ADVENT CALENDAR 2016
Social Media Tips. Starts from Day 5. Have fun!
Day 5 - Spreading the Word -Which Social Media Channels should I use?
There is no need to spread yourself too thin across all the channels. If you want to narrow it down, concentrate on Facebook and Twitter. 52% of people say that the photos they see on Facebook from friends' holidays influence their own travel plans so you definitely want to be in that space! Twitter is the quickest and easiest way online to demonstrate you mean business and share your expertise. At least one post a day clearly demonstrates you are open for business and you can even display your feed on your website homepage. The idea of Twitter is to build followers for 3 reasons:
1. The higher your follower account, the more people assume you are an expert
2. The higher your follower account, the faster your ideas spread
3. The more followers you have, the more opportunity you have to generate leads and sales.
Today's 'To Do' - Make sure you have an interesting Twitter biography.
Your bio is one of the most important factors that people take into consideration when deciding to follow a Twitter account. You only have 160 characters so make them count! The essence of Twitter is all about giving something of value to others for free (i.e. being an expert!) so make sure what you have to offer is clear in your biography but also make sure it says why you are unique and worth following. It is important to stand out from the crowd. Perhaps include a link to your Facebook page and use hashtags to denote any areas of expertise e.g. #cruisetips
Time Saving Free Tweet Suggestion for Today: (simply copy and paste :)
We know about Danish #hygge but what about #koselig ? Here's how to make a #Norway #ski trip nice & koselig #TTOT http://campaign.visitnorway.com/uk/Skiing-in-Norway/koselig-a-very-norwegian-concept/
Select a photo to add to create an eye catching 'scroll stopper' by right clicking on your favourite from the website and then selecting 'save image as'. Once saved, hit the camera button on twitter to add the photo to your post.
NB:#TTOT =Travel Talk on Twitter. The travel community’s biggest Twitter chat, taking place every Tuesday at 9:30 AM/PM GMT. (Use the #TTOT hashtag during the week for your travel tweets)
Day 6: Pass it On!
Don’t forget to make maximum use of Twitter’s retweeting function. Not only is it a great time saving way to share useful content but you can add your own comments to personalise the message and enhance its relevance to your followers. Aim to retweet something once a day. This is your opportunity to help your followers cut through the noise one can find online and get straight to the good stuff handpicked by you, the expert. A good source of inspiration will come from the Tour Operators and sharing their best content will also help cement your relationship. Try and include their Twitter name in your comment if you have room.
Today’s ‘To Do’
Find something sensational to retweet that you know your followers will love. I've done a quick example below.
Day 7 - Getting the Hang of Hashtags
If you’re a social media novice, hashtags — those short links preceded by this sign # — may seem confusing and unnecessary. But they are integral to the way we communicate online, and it’s important to know how to use them. Plus, they can be a lot of fun.
On Twitter, the hashtag turns any tweet into a searchable item. This allows you to organize content and track discussion topics based on those keywords. So, if you wanted to post about Cruise Tips, you would include #cruisetips in your tweet to join the conversation. Click on a hashtag to see all the posts that mention the subject in real time.
Most Used Travel Hashtags
#travel – this is the most common travel hashtag. Lots of travel content will have this.
#’country’ – Look for content about Israel with #israel, Spain with #spain, etc
#’city’ – Look for content about a particular city like Paris with #paris, Rome with #rome etc
#’airport’ – Some city names are long so occasionally you will see people use #LAX instead of #LosAngeles (or #LA) and #SFO for #SanFrancisco (sometimes also #SF).
For an overview of hashtags click here .
Today’s 'To Do':
Let’s do an experiment to demonstrate the use of hashtags. Today is #Humpday - the summit of the (average!) working week - a good day to get people daydreaming about more fun things like where would be their dream destination for a holiday in 2017. Send a tweet inviting people to tweet their ideal holiday destination using the hashtag #Iwanttogoto and add a 'scroll stopping' photo. Share it via Facebook too. You can see my example below:
Day 8: The Joy of Chat
More hashtags today but with a bit of a different application.
