How Social Do You Really Want To Be?

Everyone knows Social is the life of the party.

Everyone knows Social is the life of the party.

Twitter. Facebook. Flickr. TripAdvisor. YouTube. FriendFeed.  Exactly how social do you or, more accurately your organization, want to be?

Unfortunately, it is an all to common misconception among marketing peers and advertising agencies that one can simply start or create a Twitter page / account, post a couple of updates and watch the campaign ‘go viral.’

Not so fast my friend.

As we saw in Mo’s post last week, Travel Trends: Even More Predictions & Trends for 2009, David Armano & Pete Blackshaw highlighted this point perfectly:

Brands will learn not to “launch and walk away” from from projects; it takes a dedicated and passionate group of group of people to make social media both successful, viable and sustainable.  Just look at Zappos, Dell & Comcast. If you’re only interested in launching a Facebook page, a Twitter account and letting RSS feeds do the work, don’t bother starting!

Recently, while speaking with a local CVB, which will remain nameless, they mentioned a lack of success with their Twitter page and campaign.  ‘We have been disappointed with the results‘ was the comment I recall.  Curious, I decided to have a quick look at their profile.  My initial concern was a lack of ‘friending’ between our two agencies…not that everyone has to friend or follow Arizona Tourism…but I found it odd that the CVB in question had not reached out to regional partners who were also on Twitter.

Upon inspection of the Twitter profile, the reason for the lackluster performance of the campaign became quite apparent.  The CVB had tweeted infrequently with all of the messages carrying a heavy marketing tone, followed very few friends, had an incomplete profile and was not responding to direct questions or ‘@’ replies.  Twitter specific issues, sure, but ones that parallel with other social sites.

Which highlights the second point of this post and in our case, the most important point.

Social sites such as Twitter are simply tools in your overall marketing strategy.

To aid us in the point, we refer to a recent post from our colleague Jason Baer:

…but second and more importantly, is that if you get too caught up in the tools themselves instead of why the tools work in abstract, you’re going to be crying into your keyboard when the tools change. And they will.

Do you really think that Twitter would survive a Google acquisition intact? Could Facebook remain vibrant under the umbrella of Microsoft or Yahoo!? If you are nodding your head, you might want to think about Excite (once a leading search engine, then killed by a new corporate parent), or eGroups and Geocities (formerly huge and then drained of life after being bought by Yahoo!).

Your job should be to learn what people want from tools, not what tools do for people…

Okay, let’s look at that line again:

Social sites such as Twitter are simply tools in your overall marketing strategy.

Tools and sites will change over time, but your core strategy will remain much more consistent.

Think about it from this perspective, ‘My core strategy, goal, mission is to provide travelers with information about my destination to encourage visitation.’  You print a brochure, maintain a physical visitor’s center, staff a call center, develop a website, etc, etc.  All to communicate with the traveling public.

So why would your social media marketing strategy be any different?

In the case of the CVB above, why would you choose not to communicate with the traveling public on Twitter?  Especially with such a communication focused medium, why would you create a one-way conversation?  Lack of understanding?  Limited staff?  Nervous about negative comments?

It simply does not follow the overall strategy.

While there is something to be said for simply trying out these new social media marketing tools, you should consider a few questions prior to creating your shiny new profile:

  • Does our organization want to communicate with the traveling public?
  • Does our organization have the staff and resources to provide information, updates and communication?
  • Do we have a communication strategy for our campaign?

We could go on, but the questions above provide a good sample.  So, you have answered ‘Yes’ to those same questions when you decided to print a visitor’s guide, why would the answers be any different for your social media marketing strategy?  Don’t let the medium or tool distract you from the core strategy, of course you need to understand how Twitter works, but if the medium answers the question ‘why,’ then why would you use / view it differently from an overall marketing strategy / messaging perspective?

Your organization is putting forth the effort to print materials, run a call center, etc, etc, it should also be putting forth the same effort (and communication!) in your social media marketing campaign.

Or you can expect poor results…regardless of how ‘viral’ your message may seem.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.