By Gathan D. Borden, CHDM
Social media is no longer a function that solely lives in the marketing communications departments. And social media is no longer an afterthought in the travel cycle. Throughout their travels, social media fills a potential traveler’s void by offering before-market inspiration with photos and stories, in-market conversations with advice and tips and after-market distribution by sharing the traveler’s experience.
As destination marketing organizations, we are being asked to do more with less, and while sometimes that can be viewed as a negative, I view it as an opportunity to showcase how creative and flexible our organizations can be, to adapt to the ever-changing traveler who is now mobile. Social media allows us to connect with travelers in a myriad of ways, and we all should be using different channels for different purposes. Trying to stay abreast of the changes within both the travel industry and social media space can be a daunting task, and we cannot do it alone. Some of us opt to try and do it ourselves, some of us work in teams and others utilize an outside agency. In Louisville, we have opted to use all internal staff for our social media functions, and I am a strong believer that using in-house staff is not only a great way to market your destination via social media, but also a key way to gain organizational buy-in. I have organized a team of 11 people from various roles within the CVB to handle our social media efforts. Our team consists of people from sales, services, tourism development, partnership and marketing communications – and we all come together to do one thing and that is to promote Louisville.
I am in no way telling destination marketing organizations that they should not use agencies to help them create and administer their destination pages on social media. However, I am providing you with an alternative, in the case where you either (a) can’t handle the social media all by yourself along with your other destination duties or (b) you don’t have the budget to hire and retain an agency. So, without further ado, here are my ten steps to help you develop your internal social media team:
- Find someone to carry the torch. To organize cross-functional team within your organization, you need one person who takes on the leadership role of organizing, setting strategy, developing tactics and measuring performance.
- Develop a social media policy. Before anyone jumps into the world of social media, you need to develop a social media policy that will protect the organization, protect the employees and provide direction on how to communicate effectively on social media.
- Find people who love social, regardless of their organizational role. You can teach people how to use social media, if they love it. But you can’t teach people to love social media if they are not active on it. Finding people who love it, brings synergy to the team.
- Use social networks from a personal perspective before developing a brand presence. Never sign up for a brand account until you play around with it personally. We oftentimes get excited with new technologies and dive into them without setting a strategy to see where it fits in the overall social media plan.
- Divide workload amongst the team’s strengths. Cross-functional teams work because everyone brings their strengths to the table. Find out what networks people are good at and love, then empower them to grow it.
- Set aside time for face-to-face meetings. At a minimum, quarterly meetings will allow you to get re-energized with the team, address issues and have conversations about ideas that can’t be done over email. These meetings are ideal for content planning sessions.
- Provide updates and milestones to the organization. Social media is sometimes seen as an invisible task, so make every effort to keep the organization aware of the progress and successes you are making. Recognizing the team in front of the organization creates goodwill amongst the team.
- Report on key metrics and performance to management. All management is different, so find out what they are looking for, and in your reporting make those areas stand out so that they can see your progress.
- Set goals to expand your social presence. Every year, you should set goals to become better at a network or to add one more network to your social media portfolio.
- Always keep your mobile device handy. You never know when you will run across good content, so always keep your mobile device handy. Just because you take a photo or video doesn’t mean you have to use it at that exact moment. As a marketer, you should already know what your destination story is, so when you see stuff, capture it and save it for a rainy day.
Organizing an internal social media team can be difficult, as you will deal with different levels of education and differing personalities, but once you get everyone on the same page, it will prove to be one of the most valuable communication teams and tools that your organization will ever use. Do you think you will try to organize your own team now?
Our guest blog comes from the desk of Gathan D. Borden, Director of Brand Marketing and Advertising for the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau. In this role, he is responsible for the overall advertising, branding, marketing and social media strategies for the city of Louisville’s travel and tourism promotion. Borden is a past and current speaker at eTourism Summit.