Sometimes travellers also get together on Twitter for a chat and this is a perfect way to demonstrate your expertise and original travel ideas to a wider audience. The way this usually works is one person puts out 10 questions over the course of an hour with a specific hashtag. A popular chat is #TNI or Traveler’s Night In. The first question would be something like:
Q1. What’s your favourite Beach in the World? #tni
When you respond use A1. in your response, or better yet use both A1 and Q1 like this:
A1. The best beach is the Baths on Virgin Gorda Q1. What’s your favourite Beach in the World? #tni
Other popular chats include:
#sbtc – (Sunday brunch travel chat) Sunday at 12noon ET hosted by @MeganClaire
#girlstravel – Monday at 2pm ET – hosted by @MrsO, @TurnipseedTravels and others
#travelpics Monday at 3pm ET
#TTOT – Travel Talk On Twitter – Tuesday at both 9:30am and 9:30pm (GMT), 5 questions, hosted by @TravelBlggr or @TravelDudes, https://www.facebook.com/TravelTalkOnTwitter
#CruiseChat – Tuesday 2-3pm ET – hosted by @CruiseBuzz and @AvidCruiser
#NUTS – Not-so Usual Therapy Session – Tuesday 3:30-4:30pm ET – hosted by @McMedia or @RickGriffin, more info
#wegosolo – Wednesday at 11am EST hosted by Mary Ellen of @BreatheDreamGo
#ratw – Wed at noon EST
#Expediachat – Wednesday 1:30pm EST, hosted by @spencerspellman – more info
#TNI – Traveler’s Night In – 3:30pm-5 ET on Thursdays, 10 questions, hosted by @ZipSetGo – more info
#TourismChat – Thursdays 3pm ET – hosted by @TourismChat or @decillis @WhosYourAnnie more info
#jsett – Thursday 1:30 EST
#TravelSkills – Fridays, 12 noon ET hosted by @johnnyjet and @cjmcginnis, more info
Certain days of the week various travellers put out themed content. I used #TravelTuesday in my tweet example on Tuesday which is a Tuesday theme hashtag for collating all things travel. You can find out more about the origins of this hashtag here. Some of these have themes and some don’t.
#MexMonday – Monday all day – to promote travel to Mexico
#MountainMonday – Monday all day
#TravelTuesday #TT – Tuesday all day – more info
#BeachThursday – Thursday all day
#FriFotos – Friday all day, links to pictures, theme announced on Wednesday by @EpsteinTravels
Today's 'To Do'
Check out #TNI or #TourismChat this afternoon to see how it works and join in if you can. Have a quick look at Travelers Night In @Official_TNI or @travchats first to familiarise yourself with the chat format. I hope Travel Professionals in Cobham don't mind me using the following illustration.
Day 9 - Follow the Stars
The beauty of Twitter is that it allows you to get close to the movers and shakers in your niche (and their followers) without having to be brave enough to go up to them and start a conversation ( as you would have to at a party if you saw them).
By following key strategic people ( operators, industry professionals, destination experts etc.) you get to take part in the conversation that they are having on Twitter, to be able to retweet interesting tweets that they have written to your followers and also to include them ( using the @user in the tweet) in any tweets that you make that may be relevant to them. If you tweet useful and informative info, the chances are they will follow you right back and then open up their entire list to your tweets - what a great way to join in and start to participate in a conversation.
Hanging out with the experts will also help your profile as an expert and hence, build trust with your followers that you are the go to person in your niche.
Today's 'To Do'
Select some new key influencers to follow and engage with using this list of top travel tweeters as a start point.
Day 10: Spreading the Message
Social media sites are the new word of mouth and are the biggest reason travel agents should use social media. Well done to those of you who've been getting stuck in and trying out the daily advent actions. It does take some time commitment of course and it is not an 'overnight success' plan. It is about building a good online reputation and this takes time and effort in the same way that building your traditional face-to-face business reputation does so you need to stick at it to see results. The added benefit to a strong online reputation is its significantly wider reach potential.
Today's 'To Do'
But if you’re still feeling dubious and a bit noncommittal, here’s a simple information slideshow that is is specifically related to why Travel Agent should use social media. Have a look over the weekend and consider how you might apply it to your business. Click here
Day 11 - Watch in Heavenly Peace
A day to kick back and get inspired. The wonderful world of TED talks has compiled this list of their favourites guaranteed to give you wanderlust.
