Social Media Tips – Travel Impressions’ Susan Black Talks Engagement

susan blackIf you’ve been following the socialmediaverse for the past year or so, you’ve probably run across Travel ImpressionsSocial U. webinar series. This quarterly series of free webinars is aimed at helping travel agents grow their business and their customers. Travel Agent caught up with Susan Black, EVP and chief marketing officer at Travel Impressions and one of the minds behind the series, for a quick chat on effectively engaging customers on Facebook.

“Travel agents have incredible expertise, many of them have been there and done that in terms of what they’re recommending to their clients,” says Black. “The challenge is getting it out there into a very crowded consumer marketplace.”

Fortunately, says Black, one of the most effective ways to do this on Facebook is by doing what you do best – engaging customers in a conversation about the places and experiences they’d like best. “Engage is the operative word,” says Black.

Facebook spreads your post to other users’ newsfeeds using an algorithm called EdgeRank, which gives higher priority to posts that have been commented on and shared than those that have been liked, Black says. That means that likes aren’t the best metric to use when measuring your Facebook – what you really need is comments and shares. More engaging posts get more comments and a higher EdgeRank, which means more people see them.

“Content that is engaging, interesting and relevant is key,” says Black. “If you can devote ten minutes a day to your social media content, which you can do by sharing and a number of things, then you’ll have a very consistent presence.”

Travel Impressions follows this strategy with its own Facebook presence, using a split Black describes as “80 percent tell, 20 percent sell.”

“80 percent tell is putting up blogs, best places to go, make up your own holiday day,” Black says. “We try to focus on 80 percent of that, while 20 percent is promotions.”

“When you do put promotions,” Black says, “make sure they’re really, really compelling. You really have to curate the best, and people will look forward to it then. People like to be first to know. They like limited offers, limited availability. They like to know that travel agents are in the know. It’s about expertise.”

Things to avoid? Stay away from stock photos, as they can drive customers away by seeming inauthentic, Black warns. For one Mother’s Day promotion, Travel Impressions ran a stock photo of a mother sitting on a beach with her kids and asked, “Where would you like to go for Mother’s Day?”

“We got no engagement,” Black says. “It was a beautiful photo, but it was clearly stock, and it was like, ‘Oh please, we’re having a conversation here, and you’re giving me a stock photo?’ The mother was gorgeous, the kids were well-behaved – in real life, the mother would have been chasing those kids down to the water. It seemd too much like old-fashioned advertising.”

Even so, the beauty of social media is that it’s easy and cheap to fail and then learn from your mistakes, Black says. “In this channel you can fail fast, fail cheap and fail forward. It’s fast because as fast as you put it up, you can put something else up, and it’s fail forward because you can learn from it.”

Travel Impressions will be continuing its quarterly Social U. webinar series this year, as well as launching additional webinars aimed at the mobile and website spaces.

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