http://www.datadial.net/blog/index.php/category/internet-marketing/search-engine-optimisation/ - May 20, 2013 11:23:43 PM - Aug 11, 2011 4:43:17 PM
It’s time to answer the age-old question: How do Travel Companies use Social Media?
Two questions arise first: How do they convince their audience to keep them in their networks, among their friends and family? And how do they convert Social Media users into customers?
Below is a review of some of the biggest names in one of the biggest international market places: The Travel Industry.
For uniformity and narrower scope, we’ll be looking at the UK arms of each company.
Let’s start with the big dog: Thomas Cook.
The Facebook stats for TC are more or less what we’d expect…
In fairness, the figures could be higher since Thomas Cook is one of the biggest travel agents in the UK. Let’s take a look at what they’re doing right (and wrong):
The typical post on Thomas Cook’s Facebook wall is one that encourages ‘Liking’ pictures.
Normally the idea users are encouraged to like is something that everyone inherently likes. In fact I daresay everybody on earth likes Relaxation and Saving Money.
Playing it safe: generating a big response. Also, check out the very subtle link to their website. Every post on their page is an advert, but you wouldn’t know it.
They also run a weekly competition to win: Nothing. They encourage users to guess the destination and share and like the picture. There’s no incentive, but it appears to work. In my opinion it’s the nice picture that helps. People love sharing pictures. If this had been a picture of a ruined village I doubt it would have generated the same level of response.
Interacting with Customers
The posts from other people on Thomas Cook’s page appear to almost exclusively be complaints from customers.
With the examples below I’m immediately struck by the bureaucratic nature of the responses. The Facebook page is the face of the company, and here it is fobbing off problems to other parts of the company. It would have served them better to say something conciliatory: ‘Sorry to hear that, let’s try to get it sorted’. These responses don’t help the customer or allay their dissatisfaction.
On the bright side, they do give informative answers to non-complaints, and ‘Claire’ seems to be willing to put her name to the posts.
Moving on to the next company, we have Intrepid Travel. A smaller company, focussed on ‘Adventure Holidays’ to exotic destinations.
Even though the company is smaller, we can see immediately that they have a great engagement with their audience.
This is a typical post:
They’re promoting the work of one of their fans, with everyone’s favourite sharable media: A Nice Photo. Even better, it’s a photo taken by one of their customers and Facebook fans. It’s a great way to generate a buzz within the community and it acts as a superb advert for a holiday to Nepal.
Another type of post serves a completely different purpose:
On this occasion they’re plugging another Social Media event. Again, this is an advert; but surprise-surprise they’ve used a cool picture to disguise it.
Noticing a trend yet? Here’s another example:
Advert in disguise. Very clever.
Interacting with Customers
Intrepid Travels have praise lumped on them as much as Thomas Cook receive complaints. Moreover, they engage with their customers as people rather than a faceless company:
Even though they’re plugging another part of their Social Profile, we can forgive it because they’re so friendly and encouraging. Plus the feature in question is a photo album of their customer’s travels. Croud-sourced content. Great stuff.
They’re also well informed and helpful:
Whilst the numbers are lower than the Facebook page, Interpid’s Twitter stats are nothing to be sniffed at:
Their Tweets are pretty much what you’d expect, along with some questionable #Hashtags.
Industry news along with links. And asking engaging and amusing questions:
Another Adventure Travel site of note is Wild Frontiers. An even smaller company with a significantly smaller Social Profile:
What’s the one thing we’ve learnt works?
With that in mind, it’s fairly easy to see where these guys are going wrong:
Sharing a link to your own site under a block of text (and the full link at that!) is not a good way to get people excited.
The next example is a great piece of industry news with a lot of chances for incredible pictures; and although they’ve tried to encourage involvement with a question, the question is rather niche and the post feels cluttered.
Interaction with Customers
On the plus side, they’re very informative in their responses to customer’s questions (although perhaps a little slow).
