What travel and leisure marketers can learn from history’s greatest social media screw ups.

August 8, 2012

6 of my favorite history lessons from the biggest social media screw ups of the still-young century.

1.  April 2004:  A blogger picks a Kriptonite lock using a Bic pen.

Social Learning:  Kriptonite (and the rest of us) learned that news travels a lot faster on the internet, and failing to respond can be costly.  By the way, Kriptonite ended up spending $15 million on a product recall.

2. June 2006: Dell’s reputation goes up in smoke when Gizmodo publishes a photo of an exploding laptop.

Social Learning:  Dell learned the power of a single incriminating photo spread across the internet, and the importance of responding quickly to negative news spread virally.

Dell was forced to recall more than 4 million laptop batteries. And quickly got its social act together.

3. January 2007:  Jet Blue passengers who are stranded on the runway for 8 hours film (and post) their ordeal.

Social Learning:  Jet Blue got the significance of these actions right away, and CEO David Neelman immediately crafted and posted an apology on YouTube.

And taught the rest of corporate America how to own up to a screwup online, in real-time.

4. August 2008:  In one of the first documented cases of Twitter-squatting, “Janet from ExxonMobil” creates a fake corporate Twitter account.

Social Learning:   This incident taught giants of industry across many categories that you ignore social media at your own peril.

5. A Twitter army of angry  moms swarms a sassy Motrin commercial aimed at moms, and forces Johnson and Johnson to apologize.

Social Learning:  A small group of influential Tweeters can use the megaphone of social media to get a giant company’s attention.

6.   United ignores passenger Dave Carroll’s pleas to fix a guitar the airline damaged in transit, and becomes the butt of Dave’s popular protest video.

Social Learning:  United learned that it’s a lot cheaper to fix a disgruntled passenger’s broken guitar than a reputation damaged by 9 million views of a viral video.

There are 31 more social mistakes of monumental consequence documented in a recent SMI presentation. You can view the entire presentation on Slideshare.


10 travel destinations share their Facebook marketing secrets

June 26, 2012

The Grand Junction CVB offered a Facebook coupon for a local vineyard.

10 easy-to-implement suggestions to increase engagement from CVBs and resorts around the country

How do successful travel and destination brands keep their Facebook fans engaged every day?

To find out, we studied the Facebook pages of CVBs and destinations around the country. Here are 10 tips from some of our favorites:

1. Ask fans to name their favorite attraction.

Branson, Missouri got 30 likes and a couple dozen comments after posting this question.

2. Offer your current fans an incentive to help you attract new fans.

Glenwood Springs, CO  gave away free passes to a local attraction and a night in a local hotel if their fans would spread the word and help them pass the 6,000 fan mark.

3. Give them a coupon from a local merchant.

Our client Grand Junction, CO, which positions itself as the epicenter of Colorado Wine Country, offered their Facebook fans this coupon for a local vineyard.

 4. Offer them a gift card to shop at your stores.

During the holiday season, Downtown Boulder, CO offered a $500 gift card good at participating local merchants.

5. Use a TV news-style video to report on upcoming events.

Once a week, Estes Park, Colorado puts out a news-style video with an anchorperson reporting on events for the upcoming weekend.

6. Post a QR code linking to deals at local merchants.

Estes Park recently posted this QR code that links to a local jewelry store’s deals.

7. Post a newspaper or magazine article, and ask for feedback.

VisitDenver recently posted this article from a local magazine, 5280 on Denver neighborhoods, then asked its followers if they agreed with 5280’s characterizations of each neighborhood.

8. Invite your fans to give you ideas for your annual travel guide.

The New York Tourism Board invites their Facebook fans to share their favorite places to stay and shop, and promises to include a few in an upcoming edition of the New York State Travel Guide.

9. Invite locals to post their videos of local scenery and activities.

Our client Wind River Country recently posted this video from a local video production house featuring heart-pumping footage of prime local snowmobile terrain.

10. Offer a giveaway from one of your sponsors.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort got their sponsors Subaru and Marmot to put up the money for this giveaway.

