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In case of emergency: Cruise lines and crisis communication on Twitter, Part II

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Costa Concordia Instagram

People fascinated by a disaster will create their own news accounts, that may or may not contain misinformation. This is happening on networks outside of Twitter as well, like this example on Instagram.

We’ve previously discussed how airlines should handle crisis communication in case of an emergency, and recently we shared the first part of the plan for cruise lines to do the same. This is the second part, which picks up after looking at what cruise lines should look for on Twitter, to what they should measure during and after a crisis, plus what to look for on platforms outside of Twitter.

What to measure on Twitter in times of crisis, and after

Now that you know what to look for, you need to have a plan in place for how to measure it. What, exactly, should you be measuring on Twitter as a crisis unfolds?

Before; or what you should have set up right now

Ideally you will already have Trackers set up to capture what we mentioned previously- tweets directly to your official handle, mentions of your brand in any variety of spelling imaginable, any well-known nicknames your brand has (official or not), and the ports you operate from. If you’re not already doing that, now is the time to implement Trackers or take frequent snapshots (using something like our aptly named snapshot reports) around those terms once a situation arises and begins to unfold.

If your resources have grown since you first made your plan, consider monitoring your major competitors and major keywords related to your industry as well.

During a crisis

Often during a crisis situation, a hashtag will be born organically. If you’re being proactive about communicating via Twitter, however, don’t hesitate to create one of your own and immediately set up a Tracker to measure it, or take continual snapshots of the situation. If another hashtag emerges organically, use that one in your messaging as well and be sure you’re tracking both.

After a crisis

If everything flies by too quickly and you’re a small enough team not to have time to set up Trackers or take frequent enough snapshots of the situation, a historical option to capture the entire incident is available. This can also be used to fill in any noticeable gaps in your data once you’ve begun to look through everything you’ve gathered.

In the aftermath of the event, you might also want to track a specific news story (using specific key words from the title if it’s unique enough not to return a lot of noise, or you can track via a specific URL) that went around if it directly involved comments from your brand, or got a lot of circulation with commentary from people passing it around. This will give you a much more accurate read on the sentiment around your crisis messaging, and let you see any missed opportunities, as well as highlight every win.

Go the extra mile

Once you have all of this data and you can clearly see how the situation unfolded and evaluate the strength of your response, take it a step further: What can you plan better next time, with this experience? What did you and your team do really well, that you should be sure to praise and also pass on as protocol to new team members? This knowledge can be distilled and turned into training and on-boarding materials for any new communications employees in the future.

If you’re not a cruise line (or an airline) a lot of these tactics still apply to you; if you’re a hotel, for example, you can offer to put up stranded travelers or victims of a natural disaster or other tragedy. Car rental companies and car sharing services can work out deals to get stranded people home if they don’t have far to go. For a less serious crisis, tour companies can even offer to keep stranded passengers entertained with local sites while they’re waiting for delayed travel to get sorted out.

Any of these companies can work out deals with each other ahead of a crisis to come in and support each other if and when it makes sense to.

Platforms other than Twitter

While Twitter is the best platform to use during a crisis because of the speed at which you’re able to share information and connect with concerned parties as well as news outlets, you need to be sure you have messaging in place on all of the other platforms you also have a presence on in the case of an emergency. For Facebook, be sure to make periodic, informative updates and answer as many questions as you can from concerned parties that may not be on Twitter. Do as much as you can with the resources that you have; don’t be afraid to make a post and then direct everyone to Twitter or your website for more information if those are the two places you plan to concentrate updates.

Tumblr will support text updates and it’s also a place where you can reblog information from the news outlets also on Tumblr, but it’s much more difficult to answer questions if they come in the form of reblogs. Do answer any questions directed to your inbox, publishing those that may help answer the similar questions of others.

Photo-based platforms like Snapchat and Instagram are more difficult to navigate; it’s hard to think of a tactful snap for announcing information around an emergency situation, but if that’s the only line of communication open to you and you’re in touch with your customers there, don’t hesitate to do what you can. If you do feel it’s appropriate to post a screenshot with emergency update protocols on your Instagram account directing followers to your website or Twitter for ongoing information, do so. Many of these details will depend on what’s right for your brand, the nature of the crisis, and the resources available as it unfolds.

