Updated: Jan 24
Social Media and Branding Your Business as a Destination
By A. Honey
So you want business from outside your town or city, your county, or even your state, huh?
In this article I will be sharing with you my knowledge and expertise on how you can use social media to market yourself as a destination hot spot!
“…travel is one of the most shared topics on “The Big 3” social networks (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).”
Travelers do almost all of their planning online and often turn to social media to ask questions. You might not think of sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp as the optimal social media platform, but when it comes to travel, they most definitely are! Other sites, like a Chamber of Commerce or local tourism division, are great ways for consumers to find things to do wherever they are going. However, word of mouth is the most effective method of marketing because people buy from brands they trust. Word of mouth nowadays can be categorized too, as reviews or written testaments and are often found directly on a user’s social feed. A peer recommendation or review will land you more leads than any other method. When branding your business as a destination, your goal is to be a trusted source for adventure, excitement, rest, and/or relaxation.
I’ve listed off in order of use, travelers’ steps when searching for their next vacation, getaway, retreat, activity, etc.
Word of mouth: a. Good old fashioned, b. Word of mouth via social media
Social media: a. Twitter, b. Facebook, c. Instagram, d. Others
Travel apps: a. Yelp, more of a reviews site but often used in conjunction with travel, b. Trip Advisor, c. Once a place is found, their social media sites will be viewed
Google, Bing, and Yahoo searches: a. Local SEO rich sites (Chamber of Commerce, Tourism division, Pure Michigan, Other related sites) b. Your website (if SEO rich), c. Once a place is found, their social media sites will be viewed
As you can see, no matter the route your potential customer takes, they end up on social media one way or another. They are monitoring activity, double checking if the events they want to attend are actually going to be fun, looking at pricing and availability, reviewing their peer’s reviews, and so on.
But which sites do you use and which ones should you be using?
Each site is different and therefore each business needs to use the sites that benefit them. Unfortunately, you can’t determine or force your customers to use the sites you prefer. You have to know your market and more importantly you have to understand how each site works.
Facebook vs. Instagram (Restaurant Logic2): Since January of this year, Facebook has been making a push to stop posts that are impersonal (business posts) in an effort to make personal moments their main focus. They want to create more meaningful social interactions. This will, and has, made it more difficult than ever to be “organically seen” in users’ newsfeed. If you thought it was bad before – because it was – it’s even worse now.
Take for example, Restaurant Logic located in Jackson, MI. Restaurant Logic is a marketing business for restaurants. They have 1169 followers on Instagram but only 191 followers on Facebook. Some might argue that it’s time to get off Facebook and migrate to Instagram.
On the flip side, an actual restaurant in Jackson, Klavon’s, has 1,278 followers on Instagram but an overwhelming 31k followers on Facebook. Now one could argue that it’s best to stay on Facebook and leave Instagram alone, cause if it “ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, right?
Well let me break this down: Facebook’s algorithms have always been set for users to enjoy connecting and have never been set for businesses to market. Facebook finds Klavon’s posts, videos, and content more interesting to its users than that of Restaurant Logic. But obviously Facebook users enjoy Klavon’s posts because who doesn’t love pizza? Especially Klavon’s, have you been? I love ‘em! Anyway, this doesn’t mean that what Restaurant Logic shares to the world is crap, boring, no good… It just means that Restaurant Logic’s demographic, their target audience, are usually business owners such as Klavon’s themselves and we all know that business related information is nowhere near as fun as going out to eat! Of course there is A LOT more to this, paid ads, videos vs. general posts, time of the day posts are published, and so on, but you get my point.
So now what? You might consider choosing 1 or 2 social platforms to use over the rest, right? Perhaps Klavon’s can just use Facebook and Restaurant Logic can just use Instagram. And while this does seem to make sense you run the risk of not being everywhere your customers are.
Here’s some useful statistics I found from Marketing Charts3 that help explain.
“Facebook still boasts usage by about two-thirds (68%) of the adult population. Facebook use remains higher among women (74%) than men (62%). Among age groups, its adoption is relatively consistent among the 18-24 (80%), 25-29 (82%) and 30-49 (78%) brackets. Older age groups have also adopted Facebook: its usage by 50-64-year-olds (65%) and those ages 65 and older (41%). Facebook is more commonly used by urban (75%) and suburban (67%) adults than among those living in rural areas (58%). That represents another shift from 2016, when these groups were more on par in their adoption.”