Those are a few examples of what other destinations are doing. Now tell us what’s working for you.


Travel and leisure marketing: The latest research on increasing your Facebook engagement rates

June 20, 2012

Your Facebook fans will “like” you more if you follow a few simple guidelines.

To get more fans to engage with your travel and leisure brand’s Facebook page, answer these 5 questions.

Buddy Media recently did a study of the Facebook engagement rates of 200 of their best clients.  Their findings will help you answer 5 questions most travel and leisure marketers have about this subject:

  1. What are the best times to post?
  2. How long should my posts be?
  3. What days should I post?
  4. What words will drive the most “Likes” and Comments?
  5. What words and phrases drive the highest engagement rates?

1. When should I post?

  • 60% of posts analyzed by the study were published between 10 am and 4 pm.
  • Yet brands that posted before or after business hours achieved engagement rates 20% higher than the average.

2. How long should my posts be?

  • The Buddy Media report found that the shorter the post, the more fans read it.
  •  In fact, posts of 80 characters or less had a 27% higher engagement rate. Ironically, they only accounted for 19% of all posts.

3. What’s the best day to post?

  • The Buddy Media study found that the less people want to be at work the more they are on Facebook!
  • For the Travel and Hospitality industry, Buddy Media found that the highest engagement rates occur on Thursday and Friday. On average, they are 18% higher on those days.
  • The lowest engagement rates occurred on weekends and Wednesdays.

4. What are the best words to use to drive “Likes” and Comments?

  • The Media Buddy study found that direct requests work the best.
  • To drive “Likes” or Comments,  just ask directly for them to “like” your page, or comment on your post.
  •  The study found that “Liking” a post or page requires the least amount of effort, and if you tell them to do it they will.
  • Key words that scored the best were simple action words: “Like”, “Take”, “Submit”, “Watch”, “Click”, “Post”, “Become a Fan”, “Share”, “Watch”, “Visit”.

5. What are the best words and phrases to use to drive the highest engagement rates?

  • When running a contest or other promotion, soft sell keywords work better.
  • Use words like “event” and “winning.” Avoid more direct words like “contest” or “promotion.”
  • Ask questions. Posts that end with a question have a 15% higher engagement rate.
  • Questions that start with “Where” ,”When”, “Would” and “Should” have the highest engagement rates. Questions that start with “Why” have the lowest engagement rates.

You can download the complete Buddy Media report here. Then tell us what’s working to drive engagement rates of your travel and leisure brand.


Travel and leisure marketing: 5 ways to build your email database with your Facebook fans.

October 26, 2011

Many travel and leisure brands are using special offers on their Facebook pages to grow their fan  and email bases.

Michael Redbord recently posted some excellent ideas on building your email database online on Hubspot.  The key to success is to develop compelling offers that provide real value for your visitors.

Most of these ideas work equally well as a Facebook only offer. Just be sure to keep the offer out of reach by placing it behind a registration page.

1. Educational offers

These work best for B2B brands and other highly considered purchases like high-ticket leisure or enthusiast brands.  eBooks, White papers,  buyers guides, fact sheets and checklists are the most popular.

2.  Free stuff

Everyone loves the excitement of getting something for free. Right now, giving away a free iPad seems to buy you just about any fan you want. Promote contests, giveaways, quizzes, and surveys.

3. Coupons and Deals

Small incentives can create a large impression of value from fans. Use dollars or percentage off offers.  Also try free shipping, bundled deals and time sensitive discounts.

4. Events

Events can create huge engagement because it requires them to show up at a certain place at a certain time, even if that place is online. Offer webinars, off-site events like charity events and in-store events.

5. Calculators and Configurators

Customers love to calculate their savings or configure their custom-made product or give a grade to their current set up of a product at home. Just consider what would be most valuable to your Facebook fans.

What would you add to this list?  Anything you’d subtract?

Want more ideas?  Check out Michael’s awesome Hubspot post 21 Awesome Ideas to Grow Your Email List.


