We all know (or at least we keep being told, numerous times a day from all sorts of channels), that we need our businesses to be visible (everywhere) and active (constantly) on social media in order to be a success today. This message is especially prominent in the travel and tourism industry in general.

This message of being active and engaged, or, ‘be there or be square’, is shouted loud and clear.  We are told to “Grow your reach, engage with your community, identify your influencers, join the conversation…….” and other such helpful admonitions.

Despite this noise and enthusiasm, it is not always easy to really understand why social media is so very important (especially if you are a B2B), or how best to make social media work effectively for your own business goals and contribute to your bottom line. Let’s face it; it can be a bit of a minefield out there, and social media can be very, very confusing.

I shall give you an example from someone well away from the vacation rental industry.

Recently I was on a club bike ride and as I peddled along I struck up a conversation with the owner of a large local dental practice. As often happens, he asked me what I did for a living and so I told him (in a nutshell) that I help vacation rental businesses communicate how and why they fulfil the needs of their customers through PR, social and content.

My new friend was intrigued but quickly stated that social media might be relevant for travel and tourism, but wasn’t important to his business. However, he asked me to enlighten him a little bit. I explained that one of the reasons that social media needs to be a key element of any marketing and communications strategy (no matter if you sell dentures, microchips or dream holidays), is that increasingly the first place – and sometimes the only place –  that a potential customer, or guest,  will get information about a company and its services is through social media.

Maybe it will be through a Facebook comment, maybe a Twitter chat or maybe a LinkedIn share…. or all three. Social media will have played a significant role in the journey from a customer identifying that they have a need, to them finding out that your business can fulfil that need. Maybe this information won’t have come directly from your own social media channels, perhaps it will have been bounced around a few times. They may have found you through a Facebook review from another customer, or maybe a retweet from a partner of yours that they are following. Perhaps they came across your product on the blog of one of the elusive ‘influencers’… The point is, in today’s digital age, (mostly) all information is disseminated with the help of social media.

I then went on to explain to my new dentist friend that social media is increasingly becoming the location that potential customers, media, partners, suppliers and competitors will go to find information about you and your business. Profiles have become microsites in their own right and receptacles of the real time information of your business. Quite frankly, if you don’t tweet, post and share – you don’t exist.

Once you are convinced – I am pretty sure I convinced the dentist –  that social media needs to be an integral part of a marketing communication strategy – what next?

Asking searching questions can help you develop a simple but effective social media strategy. How does social align with your bigger picture goals? Where does PR fit in? How about audiences? What do you need social to achieve to be a success? How will you measure success? What are your underlying messages and where does content fit in?

Get a little old fashioned and grab a pen and paper and brainstorm. It is far more efficient and effective to have an idea of where you want to be and how you can get there, rather than just tweeting ‘blind’. Having a plan for social media, even just a loose one, is vital and can save a lot of wasted effort.  It will ensure that you are using your time and resources wisely – always essential for any marketing effort.

If you need help with your social media strategy, then do get in touch with the team at Abode PR. We’d love to help.

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