NB: This is a guest post by Kate Waite of Dot Tourism, a digital branding and online marketing agency.
As we all know, Twitter is a fantastic and still growing tool for travel brands looking to communicate with potential customers.
Unlike Facebook – despite its enhancements over the past six months or so – with Twitter you can engage with people before they follow you, and you can search for people actively talking about your destination and join in with the conversation.
Twitter has been on the scene for a few years now, but with the travel industry, perhaps more than any other, constantly looking to make the most of the opportunities that social media presents, best techniques for doing so change frequently.
It is always worth remembering that word of mouth, positive reviews and user generated content remain key motivating factors for consumers looking to book their next break.
The brands using social media successfully are well aware of this, and the need to come across as human and approachable to the community.
Here are ten quick tips to help you get started, get you back on track, or simply help you improve your Twitter marketing strategy.
1. Designing your profile
The first thing to get correct is your public face. Make sure your profile is set up with a relevant bio, distinctive avatar and a custom background. Well designed, complete profiles attract far more followers and show that you are serious about your Twitter presence.
Ideally your avatar should be relevant to your company. On DayTripFinder, it uses Snuffles, the site mascot. If your logo is well recognised then use this, or alternatively if you are a tourist attraction or destination with a well known landmark or sight then this may also make a distinctive avatar for you.
Finally, a lot of people like to see that they are conversing with a person, so an image of the person who is doing most of the Tweeting is also a valid option as an avatar.
Make sure your bio contains information about what you do and include a link to your website. If you are very active on Twitter it will generate quite a few visits to your site as users you are communicating with check you out.
2. Finding your audience
A key part of your Twitter strategy will be finding and connecting with your audience. Followers are people who subscribe to your content and you want to build up a steady growth of them.
One of the primary ways to grow follows is to start following people yourself. A percentage of them will take a look at your profile and follow you back if you look interesting to them.
There are a number of ways to find people who may be interested in your brand, and therefore more likely to follow back. You can look to follow followers of other similar brands or destinations.
For example if you are a hotel in a specific location you could reach out to followers of other hotels nearby, or those of your local tourist board or significant attractions. These people are likely to have an existing interest in what you are offering and you will find a higher percentage follow you back.
Donâ€™t forget also your own existing audiences, reach out to customers on your newsletters, blog and other social media platforms and encourage them to join you on Twitter. Just adding your Twitter profile to your email signature can be an effective way of gaining new followers.
You can also search active conversations on Twitter so you can monitor any tweets with a particular keyword or keyphrase. HootSuite is a great free tool for setting up and managing searches.
So if, for example you have a search set up for “Goa holiday” you might see a tweet from somebody asking for advice on where to stay as they are planning their next trip. You can jump into the conversation, replying to them directly with advice and an all important link to your website.
3. Tweeting and creating conversations
You will want to tweet about news and useful bits of information. Keep your tweets short (less than the 140 characters) to make it easy for people to retweet. It is a great place to share news about your destination, activities going on and just general tips and advice.
Remember your audience is following you because they are (hopefully) interested in your brand and/or destination so stay on topic .
In addition to your own tweets help create conversation by retweeting other peoples messages. Scan your feed or look through feeds of searches you have set up and jump into anything relevant to your feed. Somebody posted a great picture of your location? Retweet it and ask them about it.
People join Twitter to talk and share information so make sure you are instigating great examples of this to encourage them to engage with your brand.
4. Timing your activity
First of all it is important to look at frequency. Twitter is immediate and conversations move fast. You should be tweeting as frequently as possible, preferably every day.
Look at your feed to see when your followers are most active and monitor when you get the most retweets and replies to work out the best time of day for your activity.
Generally speaking there is most activity around lunchtime and towards the end of the working day.
You can schedule your tweets to help spread out your activity throughout the day or set up tweets when you will be out of the office, HootSuiteÂ again is a useful tool for this.
5. Understanding #Hashtags
You will see the use of hashtags to mark keywords or topics in their tweets, a form of tagging content. They provide a way of gathering related content or making it easy for users to find tweets about specific things. For example, a specific hashtag may be assigned by the community for an event or news item.
If your tweet is relevant to a particular hashtag it is well worth making use of it to expand your audience reach to those following the topic.
Within travel there are a number of well used hashtags, for example @LonelyPlanet asks people to tag relevant, interesting travel posts with their hashtag #LP and retweet their favourites. Another popular travel hashtag is #TTOT which stands for travel talk on twitter and is a social media travel event that takes place every week.
6. Be part of the community
There are plenty of scheduled Twitter chats (such as the #ttot mentioned above) and finding chats relevant to your brand and joining in is a great way to engage with the community.
Donâ€™t take part with a view to pushing out promotional messages as that will only alienate the audience you want to connect with, instead join in with talks that are highly relevant to you, and be genuine.
Join the conversation, be natural and donâ€™t try to manipulate it. You will earn far more respect, and followers.
7. Communicating with customers
Be proactive about listening to your customers and engage with any mentions of your brand happening on Twitter.
If you receive a question do your best to answer it or direct the customer to a place where they can find further information, whether that is on your site or a phone number so they can get some help.
If you get a positive comment then make sure you reply and broadcast it to your community (for example openly thank somebody for a great review with a link back to it).
If you get a negative comment then deal with it before the situation escalates. Reply to the user, let them know you are listening, that you are sorry they have had a bad experience and offer them a way to contact you directly to take it out of the public stream.
Users seeing you respond quickly to complaints will build up an image of a brand that cares and is genuinely helpful and open with their customers.
8. Automated versus personal
There are tools that allow you to set up automated tweets and automated replies when somebody follows you. It is important that you use any automated services carefully as people want to follow other people, not automated bots.
Other services will allow you to set up a pool of tweets which can be sent out at specified intervals, which is useful for keeping your feed active at times you are unable to monitor it.
Ultimately Twitter is about listening as well as talking so use any automation with care and ensure it is mixed in with plenty of real conversations.
9. Learning from the competition
Donâ€™t forget to have a look at your competitors feeds. Look at their activity and see what content gets a good response, and what goes largely unnoticed. You can set up a search for your competitorâ€™s username to see what the community are saying about them and to spot any opportunities that arise as a result.
Approach with caution, for example if you are a hotel and spot a tweet to a competitor asking about availability or room information, the user might not appreciate you jumping in directly with a sales pitch.
But bide your time, if you see they arenâ€™t answering customers questions (perhaps looking for a restaurant recommendation) then offer your advice. Stick to the principles of being helpful and genuine to avoid being seen in a negative light.
10. What next for brands on Twitter?
A few months ago Twitter announced that they would be launching new profile designs for brand pages. At present only a few brands have been invited to try the enhanced profile but we can expect to see this launched this year.
The new profile gives you more control and flexibility on how to showcase your brand with a banner across the top of your page offering valuable promotional space.
You will also be able to pin a Tweet to the top of your timeline, making it the first thing visitors see.
Of the companies invited to try out the enhanced profile, the only travel brand taking part is @JetBlue so check out their new profile page. You can find out more about the new profile design and features at fly.twitter.com.
NB:Â This is a guest post by Kate Waite ofÂ Dot Tourism, a digital branding and online marketing agency.