Hugh Riley

Five truths about social media to help you grow your tourism business

Consumers are increasingly put off by interruptive or “outbound” marketing approaches. In a two-way medium like the Internet, the traditional methods of marketing are losing their effectiveness and new types of marketing are gaining leverage by offering value for consumers. So what is “outbound” marketing? Outbound marketing includes email blasts to purchased lists, internal cold calling and seminar series, just to name a few.

These methods are considered “outbound” because marketers push their messages out as far as possible hoping that they resonate with potential clients. Sounds familiar? Rather than doing outbound marketing to the masses of individuals who are trying to block you out, utilize “inbound” marketing where you help your business get found by people already learning and shopping in our industry. Inbound marketers “earn their way in” in contrast to outbound marketers who have to “buy, beg, or bug their way in” (Hubspot, 2016).

Here are five truths to help you strategically use social media to develop an inbound marketing approach to help you grow your tourism business.

  1. Develop your buyer personas. When creating your social media plan, both Marketo and Hubspot suggest establishing who you want to target by developing buyer personas as the first step. You don’t want just any kind of traffic to your website; you want the right kind of traffic. The right people are your ideal guests a.k.a. your buyer personas. Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal clients based on real data and some select educated speculation about client demographics, behaviour patterns, motivations and goals. Interview guests and prospects, either in person or over the phone, to discover what they like or dislike about your service offering and then create persona profiles to match groups of your ideal guests.

2. Integrate the buyer’s journey in your social media marketing. Your buyer personas go through several stages before they decide to visit your destination. First, they go through an awareness stage in which they are mindful that they are experiencing a problem and conduct research to try and solve it. An example of this is a prospect searching for a Caribbean destination to host a wedding. Next in the consideration stage, your prospect is committed to researching and understanding all of the available options to solve his or her problem. He or she will conduct in-depth comparisons of each Caribbean destination that they are considering. Finally in the decision stage, your prospect has now decided on their solution method. In this case, he or she is creating a short list of options to choose from. The factors that will determine which option best suits your prospect’s needs will be the cost and the value proposition of your offering. Before figuring out how to allocate spending across media—television, radio, online, and so forth, begin by targeting stages of the buyer’s journey. Marketing research shows that 70% to 90% of marketing expenditure goes to outbound marketing methods such as advertising and promotions that target consumers only at the awareness stage (Edelman, 2010). Yet, consumers are often influenced more during the consideration and the decision stages. If you do your research in developing your buyer personas, you will know exactly what problems your prospects are looking to solve. You can therefore create social media marketing or inbound content around these problem points in each stage of the buyer’s journey that will make your prospects come to you.

3. Reassess your marketing strategy and budget. In the past, when communication was one-way, a heavy portion of the marketing strategy and budget would be devoted to paid media such as print advertising and promotional strategies. Things have certainly changed!  Nowadays, apart from paid media you should also consider owned media, which makes up all of the online channels your brand owns such as your website and social media platforms. Let’s not forget about those other channels where content is created by consumers, such as communities of brand enthusiasts like  TripAdvisor for example. When was the last time you revised your overall marketing plan and budget? Don’t get left behind. These are the channels where consumers are spending most of their time. To engage your audience effectively on these channels, an increasing portion of the budget should go to the people and technology required to create and manage content for this  wide range of channels and to also monitor and interact with  them.

4. Share content that is relevant to your buyer personas. A common (and understandable) mistake that many organizations make as they try to climb the social engagement ladder is creating the majority of their content as promotional updates (SEOmoz,Inc., 2016). This is reflective of the traditional marketing world in which all outbound push messages exemplify that. Things have changed. Now, we must develop our marketing efforts on trust, engagement, and community. There is, of course a time and place for marketing and promotional messages but don’t make it your sole focus. Consider broadening your scope. You can almost guarantee that if someone is following you, they are interested in what you have to offer. Share content that is relevant to your business or something that involves the common interests of your audience. For instance, the CTO frequently shares E-publications that our buyer personas would be interested in viewing. See image below of one of our previous LinkedIn updates.

5. Leverage your content. Now that you have created great content targeted specifically towards your buyer personas, you need to make that content easy for them to find. Content distribution is what provides the context to your content (Hubspot, 2016). The right distribution technique gets the right content in front of the right people at the right time. Use the right channels to reach your personas where they spend the majority of their time. If they aren’t spending much time on Pinterest, then Pinterest should not be a major channel of your distribution strategy.

In summary, prospects are now depending on social media to research and educate themselves about a product or service before they actually visit your destination or organization. Marketo (2016) suggests that it is not enough to simply post on your Facebook or Twitter pages; instead you have to integrate social media into every aspect of your marketing to develop more peer-to-peer opportunities. To learn more about ways you can use social media to effectively grow your tourism business, attend our Caribbean Tourism Marketing Workshop during Caribbean Week in New York on June 2, 2016. Click here for more information.

References

Edelman, D. “You’re spending your money in all the wrong places.” Branding in the Digital Age, 2010.

Hubspot. Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing. 2015. http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/2989/Inbound-Marketing-vs-Outbound-Marketing.aspx#sm.00000bxxp6kidbfobs7rzbvk52jrt.

Marketo. “The Definitive Guide to Social Marketing .” 2016.

SEOmoz, Inc. Social Media Best Practices . 2016. https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-social-media/best-practices.