Even if you think "tweeting" is for the birds, Amadeus is offering six tips on ways to profit from the social media revolution.
"Once upon a time, the Internet was a sandbox that only techno geeks played in, and e-mail was for college kids. Travel agencies, on the other hand, were only brick-and-mortar places, with carpets, ceiling fans and coffee makers, where customers and agents sat across a desk from one another to discuss upcoming journeys," according to Amadeus. "Now, more and more travel businesses have an online, if not online-only, presence, and most travel agents use e-mail to correspond with their customers (even if they are sending these E-mails from a “real” storefront, carpeting, ceiling fan, coffee maker and all.)"
The next new thing all the 'cool kids' are doing is social media, Amadeus noted. But like the Internet, it’s quickly becoming part of "business as usual" for travel agencies — and not just a medium restricted to the young, hip and tech-savvy.
Amadeus believes marketing your travel business through social media — whether you’re "tweeting" about a special on European tours through Twitter, getting friends, customers and prospects to "like" your travel business on Facebook, or posting video blogs about your favorite destinations on YouTube — is an easy, inexpensive way to amp up sales.
The result is six painless ways for agents to to hop on the social bandwagon — and drive big profits – according to Amadeus. Amadeus’ suggestions and tools Amadeus offers to help agents include:
1. Facebook fever
It’s easy (and free) to set up a Facebook page for your travel business. In fact, if you don’t yet have an Internet domain for your agency, a Facebook business page is a great work-around until you can set up one with all the bells and whistles (which Amadeus can do for you—click here for information on our online solutions). A Facebook page can list your contact information, pictures and more. You can post travel tips, upcoming promotions or sales. Friends and customers who “like” you will see these updates automatically. Talk about instant, free marketing!
2. Let’s talk Twitter
Got a great deal on a 7-night cruise? If you can summarize this cruise news in 140 characters or less, you can use Twitter to sell cabins like hot cakes. Like Facebook, Twitter is free and widely used, and it’s the perfect venue to promote your deals (and much, much more). With Twitter, you can search by keyword, so in the cruise promotion example, if you type “Caribbean cruise” in the search engine, you’ll likely find tweets from travelers wanting to know if there are any good deals out there for Caribbean cruises. Reply with a link to your special, and you’ve got a match made in heaven.
3. Something to blog about
A blog is an informal online journal or column you can link to from your travel agency Web site or Facebook page—or even put a link to in your e-mail signature. You can also use Twitter to tweet out links to your blog. Wordpress.com and Google’s Blogger are two free blog-hosting platforms. If you’re not swift with the pen, rest assured that most bloggers aren’t professional writers—just people with opinions or expertise to share. The most popular blogs are usually quite short, in fact, and can be visual (upload a picture of your last vacation to Mexico with a caption promoting Cancun tours and you’ve got an instant blog post).
4. Video know-how
Speaking of blogging, have you heard about “vlogging,” or video-blogging? YouTube ranks just behind Google and Facebook as one of the world’s most popular Web sites, and travel agents are quickly discovering that there’s an eager online audience for short, amateur-produced films offering travel tips, reviews and promotions. You can also upload quick video clips of recent vacations that you’re selling through your business, give how-to advice on travel planning or even make a video promoting your company. Like blogs, YouTube videos can be pushed to from your Web site, e-mail, blog site or Facebook or Twitter accounts.
5. Circle gets the square
One of the newest social media phenomena is FourSquare.com, where people “check in” from a real location (the Starbucks on 17th Street, the Payless shoe store downtown), often with a quick commentary of potential interest to their friends and followers. These check-ins can be cross-posted onto Twitter and Facebook (which now has its own "Check In" button on its mobile app). So if you’re leading a wine country tour, check in from the Sebastiani Vineyards and talk up how much your customers are loving the Merlot.
6. Love for LinkedIn
Similar to Facebook but more business-focused, LinkedIn.com is a social networking site containing a directory of all your personal and professional contacts, and for businesses like travel agencies that flourish with word-of-mouth recommendations, it’s an absolute necessity to have a presence on this site. It takes little time to set up a LinkedIn profile (in fact, you can import your information directly from Facebook and Twitter), and before you know it, your Aunt Eunice’s neighbor’s volleyball coach will be asking, “Does anyone know a good travel agent who can organize a school tour?” and you’ll be able to chime in, “Me!”
Amadeus offers advice for agents using social media.