How to Redesign Your Site with Social in Mind (Part 2)

Last week, we started a two-part guest post from Juliette Reynolds. Today, the conclusion of that post with more actionable recommendations on local knowledge, ‘now’ media and simplicity. Part 1 is available here: Guest Post: How to Redesign Your Site with Social in Mind

Local knowledge
If you can afford the investment that subject-matter expert bloggers bring to your site, I highly recommend it. One of the most popular features I’ve found in my experience and research is the ability to ask questions of the locals, especially for those traveling long distances, or with kids of differing ages, or in multi-generational groups, or with niche interests. The list goes on.

Having a questions section with the relevant answers is another form of valuable content that visitors to your site can peruse. I’ve even recommended having bilingual writers where visitation numbers warrant this additional investment.

VisitFlorida is a great example of a site that has subject-matter experts who create content and foster communities around interests.

You already know what your visitors are interested in from the analytics for the most requested content on your site. And you know what your destination’s drivers are and any new initiatives you want to promote. Synthesize these and create subject areas that allow for deep, rich, but short content blocks, either text or video, or answers to users’ questions, and you’ll become the trusted source for information about your destination above all others.

The new media is the now media
For those of you who use Facebook or Twitter – or both – for business or pleasure, you’ll know that archive information on both sites is not as valuable to most users as what is happening right now. It even says so, right there on the sites. Twitter’s “What’s happening?” and Facebook’s “What’s on your mind?” queries are telling. These platforms, like those surrounding the news business, exist to broadcast the moment.

The now media is uniquely poised to deliver a destination’s status. A lot of you are already promoting upcoming events, contests and finding unique selling points to distribute through these social channels, and Facebook and Twitter facilitate communication directly with travelers. Providing answers to specific questions is valued by the individuals who asked – and the community of followers – alike.

Pulling through this timely information to appropriate pages on your site in the form of feeds provides an up-to-the-minute, finger-on-the-pulse liveliness and increases the likelihood of lateral movement, spontaneous trips around event promotion and moments of serendipitous discovery – now isn’t that lovely?

Build it for complexity and simplicity
Sometimes in building a new site, we forget, amongst the multitude of strategies and tactics, to acknowledge that the building of the site itself is just the means to an end. We try to think of and catalogue everything, but we also need to think about how the site can advance the users’ goals and the destination’s marketing plan.

Since your new site has so many jobs to do, it is by nature complex. But it also needs to be simple to use and flexible (easier said than done, as I’m sure you’re aware, but entirely possible). What I mean by flexible is, once live, the site will be accessed from multiple sources, and some of those will be campaign specific.

Some questions to ask yourself: Do we need custom search engine marketing landing pages? Pages with specific calls to action? A site with flexible taxonomy (tag-based, for example, where topics can be added over time and all content linked to from that page)? The answers will vary, but they will affect your plan for the page templates before one line of code is written – enormously more efficient than if you hadn’t considered the marketing plan as a whole.

Build the site with templates that can respond to the marketing efforts you are building around it, including those initiatives on social media platforms. These marketing-specific pages will likely look more like the campaign “brand” and less like your site because that’s what makes sense for the success of the campaign and for the comfort level of the user. Nothing will increase your bounce rate and decrease engagement more than a poorly executed answer to a specific call to action or a visual schism between the call to action and the linked page.

Try to think of everything to make sure you are including page types that will be, by their very nature, different from the norm. You, and your budget, will be glad you did.

Publish or perish
The old axiom from academia still holds true in travel marketing. As I mention above, there’s no point to fully integrating content generated by others if you are not committed to creating content yourself that’s valuable to your audience, and today, that also includes the content you post on social networks.

Learn how to use the channels – the ecosystem around your site – to guide users to what you already know: the big picture and the tiniest of details about your destination, and they will become evangelists, chattering and linking away in that most valuable of marketing channels, word of mouth.

Juliette Reynolds is an award-winning digital strategist specializing in user experience design and content marketing. During the past eight years, she has designed programs for some of the United States’ largest city and state DMOs.

Have a question or digital conundrum? Drop her a line and pick her brain.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.