The takeaway

The bottom line is to listen and step in where you’re needed, even if you’re not expected to.

Written by Sarah

August 12th, 2014 at 10:12 am

In case of emergency: Cruise lines and crisis communication on Twitter, Part I

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Costa Concordia News

An unofficial Twitter account for Costa Concordia news that sprung up in the wake of the ship’s running aground. If you don’t come forward in these spaces, someone else will do it for you.

The Costa Concordia is back in the news this summer, being towed away for salvage after its disastrous running aground two years ago. We’ve written about airlines and how they should use Twitter for crisis communications, and thought we’d  make that same approach more specific for other areas of the travel industry.

This first part will cover what cruise lines should be monitoring for before a crisis- meaning the plan that you have in place- and in the early stages of a crisis breaking out.

What cruise lines should look for on Twitter

Social media is both a blessing and a curse in a time of crisis. While companies are able to rapidly disseminate information, share updates, and directly interact with the public in real time, misinformation can also spread very quickly on platforms like Twitter.

For something as high stakes as trans-oceanic travel, it’s important for cruise lines to know what to listen for and measure, particularly during the stressful summer holiday travel season. We have some advice for creating just such a plan, or reassessing it if you already have one.

What to look for on Twitter during a crisis

First, you need to set up a monitoring plan for Twitter. Exactly what you’re looking for will depend on the nature of the crisis you’re dealing with and your communication goals around each type of crisis.

In case of common crisis

For ship departure delays and stranded, angry customers who might have missed a boat, for example, you’ll definitely want to focus on catching every mention of your brand on Twitter and doing everything you possibly can to make affected customers feel listened to and understood. If possible, give your customer service representatives on Twitter the power to offer reconciliations: everything from drink packages, to discounts on future cruises, full or partial refunds; even free accommodations on a future departure if the situation is bad enough.

This is vital for turning an angry person who swears they will never cruise with you again- whether the circumstances of the situation were under your control or not- and someone who will brag about your customer service on the same forum they just used to share their unhappiness, while remaining a customer.

In case of not-so-common crisis

If the situation is more serious- like the Costa Concordia running aground off the coast of Italy, or a natural disaster like a hurricane- you don’t have to bother to look for misinformation; it will already be out there. Use Twitter as a way to let everyone know you’re aware of the situation, that the safety of your employees and passengers is your first priority, and to make any updates you can on the situation, waiting as long as possible to confirm new information before you send it out while still making any corrections as necessary.

In both cases- and the rest of the time, as a general rule of thumb- you should be monitoring not only direct replies to your brand’s handle on Twitter, but also mentions of your company name in any variety of spelling imaginable: any well-known nicknames your brand has (official or not), and the ports your operate from. Depending on your resources, you might want to include the names of prominent employees, such as founders, board members, and c-level executives. Something like our TweetReach Pro Trackers will allow you to do this. (We’ll talk more about what to measure in part II.)

Go the extra mile

Monitoring mentions of the ports you operate from will be vital should a tragic incident occur and you need to reroute your ship or make accommodations for passengers waiting to board, and the rest of the time it will give you an advantage in listening to and addressing problems you might not have caught otherwise. Is one of your passengers stuck with a delayed flight home and without a hotel room? If you have the connections to help them, you will change everything about how they end up perceiving their trip.

Monitor your competitors too: Is a passenger stranded by a competitor somewhere you have a ship in port, or are approaching, and you have room onboard? You’ve just filled an empty cabin and probably won a new loyal customer.

If you go the extra mile and make someone’s day, you’ve reversed their story of a bad trip gone awry and will more likely be the first brand on their mind the next time they travel.

What next?

Look for part II, which covers more about what to measure during and after a crisisplus what to look for on platforms outside of Twitter.

Written by Sarah

August 5th, 2014 at 10:00 am

Summer travel heats up on social media: It’s #VegasSeason!

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Summer travel season, meet #VegasSeason: A well-executed summer travel campaign that crosses from traditional advertising to social media channels in a way that gets each audience interested, even if they aren’t aware of the contest tied to it.

The contest

Vegas itself wants to give you two chances to win a trip there, and the trip can be “naughty” or “nice”. If the holiday season is all about giving, then Vegas Season is surely all about living and treating yourself. What better than a Vegas hashtag in your Twitter feed- or a snappy commercial on your TV featuring that hashtag- to inspire some last-minute summer travel to Sin City?

