Below we’ve shared a few tips to help you craft a solid, profitable social media plan:
Slow down and give it some thought
Of course you want to see fast results, but effective social media marketing requires some thought. Before setting up accounts on every platform imaginable, dedicate time to creating a plan.
Are you looking to establish a brand for your company? Increase traffic? Advertise special offers? By having a clear idea of your goals, you can establish which platforms are most beneficial for your company.
Before you begin, consider the factors necessary for a successful campaign:
- An understanding of which type of customer is relevant to your business and what they want
- Attractions/locations/activities people want to share
- A commitment to sharing other content outside of your own
- An eagerness to connect with your customers — i.e. respond to reviews, reply to comments, etc.
Below are some examples of companies that know their audience:
Many of Wild Rover Tours’ Instagram and Facebook followers are ex-customers that are interested in returning to Ireland. Their social media posts are aimed at interacting with their followers and showing the best spots in Ireland.
Harry Potter Universal have a large fan base they stay engaged with. They often repost their followers’ experiences and offer the chance to be featured on their social media platforms.
Competitions are a great way to keep your followers engaged while promoting your product. In the above post, Secret Food Tours turn a new tour offering into a competition.
It’s only natural to want to get your brand out there, utilizing all possible channels — but for some, this means biting off more than they can chew.
There’s nothing worse than an out-of-date company profile. Large gaps between posts or neglected sites imply laziness, disorganization, and a lack of interest. The fewer platforms you have to manage, the more time you can dedicate to getting it right.
Rule of thumb: Facebook is your most solid option and the most widely used platform. This is not only due to its larger network of users, but also to the fact that you can display a list of your products, making it incredibly easy for a visitor to move from your Facebook page to the booking page on your site.
An example of Facebook’s capabilities on Wild Rover’s Facebook page.
Instagram is your next best option. Users on this platform are steadily increasing and Instagram is gradually becoming the platform of choice for many.
Whichever (select few) platforms you ultimately choose, ensure that they are popular among your target market and focus on making your posts count. There’s no need to spread yourself too thin. Instead, be critical about which platforms can really be of benefit to you.
Understand what works
Follow successful companies and fellow operators on social media, and take note of what works for them. Pay attention to which posts have the most engagement or which had the most impact on you.
Remember: the point of social media is interaction, but as a tour operator, it needs to go deeper than that. Gently encourage your customers to leave reviews on Facebook. Try offering discounts and special offers to those that share your posts. Add a face to your company by featuring your incredible guides; posts images of happy customers on your tours; link to your website. Doing all this keeps your customers/followers engaged and excited about your product.
Trafalgar Travel is a fantastic example of an operator maintaining customer engagement while posting relevant material. Here is the proof.
They show they care about what they do:
They always respond to messages:
They listen to their customers:
As mentioned above, an inactive site can do more harm than good in terms of how your company is perceived. Rather than attracting customers, a disorganized account will do nothing but repel potential clients. Even if you’re short on time, there is no excuse for allowing your site to fall to the wayside.
Creating a schedule ensures you always have consistent, high-quality content to share. Not only that: by scheduling what you post, you can take advantage of the most active times your users are on social media.
There are a ton of resources available to help you with planning and scheduling. Hootsuite is a popular social media management (SMM) system and is used by over 20% of companies including Ebay, UPS, and Gap. TweetDeck and SocialEngage are also popular with businesses.
Simply input your posts, add the date/time you want to share it, and allow Hootsuite to take care of the rest. By scheduling posts in advance, you reduce the need to dedicate time to social media every day. You could even set aside time to bulk schedule posts every month or so. Plus, no need to set your alarm in the middle of the night to target overseas followers.
Set up alerts
For business owners, time is money. Scrolling through Twitter or Facebook in search of useful content to engage with can be way too time-consuming.
Google Alerts sends notifications directly to your email, notifying you of activity surrounding your business. You can set them up to ping you with industry-related news or when your company’s name is mentioned.
Essentially, Google Alerts takes care of the scrolling, making it easier for you to stay up to date with the latest news and activity.
Google Alerts is incredibly easy to set up.
If you’re a tour operator, social media will likely be a part of present and future marketing strategies. This is no longer a secondary aspect to tourism marketing. Social media offers incredible opportunities to increase brand awareness, draw in new customers, provide a platform for reviews and feedback, advertise your product and share relevant content.
The good news is, the more thought and energy you invest in your social media marketing strategy at the beginning, the easier it will be to maintain. Take some time out to plan a strategy. The payoff could be huge if you do.
If you’re a novice, don’t despair. Start small, focusing on Facebook or a similar platform, and work on expanding your audience.
Scan the internet, pick and choose which aspects could work for your company, and craft a campaign that makes a splash.
And remember: the goal is not to churn out content with little engagement; the goal is to create an online presence which both promotes your brand and provides a two-way channel between you and your customers.
What are you waiting for? Your audience is waiting.