Trick or Tweet?

If you’re still holding out against using social media to promote your business you could be in for a nasty shock. Remember when we used to gather round the water cooler, settle down on the sofa with the phone,  mail the odd postcard or invite people to our homes to view that holiday album? Well look around you. Most of those conversations and interactions are now carried out online, far more publicly, with much greater immediacy, and reaching many more people, on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Vine, Google +, Instagram, Pinterest and Netmums or user review sites such as Tripadvisor.

But a word of caution. These tools are primarily a means of social communication, not an effective vehicle for advertising your business in the traditional sense. So resist agency claims promising significant ‘customer engagement’ or the like. Conversion rates for brands are minimal. Just like you wouldn’t expect a salesman to join in your private conversation by the water cooler, you don’t want businesses interrupting your social life. Just check out the top hundred or so names by number of followers on Facebook and Twitter – they’re individuals not brands.

face-like-buttonOver 50% of the UK population now use Facebook and over 10million    have Twitter accounts, double those in 2012. Skewed toward a younger demographic, users are also slightly more likely to be women, representing many of the key decision makers for holidays and days out. In short, these are sites you can’t afford to ignore, particularly as much of your competition will increasingly be active on them. Even searches on Google are slowing down in face of theses social media sites, meaning many more decisions on travel and leisure are being driven by recommendations made on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and others. A word of warning though. Research amongst US teenagers in 2016 has identified a decline in in Facebook usage and credibility. So prepare to be flexible when allocating your time and resources to what is a fast changing and fashion-sensitive social media landscape.

Know Your ‘Netiquette’

OK. So once we’ve accepted this is media where we need to be promoting our attractions, venues and destinations how do we go about it? And how do we know if it’s working? Unless you’re a complete technophobe you’ll have noticed that the internet is not short of advice on how to develop a social media plan. In essence, setting up sites is easy and free; but you need to understand the audience and etiquette for each and offer great content in an informal, engaging style appropriate to that site and to your own business or ethos. Just as you wouldn’t bombard your friends and family with in-your-face advertising don’t overdo the self-promotion. You need to adopt a friendly non-intrusive style.

The kind of collateral that comes in handy includes great images, short video clips, links to competitions, special offers, games, user reviews, ratings and vouchers. Imagine lots of different groups of people having conversations and you’re ready and able to take part and when you do everyone stops and listens because what you have to say is relevant and interesting. You get more followers, fans, likes, web site traffic, recommendations and, ultimately, more visitors.

Track the Effectiveness of Your Social Media Efforts

The amount of time you spend on social media and the effort you put in should be planned as rigorously as any other part of your sales and marketing plan. Measuring the return on investment for any part of your marketing is critical and tracking your social media effectiveness is a great deal easier than assessing the value of say your PR activity. Instead of trying to come up with a ‘rate card equivalent’ value for a news article you’re able to use specific metrics for social media sites. Be warned, however, the commercial return from social media campaigns is often exaggerated by agencies selling these digital platforms. Take care when you’re quoted high numbers of ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ – many may be the result of robots used to inflate response rates. As ever, it’s sales that can be linked to a particular activity that is important, not simply the alleged amount of customer engagement.

Facebook ‘Insights’ tracks how many users you attract and how they react to your posts. For Twitter, retweets and re-use of your hash-tags indicate success. Sites like offers users tools to analyse the overall effectiveness of your social media activity. Just as you would when rating media mentions, you’ll need to assess the quality and level of influence represented by users and posts as a positive retweet by a big name celebrity with a massive following is the social media equivalent of a plug in a national newspaper.

Trick or tweet?  I think you know what to do. Just make sure you’re enabling customers to talk positively about your brand not invading their privacy and shouting at them. And don’t dress up in a clown’s costume!