The social execution

Scrolling down on the official contest page, there’s a section for sharing about traveling to Vegas on Twitter that has two choices: One about tanning, and one about champagne. Their tweet about having enough champagne is being shared at a much higher rate than their tweet about tanning: over 500 RTs vs. 13.

This is also the tweet currently pinned to the top of their account page, so it’s the first one anyone sees when they visit their profile. Smart use of the Twitter redesign! (Scrolling further down the contest page there are sections for visiting their other social sites: InstagramPinterestVine and YouTube.)

Most #VegasSeason tweets are directly related to the contest, but some are inspired by its accompanying commercials. The official Vegas Twitter account serves as a great hub for redirecting followers to their accounts on other platforms, hosting other elements of the contest. For example, one leads to a Facebook page offering a free download of the song featured in the Vegas Season music commercial:

Some Twitter users have just seen the commercials and may not be aware of the contest to win a free trip, but are still inspired to tweet their excitement about their own summer plans to travel to Vegas using the hashtag:

#VegasSeason has also shown up alongside the #TravelTuesday Twitter chat hashtag (you can learn more about that and other Twitter travel resources in our updated post) where participants discuss all things travel, including current travel plans and dream destinations, all day on Tuesdays. Tweet chats are an easy way to connect with and expand your audience.

The takeaway

Adding hashtags to commercials isn’t a new tactic in advertising, but it is a smart move for something that gets as much chatter on social media as travel does, especially when wanderlust hits during the summer months. Cross-promoting contest elements across platforms with incentives like song downloads increases the contest reach, as does building in easy-to-share content for each platform on the contest page itself.

Travel companies of all kinds should definitely have a social presence, use it creatively, and be sure they’re measuring their share of voice in the industry.

Written by Sarah

May 28th, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Posted in Events

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Travel resources on Twitter and more: Updated

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With Memorial Day approaching this weekend, summer travel is on the minds of many, and the resources to plan and execute the best trips for business or for pleasure lie within the social sites you know and love. Last year we looked at the Top travel resources on Twitter: Accounts to follow and chats to attend as well as the 10 best travel resources on social media and beyond. So what does the travel landscape look like on social in 2014?

On Twitter

All of the travel advice and perspective accounts from our Twitter travel resources post are still active and providing information on everything from amateur and budget travel to high-end luxury accommodations; skim the list to find and follow the users that fit your needs.

As for the travel chats, read over the transcripts to get an idea of which ones would be worth joining in on before you plan your next trip:

  • #MexMonday (all day Mondays): Check this one out if you’re planning a trip to Mexico 
  • #TravelTuesday (all day Tuesdays): Chat about all things travel-related
  • #CruiseChat (2pm EST Tuesdays): Whether you’re a veteran cruiser or new to boat-bound travel, find out all you need to know in this chat
  • #NUTS (Not-so-usual-therapy-session, aka travel and specifically roadtrips) seems to be used more as a generic hashtag than a travel related chat, but you can still check out the session recaps on their site.
  • #TTOT (5:30 am/pm EST Tuesdays): standing for Travel Talk on Tuesdays, you can check out the topic ahead of time on their Facebook page.
  • #LuxChat (2:30pm PST every 3rd Wednesday): While #LuxChat doesn’t always cover travel, keep an eye on the month’s chosen topic if treating yourself while you travel is your goal. You can find recaps of their chats on their Tumblr.
  • #TourismChat (2:00pm CST bi-weekly on Thursdays): Check the @tourismchat account for topics and transcripts.
  • #FriFotos (all day Fridays): You can find out each week’s theme from @EpsteinTravels

Other chats to check out:

Aren’t sure how to participate in a Twitter chat, or want to host your own? Check out our posts about how to get the most out of a chat as a participant or as a host.

Other social media travel resources

All of our holiday travel tips from last year still hold true, and if you’re looking at how to get the most out of travel blogging on Tumblr we’ve covered that too. (You can see all of our travel-related Tumblr posts here.)

We still recommend Pinterest for planning what you’re going to pack, what sites you want to see at your destination, and more. Instagram is an amazing way to catalog your travels that lets everyone at home follow along with you and avoids overwhelming them with an album of 200 new photos to parse when you get home.