Today's 'To Do'
Click here to have a browse and see which inspires you. Worth a share with your Facebook friends and Twitter followers too. You can copy and paste the link below: https://www.ted.com/playlists/172/talks_to_give_you_wanderlust
Day 12: Stand out from the Crowd
Specialization can be your ally. If you are superb at problem solving, this can be your niche in the agency office. Or, perhaps you are exceptional at making travel arrangements for large groups that have many plans for their trip. You could specialize in working with certain groups, or with selected destinations. Even if you are a top agent in all areas, being a specialist can make you stand out from the crowd and become more sought-after. Cruise and Honeymoons are traditional areas of expertise but perhaps 2017 is the year when you tap into another area of specialism and make yourselves the expert. Two emerging markets to consider are:
By 2020 there will be more people over 50 than under 50 in the UK and the 50-60 year olds still feel fit and ready for adventure plus have the time and money to travel. Alliance & Leicester found that 26% of over 50’s were planning a trip half way across the world to Australia or New Zealand and 3% were even contemplating Antarctica. They also enjoy holidays where they can also pursue a hobby such as writing, yoga, crafting or sport
This is the single travel group with the perfect confluence of time, money, and energy. They love to go on extended adventure trips, also known as experiential trips and also festival trips. They want to form memories that they won’t ever forget and to do so before they settle down into houses and families. Knowing what they want and how to provide it for them is a skill unto itself. All too often, the millennials will think they can do it all themselves, from booking to finding places to go and stay. And all too often, they find themselves in need of a travel agent to help them once the idealistic notion of time away wears off. You can help get them from destination to destination while still respecting their desire to be absolutely free of any burdens. And, their parents can breathe a little easier knowing that their children will have some connections.
Today’s ‘To Do’
Make a list of potential new markets or a destination to specialise in and begin your research to help choose one to become the expert in in 2017.
Day 13 - Are you sure you've verified your online profiles?
Obviously the goal in reputation development is to put your best foot forward and to be sure that the best you is reflected in the Google search results. Given that the Knowledge Panel for your My Business page has such high visibility you want to insure that you focus on it and attempt to maximise the message that it carries. For those of you who opened the first door of the calendar you will remember we talked about the importance of checking your Google My Business pages are up to date because your local -ness is your strongest SEO opportunity (are you sure your opening hours are correct and does the website link take you to a page displaying the same phone number? Does your Business name and contact details exactly match across all your online profiles including website and Facebook?) I am revisiting it here because I want everyone to check and double check their details and also to ensure you have verified your page. Without completing this stage of the process you have not optimised your page and are missing driving maximum traffic to your website.
This video shows you how to do that.
The same goes for your Facebook listing. If you verify your page (a verified business is indicated by a grey tick next to your business name like here on Malvern Travel’s page) you will appear higher in search results.
Click on Settings/General and find the Page Verification line and click edit.
Today's 'To Do'
Don't delay! Get verified ASAP!
Day 14 - Getting People to 'Stick Around'
An easy way to increase your social contact with customers and enhance your website customer experience is to add a ‘Live Chat’ function. Websites that generate positive user behaviour are recognised by search engines and their rankings increase.
Adding live chat functionality to your website allows customers to chat with a business in real-time to ask questions, get advice and build confidence in your service. The main benefit above all, is that live chat offers convenience for customers right from your website without them having to leave and look for assistance on the phone, email or social media. The added benefit of this is that it will improve the stickiness of your site which in turn can improve your SEO. Added convenience is what helps build strong relationships with your customers since the availability of help and the speed at which this help is delivered are often the two most cited reasons people say they had an enjoyable experience with a company. And an enjoyable experience makes people more like to come back to your site another time too.
Today’s ‘To Do’
If you don’t already have Live Chat on your website, give some serious thought to the benefits both for you and your customers. You don't need to be available online 24/7 (although a little extension beyond opening hours may be beneficial) nor does it need to cost any money. If you would like to trial it drop us an email at email@example.com
Day 15 - Email Marketing 1 - Be Inspiring!
Despite the popularity of Social Media and all the endless talk of SEO, as a local, specialist business email marketing is still one of the strongest tools in your marketing toolbox. It enables you to have direct, personal contact with your customers and if you segment your list (e.g. according to areas of interest such as Family Holidays, Adventure, etc) you can also target which information to send to who and increase its relevance. Email marketing is essentially the most effective way to universally reach people who have expressed an interest in you. They want to hear from you!
Our Latecards system makes getting started with email marketing extremely simple, enabling you to create a professionally formatted email with your choice of offers including eye catching photographs and the all important click through link back to your website. If you feel a bit rusty as to how to do this do refresh your memory by watching this screencast which talks you through the process.
I sometimes hear people saying email marketing ‘doesn’t work’ for them. The truth is having an uninspiring spasmodic email marketing approach doesn’t work. The thing I want to stress today is that in order for you to make your email marketing more successful, you need to take full advantage of the text box at the beginning of the Latecards email template to personalize your message and explain why you think the content will be of interest. A random collection of special offers isn’t going to keep your reader interested. There is no need to get bogged down with this as a simple, short paragraph will do nicely. It is also worth giving some time to your subject heading to enhance open rates.
