Measuring Social Media Results Beyond Engagement

August 25, 2011 by  
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Social Media Results

 

I have read one too many articles lately that claim you just cannot measure success on social media, at least not yet, but rather it’s more about awareness, engaging loyal fans and customers, creating goodwill, etc.

While, yes, social media is about that, it’s also about RESULTS and yes you can measure that. I’ll tell you how in my weekly SocialMoms.com post. Read on!

Social Media for Hotels: Reaching More Customers With Twitter

August 24, 2011 by  
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Think back a decade ago, how did you find the right hotel for your vacation? Probably either using a travel agent, seeing an advertisement in a magazine or word of mouth. Well, flash forward to 2011 and that’s all been turned on its head.

Yes, those previous forms of communication still affect the hotel/resort industry, but word of mouth no longer means the same thing as it did 10 years ago. Now, people talk about the resorts they enjoy using social media, making word of mouth so much more powerful and effective, and one of the most powerful ways for guests to get their messages out is with Twitter.

Twitter lets users reach a very large audience very quickly! Not only can users reach their followers, but each tweet is searchable on search.twitter.com, indexed by Google (so anyone can come across it even if they are not on Twitter) and has the potential to be “retweeted” (shared with another Twitter user’s followers), which is how a single tweet can reach thousands of eyeballs in a flash.

So if you haven’t checked out what folks are saying about your hotel or resort on Twitter, make that a top priority TODAY and consider how you can  use that tool to capture new guests, solve customer service issues and influence what people think about your property.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Follow Your Competitors:

In any sound marketing strategy, you always look to see what the competition is doing. Follow your main competitors on Twitter and monitor search terms for them as well. We find using a program like Tweetdeck makes monitoring accounts and search terms in real time much more efficient. Monitoring your competitors will allow you to see what they are doing on Twitter and let you tweak your social media strategy accordingly. By monitoring your competitors, you’ll also be able to find users who are unhappy with your competitors, and then you can reach out to those users with open arms!

Keywords are Key:

To get the maximum benefit from Twitter, set up keyword searches. These searches will allow you to monitor all that is said about a certain topic or phrase. One or your keywords should be the name of your property, as well as phrases that indicate a user may be interested in your service. Try terms that include the name of your area or city and then the phrase “stay,” “visit” and “hotel”.

Using these searches will allow you to reach out to users currently staying at your property, those who are reviewing your property and potential customers who are planning to come to your area. This one-on-one interaction can help sway a potential customer. Just make sure you’re timely in your response, as many on Twitter expect responses, especially to customer service issues, within six hours or less. That means you need to be on Twitter not just Mon-Fri 9-5 but nights, weekends and holidays, too. After all, those are the times when most people are planning their vacations.

Interact and Offer Strategic Content:

Another key component for running a successful Twitter account is what you tweet out into the world. You want to make your account the go-to account for whatever geographic area you’re servicing. Research local events, post photos, inform users about the weather and just be an overall fountain of information for your city and property.

Now you can’t just tweet out content and not interact, that will make your account look too “salesy” and one-sided. It demonstrates that you don’t care about your followers. Ideally, you should be sending out three to four “planned” tweets a day in addition to interacting many times a day with your followers and potential followers. This mix of tweets will make your account look more personal and allow the account to take on its own personality.

Another mistake we see often among hotels is setting up Twitter and not following anyone. We’ll see accounts with a thousand followers who are following 26 people. Again, this demonstrates you’re not interested in what your followers have to say and that’s not appreciated in the world of Twitter.

Don’t Forget to Link:

Another common mistake is pumping out a lot of content without ever linking back to your website. Give your followers the chance to go to your site for more information – and to book a room! They can’t do it if you don’t provide them with a way to do so.

Now, set up your Twitter account, follow us :) and keep us updated on how you’re filling your rooms on Twitter.

 

Social Media for Hotels: Filling Rooms with Facebook

July 25, 2011 by  
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The hotel industry has changed dramatically over the past decade, first with the introduction of online booking sites such as Expedia.com, then with the increased popularity of review sites such as TripAdvisor.com and now with social media.

Step Ahead Inc. demonstrated the power of social media for hotels with a group of Myrtle Beach area hotels, for whom we managed all Facebook pages and a single Twitter account for the group. The results we saw over time were astounding including dramatically increased web traffic, revenue in excess of $14K per month directly trackable to social media and an ability to handle some 15-20 major customer service issues per month.