Even when fans are just keen to share their love of TV Documentaries staring Chris Tarrant, they give them the time of day and respond in kind.
WF’s Twitter standing is reasonably good compared with its Facebook:
The Twitter stream is very much focussed on audience interaction. Twitter is used to promote the blog (company news, industry news and all company projects etc.):
WF’s link with its blog is great to see. Not only does it promote the blog by getting the content into the social sphere; it also shows a conscious desire to engage with the audience.
Also, it never hurts to help your fans sing your praises:
And once again, back to the sure-fire winner… nice pictures!
Moving away from adventure holidays and into luxury travel: Next up on our list is Western and Oriental.
The Facebook statistics seem rather paltry for W&O, and taking a look at the typical wall posts, it’s easy to see why…
Although they’ve caught onto the trend of using stunning pictures, the accompanying text reads like a press release. They’ve even gone as far as keeping terms and conditions in the post, and using the pure URL. All this screams one thing.
They’ve also picked up on the trend of using regular features. The ‘Wonderful Offer of the Week’ isn’t particularly catchy, but once again they’re let down by a focus on stats rather than an appeal to emotion. Check out this link for more in the same genre.
Although they do get one thing right: combining nice pictures with regular features to get: ‘Picture of the Week’. This got a good response in comparison to the marketing posts:
Interaction with Customers
Having few fans means little need to react to their questions, but to their credit, on the one occasion someone did ask something they were very helpful:
Compared with their Facebook page, W&O have a great following on Twitter:
They use their Twitter presence to spread industry news (with out-of-place hashtags):
Although, almost counter-intuitively, the marketing material seems to generate more of a response than the stories about animals:
Although the cynic in me thinks Tom Browne works for W&O since he retweets nearly all of their posts…
Moving onto another slightly bigger travel agent, we have Sta Travel.
They have a good following and their posts generally generate a good response:
I like that the above example takes advantage of the dominance a picture has in a Facebook post. Yellow is eye-catching and its a very evocative image. The text is also both topical and carries a great incentive.
Equally posts that are purely promotional/marketing traps use incredible images and shortened URLs. The point is clear and the opportunity to engage is very easy.
And it’s always nice to see a company link its Social Media with its blog:
Engagement with Customers
STA have an exemplary customer relations attitude. Even when a customer offers a vague question such as the one below, they give a full comment with examples and research – and even drop in a bit of upselling completely naturally. This is the
bestonly way anyone should use Social Media as a sales tactic – dropped in almost as an afterthought.
Also to its credit, STA offered a Q&A with its online team where Facebook fans could ask anything they want about Thailand. The response was great, and even though STA didn’t answer every question, other members of the community were more than willing to help each other out. It made for a great foundation for an online travel group:
STA’s Twitter following (whilst not quite as big as it’s FB following) is still respectable:
By mentioning unconventional holiday activities, they’re able to inspire engagement and response:
It seems that even by acknowledging their own marketing methods, they’re able to use them to a decent effect:
And as ever, it’s great to give your fans a bigger platform to praise you from:
Overall, great customer engagement and a focus on more unique aspects of travel give STA a great social media presence.
And finally on our hitlist, we have Eastern travel specialists, Travelfish.
Travelfish are quite unique as all of their social media appears to be run predominantly by one man: the owner, Stuart McDonald. In any case, their Facebook stats are very good:
This post takes advantage of the ‘great picture’ phenomenon, as well as giving the appearance of a kind of travelogue or diary entry. It appears to have generated a good response whatever the reason:
Conversely, this very promotional product-based post did less well. I still thing it’s weird when people use full links. The full one seems overwhelming.
And also posts about industry news with stunning photos are used to generate a decent response (still with the full link though )
This is where the obvious flaws in having one person run an entire company’s Twitter becomes apparent…
Despite a decent following, the Tweets don’t seem to generate much of a response.
