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Social networks are excellent sources for finding group travel leads because they’re replete with meeting and event professionals. Meeting planners, Conventions and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs), destination management companies (DMCs), and tourist agencies use social media to network and grow their businesses. Operators who engage these professionals will develop digital relationships which can lead to tangible business opportunities and produce real revenue.
Bill Faeth, president of Inbound Marketing Agents, wrote on his blog that “one of the greatest business benefits of participating in social media is the ability to increase the lifetime value of your brand outside of the normal research and purchase process.” Industry executives who have succeeded with their social media strategies share the following advice.
Bill Faeth, president of Inbound Marketing Agents, says companies build authority by sharing content.
Social media is not a traditional form of marketing, and it’s not about ‘Hey, look at me,’ says Nicole French, vice president of sales & marketing for Minneapolis, Minn.-based Premier Transportation. It’s about ‘Hey, I care about what you do, let’s connect.’
With that in mind, French says event planners want to align themselves with companies that not only have great service but also support and are knowledgeable about things that matter to them. “You can [use] social media to position your company as an expert in the meeting and event segment of transportation,” she says. “Show that you’re not just a company that does Hummer limos for prom, but that you can handle 70 arrivals and departures.”
Faeth told LCT, “You have to engage with your [digital] community or it will shut you off. You have to create a relationship and build authority; promoting ourselves 10 times a day doesn’t create authority. Creating and sharing content builds authority.”
Operators should start with one or two social media platforms before “getting into the deep end with too many to properly manage,” says Crispin Bottomley, office manager and community liaison at Niagara Classic Transport.
Creating and Curating Content
The best way to create content is through a company blog. These can be integrated into the company website or published on free platforms such as Tumblr or Wordpress. A March 2012 study from marketing software company HubSpot, titled, State of Inbound Marketing, found that 66% of businesses that blogged weekly acquired a new customer through their blog.
Nicole French uses Twitter to interact with meeting professionals from MPI, ISES & other event planning groups.
A business blog is not the same as a personal blog. The content should be geared toward the mutual interests of your target audience and your company’s services. In order to court the meeting and events industry, your blogs should include items that meetings planners will find helpful and informative. If an operator has an expertise in meetings and events, then he or she can share thoughts and experiences in that industry. If they don’t have an expertise and are not confident in creating valuable content, then they can take the path of curation.
Curating content basically means finding content about a subject that already exists and repackaging for your audience. It’s important not to plagiarize and pass off another’s work as your own, so make sure to cite all sources for data, photographs and quotations. Also give credit to the original source of your blog ideas.