But what about using Instagram for inspiring and planning your next trip? Stay tuned. We’ll have that for you soon!

If you’ve got any social media travel resources we missed, leave them in the comments, or let us know on Twitter.

Photo courtesy NYPL Digital Gallery. 

Written by Sarah

May 21st, 2014 at 1:31 pm

The 10 Best Travel Resources on Social Media and Beyond

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Image courtesy NYPL.

Friday was expected to be the biggest travel day of the year, but a lot of you are still headed home for the holidays and maybe still scrambling to book last minute New Year’s plans. Whether it’s something fairly local, or that big trip abroad you’ve always wanted to take that you’re finally booking as a New Year’s resolution, we’ve got some tips and resources to help make traveling easier on you:

  1. Your network: Get information about experiences from those who have been there that you trust by talking to your network on Twitter, Tumblr, and more to see what you should splurge on, what you should skip, and what to expect in different cities and countries. A Twitter friend might even offer to show you around, or point you to someone who can help with local recommendations. (Want to grow that network? Check out our list of Twitter travel resources.)

  2. Check out the social accounts of locals: Headed to Paris, or Perth? Check out the accounts of some locals to get an idea of the kinds of non-touristy activities and places to eat and drink around around your destination. Strike up a conversation and ask questions if they seem open to it; a lot of people love to share hidden gems of their own town so visitors enjoy themselves.

  3. Connect with companies: Is the place you’re staying on Instagram? Is the rental company you’re getting a car from on Twitter? Does the airline you’re flying on have a Tumblr? Get familiar with their services through these channels– and you might even stumble onto a social-media-only deal or two!

  4. Utilize Pinterest for Planning: Start a Pinterest board for ideas for your trip: sites you want to see, things you don’t want to forget to pack, places you want to eat. Search the site to see if anyone has made such a board already, and you might pick up some unexpected and handy tips. Same goes for boards from locals; their fashion board might tell you more about what to pack than any weather report could.

  5. Catalog: Instagram is a great way to share snapshots of your trip as you’re on it. Limit yourself to one to two photos a day so you’ve got a little something to let friends and family know what you’re up to without distracting yourself from enjoying the moment.

  6. Save some pennies: Couchsurfing and Airbnb have both become popular alternatives to hotels. Couchsurfing in particular is a free service, where hosts give travelers a place to stay out of the kindness of their hearts in the spirit of travel. Airbnb lets you choose from a variety of accommodation options that give you a more local feel than a hotel. If you decide to use either service, be sure you check out the reviews of the host and/or space to make sure you know what you’re getting into

  7. YouTube Travel Channels: If you like your travel advice in video form with the possibility of inappropriate jokes, then YouTube travel channels are just for you. The channel Maila AuParis has a series on CouchSurfing in addition to a lot of other travel videos. The Expert Vagabond and Mashable both have roundups of YouTube travel channels to inspire, instruct, and more. And don’t forget about the big guys: Lonely Planet and The Travel Channel both have YouTube channels of their own.

  8. Traveling with pets: BlogPaws has a travel category with safety tips and more for traveling with pets. Keep track of pet-friendly hotels at PetsWelcome, and be sure to check the TSA guidelines for flying with pets if that’s in your plan. You’ll want to see specifically what your airline says about traveling with pets as well.

  9. Traveling with children: Last year the New York Times covered innovative travel products to ease the burden of packing for and hauling around quick-to-tire small children.  The CDC has health and safety tips while the TSA goes over what is expected of your child in airline security lines. If you’re sending a minor unaccompanied on a flight, check with your particular airline to see what the procedures and expectations are.

  10. Apps to check out: CNN has a whole category on their site covering travel apps of all descriptions. If you’re a lover of travel guides, check to see if they offer apps to go along with them. That way you’ll have information on the ground without carrying around the guide itself, and many also have a social component. Also consider downloading a few language apps if you’re traveling to a foreign country, so you can practice common words and phrases.

Got any tips we missed? Leave ‘em in the comments, or tell us about them on Twitter. Safe travels, and happy holidays!

Written by Sarah

December 23rd, 2013 at 7:45 am

Posted in Guides

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In case of emergency: Airlines and crisis communication on Twitter

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What airlines should look for on Twitter and what to measure, before, during, and after a crisis

Social media is both a blessing and a curse in a time of crisis. While companies are able to rapidly disseminate information, share updates, and directly interact with the public in real time, misinformation can also spread like crazy on platforms like Twitter.