Today’s ‘To Do’
Prepare for a 2017 email marketing campaign with zingy subject headings that gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your areas of expertise and are designed to be inspirational. I would suggest thinking up 12 titles (one for each month) with headings (off the top of my head!) such as.
Don’t forget you can create your own Latecards to match your subject heading and direct readers to the appropriate page on your website. Do contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like us to get in touch after Christmas to explain how to do this.
Day 16 - Email Marketing 2 - For Retaining Customers
For many businesses, email marketing is the most effective channel to bring people back to their sites. As a holiday is generally an infrequent purchase for most people (ie typically one a year) email marketing can be the primary form of customer engagement in between purchases.
I talked yesterday about generating regular inspirational emails to keep your business and expertise at the front of people’s minds ready for when the time comes for them to book their next holiday. It is also important to include some ‘calls to action’ i.e. a clickable link back to a page on your website. An effective way is to create a shortcut hyperlink to take them directly to your latest blog post, or a specific landing page or to a holiday search result. E.g If you had used the subject heading What we Love Best about Mauritius you could create the shortcut by writing the text ‘Click here to see our holidays to Mauritius’ and hyperlinking it directly to the holiday search listing for Mauritius.
To make it a more clickable call to action, you could chose a destination of the month and simply say something like ‘ Click here to find our handpicked special destination of the month’ to add a little mystery.
Today’s To Do
How to add a hyperlink is something we often get asked about so Today’s To Do is to master the technique if you are new to this.
Day 19 - Why you need Email marketing software
Hopefully Santa’s tips yesterday have convinced you of the benefits of having an email marketing strategy in place for 2017. If so, it is time to consider using an email marketing system to professionalise your approach, track success rates, automate campaigns and to segment your email list. Today when much marketing is done entirely online, marketers need a way to collect permission, manage permission, and use permission effectively. Marketing automation tools enable these three activities at a low cost:
Marketing automation systems are always designed with these three marketing actions in mind. They also help ensure deliverability of your email. If you repeatedly send bulk emails directly from your Yahoo, Gmail accounts or even through Outlook, then you could have your email address shut down by that email provider or by your own Internet Service Provider for what looks like spammy practices.
Another benefit is that the manage your list for you automatically. In other words, if a reader wants to opt out of your newsletter, they click a link in your email and they are automatically removed. You do not have to do anything. Also there are easy integrative features with these systems where you can place a signup form on your website or on your Facebook page where readers can easily sign up for your newsletters. These opt-in forms manage these new users automatically as well.
Email marketing services make sure you are following the standards for sending commercial emails automatically. They also stay on top of the latest laws and restrictions within the email legal landscape which means you don’t have to.
And the fun part is that you actually get to see who opened your email so you can hone your skills as you go and monitor what works for your list and what doesn’t.
The good news is you have access to free software via Mailchimp which will help you find your email marketing feet at no expense. Once you feel ready, it is worth investing to get more functionality from your software such as setting up automated campaigns or pre and post departure emails (watch out for more on this another day!). We can help set you up with a system to do this.
And yes, you can easily integrate it with Latecards of course.
Today’s To Do
If you haven’t done so already sign up for your free Mailchimp account. Email email@example.com if you would like us to get in touch in the New Year to discuss our email marketing software and how it can help your business.
Day 20 -Why use professional software to create your holiday quotations?
Every time I visit a client and ask the staff about how they quote clients, all the staff recognise that sending an email with a tour operator quote attached does not do the best job at displaying how much work has gone into getting that quote.
Furthermore, for clients coming into the agency for a quick quote - be it a short break or just a flight, while the writing of the price on a comp slip might give the client the information they need, it does not do a great deal to ensure that you can follow up in the first instance that enquiry, but also ensure that the customer has been added to your database to market to in the future.
Changing the Sales Patter
When travel agents were the gatekeepers in travel, all customers had to come into your agency to make a booking. You did not have to ‘sell’ anything but advise on choices and book the right trip.
Now that the world has changed, every interaction with a potential client requires the ability to sell your service just as much as finding the answer to their enquiry. It’s not always easy to do this but many businesses have already changed. If any of you have been into an estate agency recently you’ll know that you can’t get any information without giving them all your details including your email address so they can send you information that is relevant to your search. If you are not doing this, then you are missing an opportunity.
Sending quotes - Why use professional software?
