News Analysis: Riding the Social Networking Wave

Wave Season is in full swing, and some agents are increasingly using social networking to reach potential bookers. But what’s the real opportunity and how does an agent best approach that?

"Yes, many more of CruiseOne and Cruises Inc’s agents are using social networking more this year than last," said Mike Monahan, director of Internet marketing for CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. He said "growth appears focused on Facebook," but that the channel was primarily being used as a way to keep in touch with existing clients more often, rather than prospecting.

Is there really a "good" and "bad" way — from a social networking perspective — for agents to piggyback on cruise line Wave promotions, even with existing customers?

"Agents can use a wall post to their Facebook business page to convey a headline and a link leading to a cruise sales page," said Monahan. "But a more effective use of the social media coveys the travel experience in a more engaging way."

He said that agents who link to their own blog posts and photos can often generate more interest simply by giving consumers a more in-depth look at a travel experience.

In other words, once an agent engages and builds the customer’s interest in a specific destination or type of trip, it’s easier to interact with them and then showcase the most appropriate Wave Season promotions. So start softly, engage and go from there. Avoid the hard sell up front.

Which social channel is best – Twitter, Facebook or others? “Different tactics work for different agents,” Monahan said. “I still think the jury is out as far as one best way to use each social media channel.” Monahan says it’s definitely not one size fits all. The most effective tactics vary by audience as well as by the specific social media outlet used.

"We have agents using very different tactics on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn," Monahan said. "Measurability of the individual agent’s tactics is what can be a real challenge.  As case studies are built, I think in the next year we’ll have a much better idea of what works best in which channels."

What trend does he see that’s most intriguing?

"What seems to be starting to happen is that our promotional messaging is freely moving across communication channels now more than ever before," Monahan said. For example, he says direct mail messaging is being mirrored on website landing pages, and links to those pages are being shared on Facebook Fan Page walls.

As a result, Monahan added: "This gives us more exposure of the same message in more places than ever before, resulting in the same sales message reaching our desired audience with greater frequency and — in most cases — greatly expanding our original message’s reach."

For an extensive look at specific advice that agents, other consortia executives and a social networking expert say works best for selling "the Wave," stay tuned for an article appearing in the February 21 issue of Travel Agent Magazine.


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