I think it’s because they’re largely idiosyncratic. The mini-blog style doesn’t lend itself to corporate social media:
Also giving off-brand reviews about other Social Media tools (which you use!) is probably a no-no:
The majority of the rest of the Tweets are conversations with fans about eastern travel. In this sense, the personal touch is a benefit as McDonald is clearly an expert in his field and loves talking about it. It does leave the rest of us feeling rather left out though:
As a sidenote, Travelfish is the only one of our subjects here that features a Facebook App as one of its social tools…
Unfortunately the ‘App’ is a still image which shows the date in Asia along with some bizzare travel related images. That’s it.
Overall it seems that the best posts in Social Media are ones that contain unique perspectives and nice pictures. However, this is totally down to each brand.
Ultimately, it’s important to stress that Social Media shouldn’t be used as a Marketing Tool, it should be used as a way to interact with your customers; and for them to be able to reach you easily.
Sewing the seeds with sharable engaging content means that you can use subtle advertising methods once your audience grows to a decent size.
The real challenge is coming up with a Social Media plan to suit your business.
April 9th, 2013.
I’m going to Paris in a few weeks. Should I turn to Google and review sites to find restaurants and places of interest to visit, or would I rather turn to more trusted sources, like my friends?
I’m going to prefer recommendations from my friends, of course. This is the genius of Facebook Graph Search: personalized results based on data collected from people your network. Google is aiming for this through Google Plus and Search Plus Your World, but the more personalized data Facebook has access to arguably makes it a better source for this kind of search.
Released this January, Graph Search initially made waves, with some calling it a direct competitor to Google. Graph Search’s future is still uncertain and for now it seems laughable to think Facebook will give Google a run for its money. But, in its current iteration Graph Search is pretty useful for helping potential customers find you (without them ever needing to leave Facebook).
How Graph Search Works
Users can search for information about friends, such as photos and interests, but they can also search for businesses.
For now, it looks like the biggest benefactors from Graph Search will be businesses with physical locations. But, I suspect Facebook will begin rolling out other search functions as time goes on.
You can search for businesses based on location.
You can also search for types of business that your friends have visited (a.k.a checked in to).
Results will show you which of your friends checked in where. You can also use the filters on the right to refine the results.
Preparing Your Page for Graph Search
Just like you add certain information to your website in order to be found in search engine results, you can increase your page’s visibility in Graph Search with a few optimization techniques.
1. Fill in Your About Page
Make sure the description in your About section is keyword rich and describes all of your service offerings. If you have a physical location, make sure to include an accurate address and store hours so people searching for businesses in your region can find you.
2. Customize Your Vanity URL
If you haven’t already done so, updated your page’s vanity URL with your business name and/or your business’ keywords.
3. Categorize Your Page
Check that your page is categorized properly. Place pages can have sub categories, so make sure to include any applicable subcategories, as well.
4. Claim Your Place Page
Anyone can create a Place for a business on Facebook (this happens automatically when someone checks in to a business that doesn’t have an existing Place listing). The good news is you can claim these Place listings and merge them with your Facebook page.
Search for your business through Graph Search and then claim any existing Places. Visit the Facebook Help Center for the instructions on claiming and merging pages.
You’ll also want to try to check in to your business on your mobile (while you are at or near your location) to find any other rogue Place pages. Check out how your Place listings appear on iPhone vs. Android phones, since results might vary in different mobile versions of Facebook.
5. Encourage Check Ins to Your Business
The more people are checking into your business, the better chance your page will show up high in the Graph Search results.
For example, when I searched for Indian restaurants in Paris, I was surprised to see the top results did not have a lot of Likes on their page, but instead a lot of check ins. It looks like offline popularity trumps online popularity in this instance…
Start encouraging check ins by offering discounts for checking in and putting up signage in your storefront to let customers know your business is active on Facebook.
6. Keep Your Page Active
Consistently sharing great content on your page will keep your fans engaged, which will help your page appear higher in Graph Search.