For something as high stakes as air travel, it’s important for airlines and travel companies to have a plan in place should a crisis arise, particularly during the stressful holiday travel season. We have some advice for creating just such a plan, or reassessing it if you already have one.

Image courtesy NYPL Digital Galleries

What to look for on Twitter during a crisis

First, you need to set up a monitoring plan for Twitter. Exactly what you’re looking for will depend on the nature of the crisis you’re dealing with and your communication goals around each type of crisis.

In case of common crisis

For flight delays and stranded, angry customers, for example, you’ll definitely want to focus on catching every mention of your brand on Twitter and doing everything you possibly can to make affected customers feel listened to and understood. If possible, give your customer service representatives on Twitter the power to offer reconciliations: everything from drink tickets, to discounts on future flights, full or partial refunds; even free tickets for a future flight if the situation is bad enough.

This is vital for turning an angry person who swears they will never fly with you again- whether the circumstances of the situation were under your control or not- and someone who will brag about your customer service on the same forum they just used to share their unhappiness, while remaining a customer.

In case of not-so-common crisis

If the situation is more serious- like the recent shooting that happened at Los Angeles International Airport, or a natural disaster like an earthquake- you don’t have to bother to look for misinformation; it will already be out there. Use Twitter as a way to let everyone know you’re aware of the situation, the safety of your employees and passengers, and any updates you can make on the situation, waiting as long as possible to confirm new information before you send it out while still making any corrections as necessary.

In both cases- and the rest of the time, as a general rule of thumb- you should be monitoring not only direct replies to your brand’s handle on Twitter, but also mentions of your company name in any variety of spelling imaginable, any well-known nicknames your brand has (official or not), and the airports you operate from. Depending on your resources, you might want to include the names of prominent employees, such as founders, board members and c-level executives. Something like our TweetReach Pro Trackers will allow you to do this. (We’ll talk more about what to measure in the next section.)

Go the extra mile

Monitoring mentions of the airports you operate from will be vital should a tragic incident such as the LAX shooting occur again, and the rest of the time it will give you an advantage in listening to and addressing problems you might not have caught otherwise. Is a passenger stranded, and you have room on a flight? Even if they weren’t booked on your airline, you’ve probably just won a new loyal customer. If you make someone’s day, you’ve reversed their story of a bad trip gone awry and be more likely to be the first brand on their mind the next time they travel.

What to measure on Twitter in times of crisis, and after

Now that you know what to look for, you need to have a plan in place for how to measure it. What, exactly, should you be measuring on Twitter as a crisis unfolds?

Before; or what you should have set up right now

Ideally you will already have Trackers set up to capture what we mentioned above- tweets directly to your official handle, mentions of your brand in any variety of spelling imaginable, any well-known nicknames your brand has (official or not), and the airports you operate from. If you’re not already doing that, now is the time to implement Trackers or take frequent snapshots (using something like our aptly named snapshot reports) around those terms once a situation arises and begins to unfold.

During a crisis

Often during a crisis situation, a hashtag will be born organically. If you’re being proactive about communicating via Twitter, however, don’t hesitate to create one of your own and immediately set up a Tracker to measure it, or take continual snapshots of the situation. If another hashtag emerges organically, use that one in your messaging as well and be sure you’re tracking both.

After a crisis

If everything flies by too quickly and you’re a small enough team not to have time to set up Trackers or take frequent enough snapshots of the situation, a historical option to capture the entire incident is available. This can also be used to fill in any noticeable gaps in your data once you’ve begun to look through everything you’ve gathered.

In the aftermath of the event, you might also want to track a specific news story (using specific key words from the title if it’s unique enough not to return a lot of noise, or you can track via a specific URL) that went around if it directly involved comments from your brand, or got a lot of circulation with commentary from people passing it around. This will give you a much more accurate read on the sentiment around your crisis messaging, and let you see any missed opportunities as well as highlight every win.

Go the extra mile

Once you have all of this data and you can clearly see how the situation unfolded and evaluate the strength of your response, take it a step further: What can you plan better next time, with this experience? What did you and your team do really well, that you should be sure to praise and also pass on as protocol to new team members? This knowledge can be distilled and turned into training and on-boarding materials for any new communications employees in the future.

