Whether you’re in charge of marketing an event, handling social media for your association or monitoring brand awareness, here are some essential best practices you need to understand if you want to engage your audience and turn them into evangelists for your event, company or association. Thank you @GammetGuy, @TheTimHayden, @PaulaBerg, @Banff_Squirrel, @JohnGroh, @BVMatson, @RobertPatterson, @RodneyP and @SheilaS, who gave me the nucleus for these great ideas at the Social Media Tourism Symposium in Tunica, Miss., Nov. 9-11.
- Know your community, what their passions are, how they behave and who influences them. The key to expanding your audience is engaging those key influencers, feeding their passions and being relevant, timely and behaving like them. In other words, create content they can relate to. Think, talk and create content like them. You don’t have to be sophisticated. Don’t tax their (valuable) time. Make everything fun and easy to share.
- Be flexible. Resist the urge to create a social media strategy communally or try to dictate what is and isn’t allowed.
- Throw out what you know about traditional marketing. You’ll never be able to gain respect for social media if you talk in blah blah blah buzz words and shovel out a bunch of unfiltered data. You may not agree with the decision makers on what success is, but you have to involve them in developing a system of measurement so you’re speaking the same language. Then use those benchmarks to convey every little (and occasional big) success you have. Restrain yourself from selling every second. It’s not about that anymore. It’s about offering value, building trust and forming relationships.
- Don’t try to be all things to all people. Narrow your focus and massage each niche audience in unique and creative ways. Authenticity is key here. Offer your friends/followers things they’ll value — things they can’t buy. Eventually the converts and evangelists will start spreading the word and raising awareness for you.
- Listen. Not only to the conversations about your event/destination/brand in social forums, but also to what’s going on in the news. Are people asking questions that you could be answering on Twitter? Are they posting complaints to Facebook? Is there a trending topic tangentially related to what you’re promoting? Spend some time every day searching keywords relevant to your event, destination or brand. If you don’t know what you’re doing, lurk and engage people who do until you figure out what your audience wants and what they engage with.
- Add to the conversation. Just because something has gone viral doesn’t mean your copycat campaign will. Instead of trying to co-opt something that’s popular, add to the conversation in a relevant, timely and fun way. Then figure out a way to amplify or morph the story into one that complements what you’re doing.
- It’s not about you. It’s about what you bring to the table. Don’t always be shilling. People are very talented at ignoring sales pitches. Talk about what interests you, what interests them and your shared passions. And don’t try to own all the content. It’s OK to share stuff your competitors might have created if it’s really awesome. Think of that as investing in social media karma.
- Consider the limits of mobile devices. Increasingly, people are living vicariously and virtually through souped-up phones. If your website isn’t easy for them to view from their mobile device, they’ll bounce. People need to click and get instant gratification. The easiest way to tell your story to these media snackers is to focus on providing them with visual content and short (30 second or less) videos. When you have text, divide your content up into short, subhead-divided blurbs, so they can easily identify what interests them.
There were other speakers and session that I couldn’t attend, but thanks to @JessicaLevin and @GreenA_V, I’ve got the collective notes in Google Docs. If you’d like links to them, tweet me @PYMLive or send me an e-mail. If you’re interested in knowing more about the conference, follow the Social Media Tourism Symposium on Facebook or @SoMeTourism on Twitter.
I’ll be writing more about #SoMeT from an event design and meeting technology standpoint, so keep an eye out on the Planner’s Corner and Advice sections of this site for cool ideas and other innovative tips in the weeks to come.