The fuss seems to have died down since its release, but Facebook has invested huge in building its own search engine. Expect Graph Search to become a more integral part of Facebook as its features are refined and users begin seeing its value. Businesses that prepare their pages now to rank well in Graph Search will be ahead of the curve if and when this becomes a popular way to search on the web.
Kerry Jones is a freelance writer, editor and blogger based in Tampa, FL. Her background is in online marketing, where she gained experience doing social media consulting and management for Fortune 500 companies. img credit
For this strategy to work, they would have to be able to drive traffic to their websites in high volumes. Most of the newspapers translated their daily issues of the paper into online editions, using traditional journalism and headlines to create their websites. While this ensured that they kept their loyal readership, the websites were not able to maximize the attention of the search engines.
The Daily Mail from the start set up a separate web operation. Their homepage is made up of hundreds of stories, each clamouring to be read. The headlines read as summaries of the story, but they are also anchor text, a link that when clicked will lead the reader to the story. The story pages themselves are chock full of pictures, diagrams, commentary, YouTube clips, in fact anything that is vaguely relevant to the story. The links are designed to keep you reading and following other stories of interest on the Mail Online website, in the process maximizing their advertising revenue.
One section of the site that is deliberately written for the online version and doesn’t feature anywhere near as heavily in the print version is the celebrity news section. This is a deliberate ploy to target keyword with high search volumes as well as developing a loyal online readership around these topics. The popularity of the celebrity content is shown when looking at the directories on the site with the highest search visibility, with TV and showbiz capturing a larger share of visibility than news.
April 3rd, 2013.
Love it or hate it, the Daily Mail has always had the power to shock. With its daily obsessions over immigration and ‘human rights insanity’ to a determination to cover every tiny detail about the Royal family and celebrity stars, the paper has an almost equal share of critics and fans. Yet although this British national newspaper is not the biggest selling daily in the UK, never mind globally, it has been named as the biggest online news source in the world overtaking the New York Times (comScore, Feb 2012).
All the British national papers began their internet websites on a more or less equal footing in 2008. While the Times (in June 2010) decided to go down the route of paid subscription content, the Daily Mail and most of the other papers decided to monetise their websites through the use of paid advertising. The announced in June 2012 that they had become profitable for the first time.
However, the success of the newspaper’s online operations is set to continue growing. Guy Zitter, managing director of Mail Newspapers, told an industry conference in June that the advertising potential of the Mail Online was still “not even touching the sides”. Whilst advertising revenues are predicted to top £30m this year, two thirds of this still comes from the UK, whereas two third of the Mail Online’s audience lies elsewhere. – Four Media
For this strategy to work, they would have to be able to drive traffic to their websites in high volumes. Most of the newspapers translated their daily issues of the paper into online editions, using traditional journalism and headlines to create their websites. While this ensured that they kept their loyal readership, the websites were not able to maxamise the attention of the search engines.
Setting up a Dedicated Web Operation to Write up News
The Daily Mail from the start set up a separate web operation. Their homepage is made up of hundreds of stories, each clamouring to be read. The headlines read as summaries of the story, but they are also anchor text, a link that when clicked will lead the reader to the story. The story pages themselves are chock full of pictures, diagrams, commentary, YouTube clips, in fact anything that is vaguely relevant to the story. The links are designed to keep you reading and following other stories of interest on the Mail Online website, in the process maxamising their advertising revenue.
One section of the site that is deliberately written for the online version and doesn’t feature anywhere near as heavily in the print version is the celebrity news section. This is a deliberate ply to target keyword with high search volumes as well as developing a loyal online readership around these topics. The popularity of the celebrity content is shown when looking at the directories on the site with the highest search visibility, with TV and showbiz capturing a larger share of visibility than news.