“Instagram is now used by 35% of adults. There are some notably discrepancies in Instagram use among demographic groups: Black adults (43%) are considerably more likely to use the platform than White adults (32%); Instagram use is far higher among 18-24-year-olds (71%) than among 50-64-year-olds (21%) and those ages 65 and up (10%). Urban adults (42%) are far more apt to use Instagram than rural adults (25%). It’s worth noting that while the age gaps are quite stark with Instagram, more 30-49-year-olds say they use the platform than use Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter.”
Marketing Charts provides statistics for the other popular social platforms but I’m not going to list all of them. You can find all of these statistics and more on their website or the link is listed at the bottom of this article. I will however, show you a chart they compiled, which sums things up nicely. It’s important to note this chart is related to US adults 18 and older.
(See Chart below)
As you can see, YouTube is the highest platform used, then Facebook, Instagram (owned by Facebook), Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter, and WhatsApp (also owned by Facebook).
For my business I choose not to use Snapchat or WhatsApp and rarely use Twitter and YouTube, for reasons based on age groups, demographics, services, location, etc.
The top 10 platforms I often suggest are:
(Information about the sites themselves taken from Life Wire4)
Highest used video sharing platform
After Google, YouTube is the second largest search engine. Also, it’s owned by Google
From music videos and movies, to personal vlogs and independent films, YouTube has it all
It's a thriving beast of a social networking site on the web with about 2 billion monthly active users and more than one billion that log on daily (according to Facebook itself)
Facebook Messenger, with tons of cool features, is the second most popular messaging app behind WhatsApp. Also, you know, owned by Facebook
People use Facebook individually and by joining or setting up groups
People use the events feature to host, manage and attend local, business, and personal events
It's the ultimate social network for sharing real-time photos and short videos while on the go
A leading advertising platform for brands as well as “Instagram Influencers”, who legitimately generate income through the network (much like YouTube)
Social platform + search engine showcasing the importance of visual content
10 million monthly unique visits
A place to collect the best images and content the internet has to offer
Growing to become a social shopping network for retailers
LinkedIn is a social network for professionals
Connect with other professionals
Interact in group discussions
Post or apply to jobs
Twitter is known as the real-time, public microblogging network where news breaks first
Most users love it for its short message limit
Interact with public figures
Tumblr is an extremely popular social blogging platform
Heavily used by teens and young adults
Share visual content
Users can customize their blog theme and create blog posts in all sorts of different types of content formats
Flickr is Yahoo's popular photo-sharing network, which existed long before other popular competing networks like Pinterest and Instagram entered the social photo sharing game
It's still one of the best places to upload photos, create albums and show off your photography skills to your friends
Upload 1,000 GB worth for free
Powerful app to organize and edit them however you like
Reddit has never really had the nicest design but don't let that fool you – it's a happening place on the web
It has a very strong and smart community of people who come together to talk about the topics they love while sharing links, photos and videos relevant to the subreddit topic thread where they're participating
Reddit AMAs are another cool feature, which allow users to ask questions to celebs and other public figures who agree to host one
Reddit works by displaying submitted links that get voted up or down by users. The ones that receive the most upvotes will get pushed to the first page of their subreddits
Snapchat is a social networking app that thrives on instant messaging and is totally mobile-based
You can send a photo or short video as a message (a snap) to a friend, which automatically disappears a few seconds after they've viewed it
Kids love this app because it takes the pressure off of having to share something with everyone like they would on traditional social networks
So which ones should you use? Well that all depends on your demographic, your services, your brand, and so on.
Without knowing exactly what your business is, I’d suggest thinking about using…
(Information taken from Uhuru Network1)
Snapchat: “If there is one social network that is worth learning now, it’s probably Snapchat. That is, if you’re interested in targeting younger travelers (think: millennials, Gen Z).
Snaps are quick snippets of what’s happening right here and now. It gives your following the most authentic view of what goes on behind the scenes at your organization. These insights could be the foundation of a trusted relationship that converts potential travelers into paying customers.”
Twitter: “Twitter is a tried-and-true method of reaching potential travelers. Tweets are 140 characters and allow you to voice short travel tips, specials, and promos, or even photos and videos related to your brand.
Twitter is one of the most popular platforms for social listening and establishing a social media customer service handle. If you’re going to participate, you’ll need to have an active Twitter handle that’s regularly updated with engaging content.”
