Social media expertise needed as the market gets complicated

Social media expertise needed as the market gets complicated

For three years from 2014-17, I looked after a lot of social media accounts. It was the phase where travel companies knew they had to have social, but had no idea where to start.

So they called on Mark, my business partner and I, to help out, to set out a strategy, to set up the channels and find the staff within the company who would be good at creating content.

The work dried up a year ago, because by then every self-respecting travel and tourism company had an Instagram, Facebook and Twitter account and were creating posts themselves.

Job done? Of course not. In many cases, the work of creating (good) content was left to one or two people. Only in the larger companies, who knew what they wanted from their platforms, were structure and ROI (return on investment) taken more seriously.

The folly in not building a sustainable and progressive social media policy is now evidenced, thanks to Facebook’s quantum algorithm shift.

That shift saw Facebook users seeing more posts from friends rather than public pages, a move which seriously hit publishers who had grown dependent on Facebook. Traffic is estimated to be down 20%.

At a conference last week, the inability of companies to react swiftly to such changes was succinctly put by one publishing executive: “We as a [publishing] industry haven’t invested enough in social media managers. In traditional media, we still treat them as kids and pretend we can do it all.

“But we can’t. We need to invest more in graduates and the skills to make publishing to platforms work better,” said the same executive.

The same conference heard that Twitter is making a comeback for referring traffic in the wake of Facebook’s change. Pinterest also wants to create more content, shifts that demand the full attention of an in-house social media/marketing manager.

Such a person now needs to have a range of skills: how to spend on Facebook advertising well and demonstrate ROI; to understand how to produce video economically and effectively, and how to embrace and use data, among other subjects.

And they need to have one overriding skill: how to tell a story well, and make compelling content. Not just fill space on a daily basis with no theme, thread or consistency. We’re all publishers now and travel brands are no different.

But there’s no need to panic! As Digiday quoted an executive last week: “The smartest publishers are the ones who aren’t 100% sure what they are going to do, the ones that will test out 10 different new things over the next few months and see what works.”

So true. Yes, we need to hone our Instagram strategy, but not leap to that channel at the expense of Facebook. Or dump video because it’s too expensive, or go wholesale into Snapchat. Because each channel will change direction to best suit themselves, not you.

Work out where your customers are, and work out how to engage with you. And find a social media marketing manager to do it for you.

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Steve Keenan has been a travel journalist for 25 years. He started at a Reed paper, news editing at Travel News in London - now Travel Weekly - having spent a decade reporting general news in the UK and abroad. He also taught English in Peru, delivered cars in the USA, ran the Sydney desk at AAP and took the train home from Hong Kong. He left Travel News in 1990 to freelance for several publications, including The Times of London, which he later joined as deputy travel editor. In December 2004, he became the first national digital travel editor in the UK, running the combined travel website of The Times and Sunday Times. The introduction of a paywall at the papers in 2010 persuaded him that the connected world might continue outside of Wapping and he left to co-found Travel Perspective. The company runs the social media seminars at World Travel Market London, and works with Reed Expos and others in helping the travel and tourism industry best communicate stories in all forms of publishing.

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