There is a column of abbreviated stories, small pictures and anchor-linked headlines down the right hand side of every page. This public hunger for celebrity stories has driven trending articles upwards for the Mail Online and they are regularly updated. They will rewrite and republish stories in real-time if the interest is there.
The content is refreshed at a fast rate. The web team receive the articles from the journalistic team and tweak them to suit the online readership. Articles are also gathered from other news websites and rewritten. This enables the team to put together a large amount of news stories quickly, cheaply, and optimise them for the website and publish them. A frequent criticism of this tactic is that journalistic integrity is often compromised, facts aren’t checked as there isn’t time, and often articles are closely plagiarised from other sources.
Developing News for the US Audience
A large part of the Mail’s success is based on their growing US readership. Dedicated journalistic web teams were set up in Los Angeles and New York. The website has a link to its US edition across the top tabs of the homepage. The Mail’s strategy drives a high volume of web traffic to the website by offering popular stories. Most news websites advertising revenue is driven by page views and the Mail’s success in encouraging visitors to click more links is instrumental in becoming the most widely read news website online. The Mail Online aims at the English speaking world and there is no shortage of potential readers.
Successful SEO Strategy
SEO strategy has played a large part in the website’s popularity. The mini-article type headlines are long tail keywords, researched and utilised for their popularity in the search engines.
In-depth articles help to maximise long-tail search visits, and the incorporation of images, diagrams and rich media help to encourage other sites to cite them as a source to develop their link profile.
But the website’s most successful manipulation of the web involves social media. The Mail Online wants to be the news website that everyone is talking about and often the tactics involved could be considered as linkbait, that art of creating something controversial that provokes debate by manipulating emotion.
Samantha Brick – Successful Linkbait?
Samantha Brick, one of the Mail’s regular journalists wrote an article entitled ‘Why Do Women Hate Me because I’m Beautiful’ in April 2012. During the following 24 hours, the article trended on Twitter, over 200k Facebook likes and received 1.5 million comments, most of them uncomplimentary.
At the time she was one of the most talked about women in the world. The Mail Online received backlinks from trusted and relevant sources including other national newspapers, Twitter, and many different blogs which included the Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Gawker and Buzzfeed amongst others. Overall the article helped to generate more than 4,000 links to the site. There was also a follow-up article with Samantha Brick in The Independent and TV and magazine interviews which followed.
In SEO terms, this kind of exposure is pure gold and the Mail Online gained a lot of attention. However many of the commentators were concerned at how deliberately the furore was created and maintained.
The Rush to Publish – The Mail Online’s Public Mistake
This need to be constantly at the forefront of trending articles can turn sour as the Mail Online found out when it tried to publish the results of the Amanda Knox trial appeal in October 2011. Two versions of the appeal story had been written up. The wrong story was published which stated that the appeal had been turned down when it had in fact succeeded. The story was only published as fact for 90 seconds, but it had been noticed and the Press Complaints Commission upheld a complaint about it, citing concerns about the accuracy of the reporting.
Several large blogs picked-up on the mistake and the rest of the national press picked it up as a story. However even when they get it wrong, people are still talking about the Mail Online, discussing it on Twitter and posting the links.
Success At The Expense Of Journalistic Integrity?
The Mail Online’s success has been due in no small part to its ability to understand that it was important to differentiate between the newspaper and online news markets and to ensure that each was correctly targeted.
It tempts visitors to stay and click on two or three pieces with its anchor-linked teaser headlines and most articles are commented on. A quick check of the website today and the lead story has already collected 1099 comments; another story further down has 50 comments, yet another 531 comments. The Daily Mirror on the same day has its highest number of comments as 18 on one article; the Sun has a story with 50 comments.
The Mail has a knack of getting its readers to participate and that is one of the secrets of its success.
The Mail Online is the most successful of the British newspapers to translate to online readership, but it has adapted its techniques to achieve its goal. Coincidentally, the Times website makes more revenue from its subscription service, but it serves only a fraction of the readership of Mail Online.