We were able to increase Facebook friends from just a few hundred in 2009 to over 47,000 for all pages together by early 2011. We turned their pages into a source of helpful information about theMyrtle Beacharea, literally turning each Facebook page into a virtual “front desk” for the hotels. People loved it.

The Power of a Review

Facebook, it turns out, is a place where people feel very comfortable sharing positive and negative reviews. We saw lots of positive reviews on theMyrtle Beachpages and the occasional negative review, as well.

Some argue they don’t want a Facebook page, so as to avoid negative reviews, but people will share them whether you want them to or not. If they’re on your own page, at least you can monitor and respond to them. If they get posted somewhere else in Cyberspace, if you don’t have an active online monitoring service in place, you’re likely to miss it and it could easily spiral out of control.

Positive reviews, on the other hand, are a great selling point for your hotel, and can help sway potential customers. We found that often when someone said something negative about the hotel, other people would come to the defense without us even asking. What a powerful testimonial!

Beyond 9-5

A big key to successfully managing social media for hotels is being present outside of office hours and that means more than scheduling posts outside those hours. You have to be on and engaging.

If someone posts a complaint or negative review, you need to respond within a couple of hours max. Twenty-four hours is a lifetime in the world that is social media.

Also, don’t forget that people are very active on Facebook over weekends and holidays, often more so than during the week. That’s the time when they tend to be planning trips, doing research and booking hotel rooms. If you’re not on, you’re missing a key chance to engage your prospects.

This constant monitoring may seem tedious, but when you make your Facebook friends feel special and important they become even more loyal brand ambassadors and return visitors.

Social Media as a Money Maker

Who says you can’t make money on social media? Hotels who offer online booking certainly can and we proved it!

In early 2011, Facebook was averaging $14,000 per month of bookings for this hotel group directly trackable to Facebook and Twitter. This more than covered their social media fees, making social media a very profitable endeavor for them indeed.

Keep in mind, this number only includes direct traffic to their website, not phone calls from Facebook or Twitter friends. They did not have a tracking system in place to track phone calls that may have been generated from a visit to their page and we can only imagine how many of those originated on Facebook.

Traffic, Traffic and More Traffic

On a monthly basis, the Myrtle Beach Facebook pages were sending more than 5,000 visits to the websites, making Facebook one of their top referring sites.

We also noticed that the quality of traffic sent to the sites was very high, with a lower than average bounce rate and people stayed on the sites longer than average.

An important thing to note here is that in order to get the traffic and get the booking, your Facebook page should be made up of friends who are the right target, not just anyone you can get to click “like”. We take a very targeted approach to building a friend base and we believe that’s critical to generating these dramatic, measurable results for our hotel clients.

Social media has become a must-do marketing strategy for hotels, enabling them to be more effective at customer service, generate more revenue by providing followers with information for booking online and a way to get more eyes on your hotels as people research where they want to stay. Take a dedicated, consistent, targeted approach to social media and see if you don’t see your results from social media take a sharp turn upward.

 

Social Media Day: Round Two

July 1, 2011 by  
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Yesterday was the 2nd annual Social Media Day, and for all of us in the social media marketing field it’s nice to have that recognition. I (personally) spend the majority of my life in Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and writing blogs so it was nice to actually get out from behind the computer and be social!

This year we held our get together at Uno Mas in Mount Pleasant, keeping to our Mexican food theme (last year was at Taco Boy)! We had a great turnout, great food and even better happyritas!

Thank you to all those who came and a big thanks to Dine with Sal and everyone at Uno Mas for hosting the party! Here at Step Ahead we’re already looking forward to next year.

*** For more pictures visit our Tumblr account!

Holy Twitter!

June 29, 2011 by  
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We all know that if you want to stay connected online with friends or colleagues, the place to do it is through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and other social media tools. But what about staying connected to your church? Or the Pope?

On March 14, the rumors were confirmed that a Facebook profile had been created in honor of the late Pope John Paul II. The Vatican launched JPII’s page as a part of their social media initiative to create an online presence for the Catholic Church. Now, another Pope has decided to create his own social media presence.

Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI made history by becoming the first Pope to utilize Twitter by sending a tweet with his iPad to promote the Vatican’s new website. The tweet said “Dear Friends, I just launched News.va. Praised by our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI”

Although Pope Benedict may be new to social media, the Catholic Church is not. With more than 40,000 followers and some 1,200 tweets, The Vatican’s Twitter account is thriving along with the launch of their new interactive website.