Today's To Do
We have solved this problem! Click here to find out how simple our Tripquote software is and the benefits for your business.
Day 21 - Why implement Pre and Post Departure Email automation?
At the heart of a travel agent business is personal service. Most often clients may visit you in your agencies and certainly phone you throughout the booking process, This is vital communication that you all know leads to happy clients and repeat business.
But how many of you manage to effectively always have the opportunity to upsell car parking and pre departure hotels or insurance in a soft sell way if the client has booked their holiday months in advance? How easy is it to contact the client at the right moment to ensure that they have the opportunity to book these extras through you and you in turn, earn some commission from the upsell?
On returning from their holiday how many tour operators send your clients a review form? In my experience, almost 100%. If you are not sending one and starting that conversation for their next holiday then you are creating an opportunity for those companies that do communicate with your clients to get the next sale. Furthermore, collecting reviews to showcase online and on your website is probably one of the most important tasks that you should implement in 2017 if you have not done so already.
Sending a sequence of 3 automated emails once your client has booked, thanking them for booking, upselling extras a few weeks before they leave and sending a request for a holiday review on their return, will solidify your relationship with them, and ensure that you are maximising potential future business with them, whilst also building your online reputation that we know new customers use before they start out on any purchase.
Today's To Do
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask us to contact you in the New Year with regard to Pre and Post departure emails.
From 2017, for clients using TripQuote and any clients on our Pro package, we are offering free Pre and Post Departure emails + Review Collection
Day 22 - Give Blogging a Chance!
If the bots discover your blog pages are infrequent and dull it stands to reason that this is going to negatively impact your SEO. This is such a shame because one of the best things about a well maintained blog is how it positions you as a leader in your space. Also in your favour is that travel is one of the sexiest industries to have to blog about - there are educationals for starters providing your unique take on an experience (spare a thought for the guys selling sheet metal!).
One of the most common problems is writer’s block. If you feel this simply write about the problems facing your target customers and provide insight into subjects they care about. An example might be sharing your expert thoughts on travelling to difficult areas like Egypt or Tunisia and suggesting alternatives if necessary.
You also need to be patient. A company blog can take a significant time to take off (and that’s for those who have fully committed to blogging as an important driver of new customers).
A good tip is to produce in-depth posts you can’t find anywhere else. For example, writing a generic piece on Paris isn’t adding much value to the masses of Paris content already out there but if you can share some secrets about a hidden Paris generally not discovered by tourists you will attract more attention.
And don’t forget you can always curate content from other travel bloggers that you think is of value to share with your audience. You could use the blogs from Tour Operators as a start point.
Today’s To Do
Do some research on blogging to see how a successful one is done and commit to a regular meaningful blog post at least once a month in 2017. Click here for a useful start point
Day 23 - Tempus Fugit, Carpe Diem, Time waits for no man
Whilst it is a truth universally acknowledged that life isn’t fair, the one thing that is totally fair is that each and everyone of us has 24 hours a day to use as we see fit. No more. No less. Yes, we sometimes have to do things we don’t want to do out of necessity or duty but in the main we choose how to spend our time.
In business, allocating your time to maximise efficiency and profits is the age old conundrum and the answer I frequently hear to the question ‘What is your biggest marketing problem?’ is ‘I don’t have enough time!’
The secret here is to remember that if you truly believe something is important you can always find the time. This does mean in today’s busy lives that you are probably going to have to not do something else instead but this is what prioritising is all about. You have to make sure that time is well spent i.e. it produces the biggest benefit to your business. With marketing efforts it can be harder to identify the immediate benefits as they often don’t manifest themselves until later down the line but can also then have a snowball effect. Patience is key. We also have to work out which marketing efforts we should choose to concentrate on as undoubtedly there isn’t time in a specialist business to do it all at the same time. So don’t overwhelm yourself with a huge list - choose one or two things to do and stick to those (I would suggest email marketing and blogging as the top choices but play to your own strengths. There are some good offline strategies you can also employ e.g. the Christmas drinks idea). You can then review progress in 6-12 months and evaluate how the strategy is going, how it could be improved or try something new.
Today’s To Do
Take a good look at how you typically spend your time each month and identify things/events you could cut back on, delgate or stop doing to free up time for your new 2017 marketing strategy.
Day 17 - Keep Trendy
It’s the weekend before Christmas so a busy time but I just wanted to take a few seconds to draw your attention to Skift.
In their own words:
Today’s To Do
Check it out to keep a finger on the travel industry pulse and give them a follow on Twitter @skift