If you’re not an airline a lot of these tactics still apply to you; if you’re a hotel, for example, you can offer to put up stranded travelers or victims of a natural disaster or other tragedy. Car rental companies and car sharing services can work out deals to get stranded people home if they don’t have far to go. Tour companies can even offer to keep stranded passengers entertained with local sites while they’re waiting for delayed travel to get sorted out.

The takeaway

The bottom line is to listen and step in where you’re needed, even if you’re not expected to.

Written by Sarah

November 19th, 2013 at 9:18 am

2 reasons why the travel industry should be measuring share of voice

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How much of what you say on behalf of your travel brand is being heard, compared to that of your competitors? How much are your customers saying about you, compared to your competitors? How much are they saying to you that goes unheard? Better known as your share of voice, the size of your brand’s chunk of the travel conversation is vital to how many customers- and potential customers- know what you’re up to. If you’re the airline 60% of people are talking about for holiday travel, for example, there’s a better chance you’ll come to mind over a competitor when someone is looking to book a trip home. Better yet, if you’re the brand with a story they connect to and you cost about the same as the competition? They’ll feel good about going with you. We’ll tell you how to get there.

After all, earning a reputation as knowledgeable, responsive, and trustworthy is important regardless of industry, but especially important in one that is both necessary (the Oregon Trail is no longer an option home for the holidays) and flush with competition, like the travel industry.

People can look forward to a carefully planned vacation for months, even years, and when they choose companies to control the fate of their experience, they do not do so lightly, making it critical for every travel company to know how much of the conversation they own in the space and what exactly it is that is being said about them vs. the competition.

1. You can’t fix a problem you don’t know about.

The conversation about your brand is already happening, and you need to be a part of it. Part of your share of voice is what people are saying about you and to you; you only control the messages you put out. Although it’s impossible to make everyone happy all of the time, you should strive to make as many people happy as possible most of the time. If you’re not listening, you can’t address the problems and complaints of your customers– and that will put off any potential customers. But if you fix a bad experience for someone, you could end up with a customer for life, and push someone who’s on the fence about your company into being a customer.

Takeaway 1: Your customers will tell you what they want. Be responsive and helpful as you monitor the conversation happening about you. Answer questions, answer complaints, acknowledge compliments (favoriting tweets is a good tactic here). People like to share good experiences (and especially the bad!) so work to make as many good experiences happen as possible. Even just responding that you’re aware of an issue and saying you’ll work on it can make a huge difference; you don’t appear deaf and indifferent. Many customers just want to know that they’re being heard.

But if you can, comp a bad experience, or even take things a step further and reach out to someone whose travel plans have fallen through, offering to help them. Enable your customer service representatives to take these actions without having to go through an endless bureaucratic chain. A happy customer will tell their friends and family if you save their holiday– and that’s a new group of customers who will think of you first, instead of the competition, for their next trip.

2. Tell your story, lend your expertise.

You do get to control your portion of the message going out into the conversation, so make it count. A good story is intriguing so be sure to tell yours. Do you have one about how the company came to be and how that influences your values? Or how the company worked through growing pains early or late in its inception? Tell that story and then share what you’ve learned from it; how it is has made you a better company with more to bring to the table for your customers. Then, most importantly, execute those values where your customers can see it happening: everywhere you have a social presence.

Takeaway 2: Part of the battle is coming to mind when people think about travel. If you’re already doing all you can to respond and be helpful in a public customer service capacity, on social media and elsewhere, the only share of the conversation left to you is the message you’re sending out. If there’s a personal story you can tell about your brand- faces of employees or customers and either of their stories- customers and potential customers will relate to that over just seeing your logo. Be the brand with the engaging story, so they’ll pass over the competition’s logo and static mascot for you.

The final takeaway

A golden rule of social media is to listen first, then talk. Evaluating your share of voice is no different. Now that you know why it’s important and have some takeaways to start with, you can work toward increasing it.

Written by Sarah

October 31st, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Posted in Guides

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The top travel resources on Twitter: Accounts to follow and chats to attend

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Whether you travel for business or pleasure, you want the best information possible to plan your trip. So where do you get it?