News.VA is a mothership of real-time information for the Catholic follower. It’s comprised of the latest news from The Vatican Radio (with plenty of social media sharing options for readers), a real-time Twitter feed, a Vatican Events page, a Facebook updates section and a YouTube video channel.

This past year, the Catholic Church has truly brought religion into the realm of social networking. With this “old school” institution embracing and understanding the importance of new media, it seems that online networking has no limits. If the Pope can tweet, well so can you! No more excuses…

The State of Indianapolis Social Media

May 27, 2011 by  
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Last fall, I returned to the city where I went to college and spent the young adult years of my life – Indianapolis. I’d spent the last 8 years starting a family in Charleston, S.C., but my husband and I ultimately we decided it was time to return to our roots and let our children grow up around family. We also missed the bigger city and all it has to offer in the way of entertainment and convenience. Colts anyone? Butler basketball? We were glad to be back :).

From a business perspective, I would be opening a branch of my company, Step Ahead, which manages social media for businesses, in the midwest. Before I left Indy for Charleston, social media didn’t exist. By the time I returned, Facebook was taking over the world :). So after watching the growth of social media and its use for business in the south, I wasn’t sure what I’d find in regards to openness of social media in the bigger city. I assumed it would be more accepted here and further ahead, but I was shocked to find it wasn’t.

Indy has a great social media community and a vibrant group of Twitterers, certainly larger than in Charleston, though the Twittering crowd there is definitely passionate, albeit smaller. There’s definitely some social media evangelists in Indianapolis furthering the cause! But when it comes to business use of social media, I dare say it’s further behind the south. I was flabbergasted! I thought the south was always last!

I think Indiana businesses have reached the point where they understand that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like are here to stay and they need to be doing something with these tools, but I’ve found a general resistance to looking for outside help and using qualified experts.

Businesses continue to pile it on the internal public relations or marketing person, who even if they love social media, are unlikely have the time to devote to making a social media plan for a business actually produce  measurable results. In the south, it seems more businesses (but far from all) realize that this is beyond their expertise. Let the accountants do the accounting. Let the lawyers handle the legal stuff. And let the social media experts handle social media. They’re ready to invest a little in social media and see what it gets them.

Indy, I’m surprised at you! I don’t want to discount the businesses here who are doing it right because there are some great examples – National Precast Concrete Association, Scotty’s Brewhouse, Delivra, Butler University — but you seem to be the exception, not the rule. Let those of us who believe in the power of social media and the marketing results it can generate – beyond just awareness to actual revenue – continue to spread the word and educate our business leaders.

Maybe we should all take a trip down to Charleston?? :) What do you think? Is Indy a leader in social media? Way behind? Right on par? Share your thoughts. Prove me wrong!

Social Media Synergy

March 30, 2011 by  
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The list of social media tools available to small businesses these days is overwhelming and growing everyday, but that’s not an excuse to ignore all the social media opportunities out there.

Many businesses are on Facebook now and may even be dabbling in Twitter, but if you’re not exploring all the different ways social media can build your business, then you’re just plain missing out. I recently met a small local business owner who was smiling ear to ear as he told me about the success he had with group buying sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial. After hearing about all his new customers, I asked how he intended to spend the rest of his budget. The answer shook me to my core. He said YellowPages! That was it!

Okay, so after regrouping and pulling my jaw up from the floor, I tried to explain that he should try to retain contact with the new customers he gained from group buying with social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, geo-location tools and blogs. He thought that since he had so much success with one tool, there was no point in pursuing others. What??

So why does it really matter if you use just one or several of these social media tools? Well, being on one is a great step for any small business, but as you continue to add different tools, your reach grows exponentially. You’re able to cross promote with different tools and reach more of your target market. Some folks out there will be active on Twitter, but not Facebook, and vice versa. Once you’re active on Twitter and Facebook, you can talk about the interesting posts on your blog, thus driving traffic to your blog and website. It’s a never ending circle of cross promoting and driving that always-important traffic.

That said, there will be certain social media tools that fit your business and others that don’t. Not sure what they are? Just ask us!

Social Media Week: The Kings of Social Media, Facebook & Twitter

February 9, 2011 by  
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Simon: “Yay Twitter, Nay Facebook”

Facebook

I went through a phase of loving Facebook, initially. Living in a different country (continent even!) from where I went to high school, I had lost contact with most of my friends from then, and Facebook was a great way to get back in touch. That’s also why I use it less frequently now, though. Kind of like a high school reunion, it’s nice to see old faces and learn what everyone has been doing since, but after that I don’t have much to say to most of them. In fact I think I have “friends” on there that I haven’t even contacted since they added me as a friend. And vice versa. It is good for sharing photos with family back home, and I have a lot of fun trash-talking about soccer, especially during the World Cup, but overall, my interest in Facebook has largely waned.