Travel marketing: Southwest Airlines shares its social media flight plan.

September 26, 2011

The Southwest social team uses a collaborative approach with internal and external partners.

A Southwest social media team member shares 6 strategies from their social media playbook.

Southwest Airlines communications specialist Laurel Moffat spoke recently at an AMA event in Kansas City.

Laurel shared 6 cornerstones of the Southwest social strategy every leisure marketing specialist focused on social media should study:

1. Listen first, talk later. The Southwest team has found that if you listen first, you can discover what content is meaningful and relevant for your audience.

2. Personalize the experience for your audience. Southwest team members sign their names to Facebook posts, share content customers are already thinking about, and localize content.

One example of localizing content:  Southwest maintains different Facebook pages devoted to fans at 20 different airports.

Southwest sends content like this to passengers on topics they are already thinking about.

3. Staff appropriately to manage your online community. The Southwest has a social media team of 5 people. Together, they monitor and communicate  with:

  • Visitors to their website, which receives 12 million monthly visits.
  • A Twitter feed with 1 million followers.
  • A Facebook page with 1.3 million Likers.
  • A YouTube channel that’s had over 5 million views.
  • An online travel guide.

This team monitors Southwest’s online presence 24/7, including hourly check ins at night, with two people trading responsibilities on major outposts.

The social team worked with Southwest's internal marketing group and an external agency partner to design this Facebook app.

4. Use a collaborative approach to your social strategy. The Southwest social media team collaborates in five ways:

  1. Internally with marketing, who create the look and feel for their social pages, the communications team who drive content,  and the legal and investor relations departments.
  2. Internally with customer service; emerging media team members are cross trained in customer service so they can address customer service questions directly, as they arise.
  3. Internally with Southwest employees, through a social media club, and the BlogCon conference to train them in social media and content creation.
  4. Externally with partners like Buddy Media for their social media platform and  VML for their external digital marketing needs.
  5. Externally with key influencers including travel bloggers, brand fanatics, avid travelers.

5. Let your social community decide what they like. The Southwest social team doesn’t try to predict or control what kinds of content their online community will like, and are constantly surprised by what their community looks at.

One example:  A video on the Southwest ground crew cleaning an engine is one of the most popular videos on the Southwest YouTube channel.

6. Fix your brand first, then launch your social media. When they first got into social media, Southwest had a few stumbles.

But it was ok because they had a strong brand with loyal customers. If their brand had been weak, some of those stumbles could have been disastrous. Learning:  Fix your brand, then dive into social media.

What have you noticed about Southwest’s approach to social media that Laurel didn’t address in her talk? What are they doing right? What would you like to see them change?

Thanks to Mike Brown from the Brainzooming Group for his excellent summary post of this event on Social Media Today, and the example Southwest email, which Mike used in one of his recent talks.



Leisure marketing: Haven’t run a Facebook ad yet? Maybe you should wait.

February 18, 2011

Advertisers will spend double what they did last year on Facebook ads. But are they getting their money’s worth?

Webtrends just completed a study that determines how effective Facebook ads are.

All told, advertisers will spend $4 billion on Facebook ads this year, more than double the total from last year. But is it worth the cost?

Web analytics company Webtrends analyzed over 11,000 Facebook campaigns and measured Click Through Rates (CTR), Cost Per Click (CPC), Cost Per Thousand (CPM) and Cost Per Fan (CPF).

The verdict:  Costs are up, click through rates are down.

  • From 2009 to 2010, Web Trends estimates the CTRs for Facebook ads went down 19%, the CPC increased 81% and the CPM went up 41%.
  • The CTR declined from 0.063% in 2009 to 0.051% in 2010.
  • Ad rates increased from 17 cents per thousand impressions in 2009 to 25 cents per thousand in 2010.
  • By comparison, online display ad costs range from $2 to $8 per thousand on other sites, so Facebook ads are still a good deal comparitively.

Does that mean you shouldn’t advertise on Facebook?  Not necessarily.