Twitter has a host of accounts that offer up travel advice, suggestions and more, from those on a budget to those who want the best possible luxury accommodations. Below we’ve rounded up resources so you don’t have to take the time to do the research yourself.

Suggested travel accounts to follow (hat tip to Mashable for a lot of these):

  • Jeannie Mark, aka @nomadicchick, is a freelance travel writer and blogger who shares advice on different destinations she’s found herself visiting through her wanderlust 

  • Wonder what things are like from a flight attendant’s point of view? Look no further than @Heather_Poole.

  • Independent travelers (@TravelEditor) share travel tips and travel news from the editors of IndependentTraveler.com

  • Keith Jenkins (@velvetescape) will keep you up to date on the luxury side of travel

  • Melanie Nay of @chic_travel also shares luxury lifestyles and travel experiences through her account.

  • Stacy Small, better known as @elitetravelgal, rounds out your high-end travel as a luxury travel planner

  • On the other end of the spectrum is @BudgetTravel, working to make traveling accessible to all

  • @FlightView brings you real-time flight information, which can be a lifesaver

  • Kristin Luna (@lunaticatlarge) is a guidebook author for Frommer’s; look to her account for travel experiences mixed in with her other interests and pursuits

  • Brendan van Son (@Brendanvanson) is a travel writer and photographer, and will take you with him on his non-stop adventures

  • For pictures in motion, look to travel writer and videographer Robert Reid (@reidontravel), who has written for a number of large travel publications

  • If you want more intensity in your travel, check out @Intrepid_Travel 

  • Sustainability and travel don’t have to be mutually exclusive, as @STI_travel tweets

  • Chris Christensen, the @AmateurTraveler, brings you an online travel show that highlights not only destinations, but the best ways to travel as well

If you want more than just reading the advice and resources provided by travel experts with occasional interaction, check out some tweet chats! Tweet chats give you the ability to weigh in with your own opinions and experiences, as well as ask questions of hosts, guests, and your fellow chatters. You can read through a past chat by looking at the hashtag for it, or feel free to introduce yourself and jump right in on your first one. Tweet chats are meant to be open, friendly and interactive. (Read more about how to get the most out of a tweet chat as a participant here.)

Try these out (hat tip to Travel Bites for these recommendations):

Written by Sarah

October 17th, 2013 at 11:27 am

Posted in Guides

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How to identify brand influencers and advocates

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It may only be September, but the holidays are quickly approaching (the first holiday ad of the season has already aired!). If you work in retail, e-commerce, travel or any of the myriad industries that get busy this time of year, it’s time to be thinking about your fall and holiday social media campaigns.

In particular, understanding who your fans and customers are – and establishing specific strategies for communicating with them through social media – can help you maximize the results of these campaigns. Who are you talking to on social channels? How can you find out who they are? And how you can more effectively reach and help them? Here are a few steps to help guide the way.

No need to look quite this far back at campaigns. [Image courtesy NYPL Digital Gallery.]

1. Plan before you begin.

Plan different messages to reach out to your audience at different points in the purchase cycle: You want to get their attention in order to attract them to buy, then keep it afterward so they aren’t just a customer, but poised to become an advocate.

How do I this? Put yourself in the customer’s shoes: when was a time a company communicated with you in a way that made you a repeat customer? What made you recommend them to someone else? Use that perspective to build your communication. Remember that communication is a two-way thing; social media in particular shouldn’t be used as a megaphone from which to shout your marketing messages. You’ll do much better by talking, listening, and responding. (More on the how for that in the next section.)

2. Anticipate needs.

What can you do for your customers? What has worked in the past? If you haven’t already taken a comprehensive look at what was successful and was not successful in past campaigns and planned based on both of those factors, you need to do that now.

How do I do this? There are several options for the how: If you have the data somewhere you can get to it and the time to go through it yourself, do so. If you don’t have the data, consider something like our historical reports to get it. Send a survey to targeted groups. Ask them on your social networks. Listen to what customers and potential customers are already saying: set up alerts for key terms associated with your brand and products. Try a combination of Google Alerts, Mention, or columns in something like TweetDeck (see more free tool suggestions from Social Media Examiner) and running something like a TweetReach snapshot report to capture a portion of the conversation. Listen to what it is that your customers want from you.