Twitter

Like everyone, I couldn’t see the point of Twitter – “who cares what you ate for breakfast?” being the clichéd put down – but once I began using it, I found that I love it. I have a great network of friends that share useful tips, make me laugh, recommend books or TV shows and generally make my days more interesting.

Twitter, unlike Facebook, has actually led me to be more social in the real world. I joined a Twitter Fantasy Football league, and that’s always a fun time when we meet up. I’ve found it great for impromptu lunches if I’m free and looking for company. I even introduced a couple to each other via Twitter, and they’re now getting married this year.

If Twitter went away tomorrow, well, I’d survive – but I’d really miss it.

Laura: “Staying in Touch & Help When You Need It”

For all you spring chickens in high school and college out there who think Facebook has always been around, it hasn’t. I actually made it through all four of my college years without Facebook! On the upside, there are no photos on Facebook of my 21st birthday. :)

I was introduced to Facebook by my baby sister, who was in college when it came out. I had to make the tough decision of abandoning Friendster and adopting Facebook. Good choice! My sister had friended some kids we knew when we lived in Seattle, Wash., over 15 years ago, and I knew from that moment this was going to be a very cool site. Since then, I’ve watched as my high school classmates slowly joined. First it was just 10 and now it’s over 300, which is almost our entire class.

Facebook and Twitter have actually changed my life! I am TERRIBLE at keeping in touch with old friends. I blame it on my army brat roots, but it may just be laziness, so Facebook has helped me keep those bonds strong with very little effort. I love Twitter for its real time search results. When I’m having trouble with Facebook, I just Twitter search “Facebook down” and see if anyone else is having trouble at that very moment. So helpful! To sum it all up, I love Facebook and Twitter!

Lyn: “My Darlings”

Oh, these are my darlings of social media. Every time I get in a conversation with someone new, my husband always jokes that somehow either Facebook or Twitter works its way into the conversation. I have no idea why :).

I got on Facebook after an employee at my PR firm shared with me her experience in college on Facebook. I even remember when Facebook opened up so you no longer had to have a college email address to participate. My first friend? A longtime friend from elementary and high school who now lives in London. I thought it was so cool to see all her pictures of London and vacationing in the South of France right in my own living room and reconnect with her so many years later. She even worked in PR for the BBC, so it was also a great professional connection.

Now, Twitter. I decided to learn Twitter after engaging a group of local bloggers on behalf of a client. They talked a lot about Twitter and how great it was. This was probably 2008. I’d talked about Twitter in social media presentations as an up-and-coming media tool but I always focused on how it was a minute by minute account of your day (which it was then). In fact, Disney was one of the first to use it as a marketing tool to have one of their characters from the show Greeks post his character’s daily activities.

It took me a while to get the hang of it and understand I didn’t have to go back and read everyone’s tweets that I’d missed while I was off! Now, I consider Twitter a critical marketing tool for business and an amazing way to learn information, interact with influencers and stay in front of lots of people.

Love you, Facebook and Twitter… :)

Melissa: “A Forum for Debate”

I have learned so much from the kings of social media, Facebook and Twitter. I love the fact that you can engage in a discussion or debate about something and get so many different views from people you’ve never met, but yet have a common bond.

I also find myself often becoming engaged in a topic that normally wouldn’t be of interest, but it will peak my interest just by following the discussion/post/comments.

Most Common Social Media Mistakes

January 20, 2011 by  
Filed under social media, TwitterMoms.com post

Everyone makes mistakes, but I’d prefer to learn from someone else’s whenever possible!

So I’ve compiled a list of the mistakes I’ve made and some of the most frequent mistakes that I see others make when it comes to social media.

So take a read to my latest SocialMoms.com post and see if you can’t avoid these yourself and please share other common mistakes you see people make!

My Top TwitterMom Posts for 2010

January 11, 2011 by  
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To start off the New Year on the newly renamed SocialMoms.com (formerly TwitterMoms.com) where I blog about social media and business, I thought I’d take a quick look back at 2010 and some of the most popular posts I wrote on the site last year.

You’ll find some about Facebook (of course), hashtags, Twitter parties and more. Read on!

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