Livestream Facebook & Instagram: “While you may already be posting regularly to your Facebook or Instagram accounts, consider going live on a regular basis to give your audience a firsthand look at what’s going on behind the scenes in the tourism and travel industry. Live videos are becoming more popular and receive priority in Facebook’s newsfeed.
Going live is a great way to get people’s attention, just be sure you have something fun and exciting to share. Lucky for you, travel brands have far more exciting things to share than many other brands. Whatever makes your brand fun, unique, and exciting, be sure to share it with the world!”
Engage LinkedIn Groups: “If you cater to business travelers, LinkedIn groups are a great way to reach out and offer some no-obligation value to travelers visiting your town or city. Linkedin groups exist for users to come together and share information about most topics business, including travel.
These groups are, however, put off by anyone coming in with the obvious intent to sell themselves. Remember that they are there to serve as a safe place to share information, and that’s all you should be there to do.”
And then I also encourage in addition Events on Facebook:
“Create an event optimized for distribution because more than 60% of people discover events through News Feed.”5
Make your event stand out:
Event video or photo
Clear and short event name
Add a location
Set a specific date and time
Provide a helpful description: Line-up, Schedule or age requirements, Hashtags, @mentions
Include a ticket link
Use API to streamline event creation and management directly through your ticketing provider (Ticketmaster, Eventbrite, Ticketfly, or Spectra)
Move up the event tab
Publish events to Timeline
Share the event on your Page, regularly
Provide updates to keep conversation going
Enlist co-hosts and relevant Groups
Encourage everyone to share the event and invite others
Promote your event off Facebook with QR codes (you can do this right from the event in desktop mode), flyers, send emails, etc.
Embed your event calendar on your website
During the event give updates and rally latecomers
Go Live from you event
After the event, encourage guests to share photos or videos and thank people for coming and promote upcoming events
Whichever platform(s) you decide you want to use, make sure you can provide the best customer service possible.
Customer service doesn’t begin when the customer inquires about a purchase and it doesn’t end when the customer pays.
Customers will voice their questions, comments, and concerns on social sites. Take this as an opportunity to showcase your professionalism. Bad reviews can be damaging, but replying politely and offering a solution can change the way a review is remembered. Take a day or two to think about your response, reply positively, but don’t feed the “Trolls”.
“Did you know that when people reach out to a brand on social [media], over 50% expect a reply? How about that number climbing to over 75% when they’ve reached out with a complaint?”1
OK, so you’ve decided which sites you want to focus on, now what?
There are seven (7) key features you will want to focus on when it comes to branding your business as a destination.
Sharing programs and customer reviews
Social listening and organic target marketing
Creating content to entice and inform
Providing downloadable content
Engaging your followers
Paid advertisements, paid target marketing, and special events
Finding time to manage it all
#1 Sharing Programs and Customer Reviews
Customer reviews are so important! They can really make or break a business. You want real, honest, reviews from customers who love your amazing business. I found a long list—from Hub Spot6 – of places you can get reviews from, than I shortened that list to my suggestion which is listed on the right.
Amazon Customer Reviews
Google My Business
Yahoo! Local Listings
Better Business Bureau
Facebook Ratings and Reviews
Your Own Website
Google My Business
Yahoo! Local Listings
Facebook Ratings and Reviews
Your Own Website
Generating reviews is difficult though, isn’t it? Never, EVER limit yourself by not asking customers for reviews! 10 years ago it was “bad” to ask for a review but nowadays everyone knows a review can really help or hurt a business. However, and let me be clear about this, you have to go about it a certain way. It can be tricky asking for reviews. For one thing you don’t want potential customers thinking your reviews are incentivized or fake and for another, you don’t want to tarnish your customers experience by making them feel obligated to leave a review. It’s all in the way you go about doing it.
I encourage incentivized reviews though! Everyone loves free stuff, myself included, and I’m totally OK with being offered a free drink, appetizer, and so on to take time out of my busy day and leave a review. Just make sure that whatever you offer is WORTH it to the customer! Pick something that is cost effective to you and the customers find valuable. For example, a free drink might only cost you pennies but the client finds valuable because they are used to paying $1-5. Just choose your timing and placement wisely.