3. Tailor your message.

Tailor your message for each platform you’re on. Blasting out the exact same message to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Tumblr followed by a longer version on your blog is just going to cause potential customers to tune you out. Pull out a different, salient tidbit to feature in each place.

How do I do this? Think about what approach works best in each place too: short, pithy messages do well on Twitter, with links to more information. Images perform well on Tumblr and Pinterest; images and excerpts do well on Facebook. Link everything back to your blog or website, where you should have a landing page with details about your campaign. Stagger your messages (Try out scheduling on platforms like TweetDeck, learn how to schedule posts on Facebook, or look into a tool like Buffer). If you haven’t already looked at which times of day produce the best results, experiment during this campaign and track it all so you can plan it better next time.

You also want to tailor how you’re talking to customers and potential customers at each point in the purchase cycle. As you search for and find brand mentions- as discussed in the previous section- pay attention to what kind they are. Is someone asking for a recommendation in a certain area and listing out possibilities, one of which is you? Did someone else recommend you to someone who asked for a recommendation? Don’t respond to every mention of your brand if it’s high volume, but do thank people who have recommended you, and answer questions from potential or new customers asking about things like how your product works. If they express a preference for another brand, don’t try to prove that yours is better. Wish them luck with their purchase. If you always err on the side of polite and respectful, your brand will become known for it and could be recommended in the future because of it.

And those people recommending you? Those are your brand advocates. Another reason to say thank you– and to pay attention to what space they’re influential in. Follow them if you don’t already. Engage in conversations where it’s appropriate. Don’t stalk them; engage them.

4. Provide support.

Be ready to take questions- plan answers and make sure staff knows features upside down and backwards- and have a policy in place about how soon you’ll respond to customer queries. Research shows that 42% of customers who have reached out to a company about a problem on social media expect a response within an hour. This doesn’t change much for nights and weekends either.

How do I do this? The research doesn’t qualify if this is for big brand companies, or holds the same for smaller folks who have fewer resources and staff, but the reality of it remains the same: if you really want your campaign to go off well, you’ve got to put in the work and time. If you’re small and taking care of support yourself, draw boundaries (you’ll take time for dinner at night, the phone goes off while you’re asleep etc) but for the rest of the day the technology exists to be alerted when someone contacts you and for you to respond promptly. If you commit to that level of support during your campaign, you might just do well enough to hire someone else to help you with it the next time around.

How do I respond? If you don’t already, have an FAQ page set up that you can direct common queries to. If you do have one, take some time to go over it and revise it if necessary.  If it’s campaign-specific, direct them to the landing page for it. Have a support email address ready to give out when lengthy or difficult queries pop up on social media.

5. Repeat.

More support. Follow-up. Engage. You’ve established that you’re there for your customers with a high level of support, so don’t drop the ball on that now. In addition to responding to any problems customers have down the line from their purchase, maintain a social presence that will engage them.

How do I do this? There are many different ways to accomplish these things: Follow up with anyone who’s had a problem to be sure they’re still happy; they’ll be impressed that you did. It’s as simple as sending a quick tweet their way. Reward customer loyalty; if you know someone made their 5th or 10th purchase during your campaign, send them a little thank-you gift. One Kings Lane sends customers Thank You stationery with their first purchase, as a way of saying thank you for being a customer and letting the customer send out thank yous of their own. Birchbox sends customers who are with them for a year a small branded gift in the mail, such as a leather keychain. Do whatever makes sense for your brand. Just a thank you message alone can mean a lot if done in sincerity. This kind of behavior turns customers into brand advocates.

As for ongoing customer engagement, ask yourself this when you’re planning content: is it interesting? Does it address a question or problem customers have; is it useful? Is it entertaining? If your content doesn’t fit one or more of these categories, consider revising it. If you’re bored while you’re working on it, nobody is going to want to read it– let alone share it and champion you to their network. (This is similar to the content strategy Chris Penn of SHIFT discussed in our TakeFive with him.)

And if someone is sharing your content? Say thank you. Is someone publicly thanking you for excellent customer service? Say thank you again. Favorite the tweet. Simply paying attention to what customers are saying and letting them know that you appreciate it can mean a lot, and makes a difference in having you come to mind before a competitor when they’re asked to recommend a company.

Written by Sarah

September 12th, 2013 at 1:25 pm