Taking a Social Snapshot

The holiday season is here, and along with it, holiday travel. This year, your success depends not only on having your physical location ready to greet customers, but on your online presence, as well. Social media will play a significant role in the holiday travel season with more than 65 percent of travelers expected to research online to make decisions on how and where to travel.

Review sites like Yelp, Google+ and TripAdvisor, along with social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, will likely dictate many travelers’ choices as they plan their winter trips. It’s imperative that your business stands out online to guide potential guests toward choosing you. 

Assess social media presence

People make snap decisions on which business to spend their money with when looking at social media pages so you need to grab their attention quickly. Take a look at your review sites and your Foursquare page, which all should be claimed and managed. You should be taking full advantage of the “about the business” sections of these pages to show potential customers what makes you great, and why they should choose you instead of your competition. It’s also important to make sure all of this information stays up to date and accurate. Featuring out-of-date hours, products or information could lead to a poor customer experience right from the onset. 

An increasingly important aspect to consider is if your website is mobile-friendly. According to HeBS Digital, more than 40 percent of this year’s online travel queries come from mobile searches. Don’t lose those customers because your website doesn’t play well with their mobile device. 

Have you uploaded visually interesting photos that make your prospective guests want to visit you? Web users are often visually engaged so you want to provide them with high-quality photos highlighting features that make your business stand out from the competition. 

A restaurant should have photos of top dishes and hotels should have photos of rooms and atmospheres that accurately reflect the accommodations. Google has made quality photos a necessity with the introduction of the Google+ Carousel photo feature. This will pit your photos against competitors in a side-by-side fashion, making it even more important that you outshine them. The review sites in particular offer plenty of opportunity to show off what makes you the best choice, and almost 70 percent of people use these sites as the first stop in their research. 

If you plan to woo potential travelers with deals and specials, your staff should be properly trained and informed of what you’re offering. A situation can quickly turn from positive to negative by not allowing a customer the ability to easily redeem an offer that encouraged them to choose your business. This could even result in an online complaint or poor review, which leaves you having to deal with damage control. 

Excite your current fan base

Now is the moment to share photos on Facebook and Twitter, reminding people why they should visit your establishment. Not only can this create excitement among your fans, it shows new visitors to your pages just how excited people get about what you offer. 

Since we’re thinking about holiday travel season, try to post any photos you have from previous holiday seasons. Get potential customers enthused about the atmosphere you have during this delightful time of year. On that note, if you have something special planned, use social media to reward your fans with insider information or sneak peeks. Everyone loves a behind-the-scenes look. This also gives them incentive to share your page or your updates in order to get their friends “in the know.” 

Generating positive word-of-mouth is a goal for every business. One great way to quickly spread word-of-mouth on social media is to pose questions to your fans and followers. People love to discuss and share their personal experiences – all you have to do is ask them.

Pegasus International Hotel in Key West, Fla., posed this question to its Facebook followers: “Time for a challenge! If you had to describe your stay with us in three words or less, what would you say? Go!” Responses came back saying “So much fun!,” “Comfort and convenient!” and “Stress-free relaxation.”

Want to simultaneously drive more traffic to your review page while showing off the great things people say about you? Share a positive review on your social media pages. This provides you with an opportunity to thank the reviewer publicly, link to your review page and encourages others to stop by themselves. A word to the wise: When considering tactics to encourage customers to leave reviews, follow each review site’s terms of service. Violating these terms could cause you unnecessary grief. Simply directing people to your page can pick up a few more rave reviews. 

Start Conversations

People love to talk about the plans they’re making. Just make sure you’re starting conversations, not sales pitches. The last thing you want is to be marked as spam so you need to approach each situation as you would if you were speaking with someone in person. Ask questions and be genuinely interested in their input. Then, if and when it feels appropriate, you can offer your product or service.

Use of a local hashtag can make you look locally savvy, as well as social media savvy. Though, it’s important to do your research. In bigger cities, many neighborhoods have their own hashtags, which can help people better know where to find you. 

For example, if you’re in San Francisco, #SF is preferable to #SanFran or #SanFrancisco. To localize it, you can use hashtags like #MissionSF, not simply #Mission, which isn’t local. In New York City, #NYC is acceptable, but you can really narrow it down with #WestVillage.

Maintaining an effective social media presence and starting friendly conversations online can be a bit overwhelming to manage, but the comprehensive strategy will really pay off when done right. 

Rob Zaleski  is a content marketing associate at Main Street Hub. For more information, please visit www.mainstreethub.com.

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