  • Decreasing CTR and increasing CPC rates are a typical pattern for display ad networks, because the audience is becoming more savvy.
  • Ads are growing more expensive because many of them are sold through an auction system that’s getting increasing competition as more advertisers turn to Facebook.
  • Webtrends believes companies that get a head start by adding millions of fans now are going to end up spending much less money than other brands later.

Acquiring a fan is just the beginning of marketing on Facebook.

“On Facebook, the magic of marketing happens when brands activate their fans in ways that inspire people to share those messages with their friends.”

That’s according to Facebook spokesperson Brandon McCormick who was recently quoted in an article on the subject by the Digits blog of the Wall Street Journal.

The Webtrends study also found that CTRs increased with age and gender.

  • Men and women ages 18-24 have the same CTRs, but women 55-64 are 16% more likely to click through than men of the same age.
  • The study confirmed earlier research by DDB which found that because people are on Facebook for fun, brands that are more fun to discuss on a social network do better.
  • That has translated into higher CTRs and lower CPCs for these more social brands.
  • The highest CTR and lowest CPC were registered by tabloids and blogs, media and entertainment brands, ecommerce and travel brands.

Other findings of the research:  Cost per fan, click through rates by gender and education, and faster ad burnout rates

  • The cost of advertising on Facebook to encourage a user to become a “fan” on the brand’s Facebook page is $1.07.
  • Facebook fans without a college education were more likely to click through to an ad as college educated visitors.
  • But fans who attended college are twice as likely to click through if a friend liked an ad.
  • Ad burnout is much higher on Facebook, with the typical life of an interest-targeted ad being 3-5 days.
  • Friend of fan targeting can increase the life of a Facebook ad by 2-3 times.

Have you started advertising on Facebook? If so, what kind of results are you getting? Have you increased or decreased your expenditures as a result?

You can find a copy of the Web Trends study here.


How Skittles used mob mentality to grow its Facebook fan base by 12 million people.

February 9, 2011

Skittles “Mob the Rainbow” Facebook-only campaign uses random acts of silliness to engage millions of new fans.

In case you haven’t noticed, America’s most powerful leisure brands are competing in a new kind of arms race.

It’s a race to arm their Facebook pages with millions of engaged fans.

One of the most aggressive players in this race is Skittles, which has enlisted digital agency Evolution Bureau (EVB), creator of the legendary “Elf Yourself” Office Max campaign to help win over America.

Even the Fan landing page is built to make you smile.

Together they launched the wildly successful “Mob the Rainbow” campaign.

  • Their goal is not just to engage Facebook fans, but to mobilize them by the tens of thousands to do random acts of kindness (and silliness).
  • For Valentines Day, Skittles asked its “mob” to send a Valentine to an parking enforcement officer they felt was deserving of some love.
  • 45,000 people joined the event, and a Skittles mob “representative” dressed in a cupid costume presented them (See video).

In another campaign, Skittles mobilized its mob to send a student to bowling college.

  • Skittles told its mob it would require 100,000 likes to generate a $10,000 scholarship.
  • Within a week, Skittles had reeived 150,000 likes.
  • And the student was on his way to bowling college.

A third promotion offered the winner a full-size Skittles vending machine.

Thousands of people participated by telling Skittles what they would be willing to do to win the machine.

Skittles offered a full-sized vending machine to the winner of this promo.

The results of the “Mob the Rainbow” campaign are breathtaking.

Skittles has quadrupled its Facebook fans from 1.75 million to 14 million in just six months.  And they now rank among the top 10 largest brand fan pages, according to eMarketer.

I can count 5 things EVB and Skittles are doing that other leisure brands are not.

1. They don’t just engage their fans, they invite them to participate in their antics.

2. They make it easy for fans to be a part of it all.

3.  They create random acts of kindness that fans can feel good about participating in.

4.  They make the events wildly creative and fun.

5. They reward their fans for participating with original videos, contests and free prizes.

Those are some of my observations about what Skittles is doing right. What have I missed?


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