You probably don’t not want to ask for reviews on social media with incentives because past clients will see they lost out on something and new clients will think your reviews are forced. You do want to have signs in strategic places like registers and hallways, they can simple say “How are we doing?”
#2 Social Listening and Organic Target Marketing
Search your social sites for mention of your business, whether it be actual name dropping, hashtags you use, or related content because you want to listen for ways to interact with potential clients. You can use this tool to then target and optimize posts. You will want to analyze old posts as well so you can learn how to target and optimize future posts more effectively.
Another way you can use social listening is to rectify bad reviews. Lots of times, customers don’t feel comfortable writing an actual review but they want to vent to their followers. If you find a bad review about your business or services that wasn’t directly listed on your social site, reply nicely and offer some sort of incentive to return. The customer and their followers will see how amazing your customer service is!
Organic target marketing is the process in which you actually target users on posts without having to pay for advertisement. You can target all of your posts on Facebook right as you post them. You can also exclude specific users. Excluding users in a post doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Yes, it is what Mark Zuckerberg was in court for recently, and yes, it does suck if you use it to be mean to certain groups of people, but what you should use it for is targeting those who are interested in your business and exclude those who are not. For example, if your business is looking to drum up travelers for off road motor sports, like Bundy Hill Off Road, you would exclude users in your county. On a flip side you would target travelers coming from a nearby county because your intent is to get travelers outside your area.
And lastly, remember to consider who you’re speaking to. Don’t post travel tips about your destination unless they apply to the folks you’re marketing to. You wouldn’t post family friendly travel activity ideas if you were targeting couples for romantic getaways.
#3 Creating content to entice/inform
On the sites you manage you want content that will entice and inform potential visitors. This information should lead them to your business because you will have won them over with your valuable content. It will set the precedent that you’re in the business of informing others and not necessarily looking to sell them something.
Different ways to post on Facebook:
Share a photo or video: Upload photos/videos, Create photo album, Create a photo carousel, Create slideshow, Create a canvas
Advertise your business: Boost a post, Set up an ongoing promotion, Promote your app, Promote your business locally, Promote your page, Get more users, Get more website visitors, Get more customer contacts
Different ways to post on Instagram:
Make a Collage of Images for Your Profile
Provide the Story Behind the Image
Show a Truly Unique Angle of Your Product
Let Your User-Generated Content Shine (social listening comes in handy!)
Give a History Lesson or Throwback
User Teasers to Promote a New Release
Ask a Question That Drives an Answer
Get Your Audience Laughing – but not too much, sometimes these can be over used and can start to appear (IMHO) to be forced or faked
Create a Video Theme or Series
Get an Influencer to Take Over
Build Content Around a Hashtag
Use Content to Drive Readers to a Blog Post
Highlight Co-Marketing Efforts Find full descriptions of each of these ideas here: sproutsocial.com7
Create an offer: Add expiration, In-store or online, Add promo code, Add terms and conditions, Start a live video, Get phone calls, Publish a job post. Help people find your business, Create an event, Write a note, Create a poll
#4 Providing downloadable content
Whenever it makes sense, offer free downloadable content that tie into your business and your information. You don’t have to give away your most trusted information but there is always something you have to offer to potential customers that is not going to break your bank; maps of the area, flyers of other local attractions, tips, How Tos, etc.
#5 Engaging your followers
This is the hardest part – engaging with your followers. Entrepreneurs are really good at what they do but might not be so great at promoting it. They might also find technology challenging or undesirable. Then you take all the algorithms, market saturation, and busy schedules and throw them into the mix and you find yourself stuck. So unless you are someone who wants to spend all their time on social media coming up with valuable content and end up spending all day attached to your phone, this can be a challenge.
My suggestion? Don’t give up and don’t get discourage! Ask people to be honest with you about your content and posting habits, and don’t forget that Facebook isn’t designed for you to use for free – they want you to pay! And that leads me to my next point:
#6 Paid advertisements and special events
Paying for ads on social media is the bomb diggity right now! It’s still relatively cheap and the targeting options are phenomenal. Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram have to make money somehow. Their users are their product, we have to pay for them if we want to see our numbers rise.
However, “Likes” and followers do NOT equal sales. If you see a competitor having thousands more Likes than you, than ask yourself if you NEED more business. If the answer is yes, than take a step back and look at the big picture. Make sure your product, the process in which you operate, and you and your staff are all where they need to be according to your brand. If they are, than you should consider advertising on soc