Building a network online
On July 21 of 2010, social networking site Facebook topped 500 million members, or the combined population of North and Central America and then some… In a geographical context Facebook is as a virtual country, the third largest country in the world.
Last January that number was “only” 350 million and now in early November we’re looking at a possible slowdown with 530 million, give and take some undisclosed double registrations. Not even history’s biggest conquerors such as Attilla or Alexander the Great can boast these numbers.
Twitter is looking at 175 million users and YouTube has announced the latest upload data; every minute that passes, over 35 hours of video is uploaded to the video sharing website. In other words, YouTube gets over 50,400 hours (2,100 days worth) of new video content every day.
In my daily confrontations with customers and friends I keep insisting on not forgetting to put some effort in Twitter as most people don’t quite get the usefulness of Twitter. In today’s technology based world however I have learned to follow in the footsteps of those more in the know than I can possibly be. If Apple boss Steve Jobs interlinks his new iTunes baby “Ping” with Twitter, allowing Twitter users to connect their accounts to iTunes, than I know that mySpace is writing its obituary and Twitter has found its longterm momentum.
Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it a while back: “We didn’t design Facebook to be cool, we designed it to be useful.” Some 500 million people, 20% of which are homegrown USA, agree with that statement. As long as these subscribers trust that Facebook will treat their data info responsibly, there is no reason for the Internet success story (so far) of the 21st century to wane or collapse.
More than 30 billion pieces of content (including web links, blog posts, news stories, and photographs) are shared through the site each month and its members spend roughly 700 billion minutes there. The average Facebook user has 130 friends and is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events. And it’s not just the Y or Z Generations using Facebook. According to a study posted by Pingdom, a significant 61% of its users are over age 35, putting to rest the idea that Facebook is just for the youngest, most tech-savvy generations. Surprisingly, the average Facebook user today is 38 years old.
Here are some more interesting data:
•First Compare how forcefully Facebook overtook mySpace between October 2008 and October 2010
Skyrocket on the Internet
• Another interesting piece of information is that Facebook has about 1/3 of the US population as subscribers, but even that accounts only for less than 20% of its total global subscriber base.
Imagine that countries such as Indonesia, Turkey and Malaysia rank high on their list. Also imagine how important this could be for travel and tourism attraction.
This was the status in January of 2010
Travel and Hospitality
The personal pages on Facebook are pretty much leveraged, yet many of the business pages are having a hard time getting people to “like” them. I get the remarks quite often that business owners either don’t have the time, the technical or creative knowledge or the belief that being active in social networking makes a difference for their business. Especially in the hospitality industry there is a major disconnect. So here are a few observations that apply… thankfully not all, as some hoteliers and innkeepers do a splendid job.
For those who don’t, here are some suggestions:
1. Your posts are boring because you’re doing all the talking.
Get your customers involved and ensure they feel a part of your hotel community. The dictionary defines community as “a group of people with a common background or with shared interests within society.” Encourage your guests to post comments, pictures and videos of their stay at your hotel. A successful Facebook page listens to and actively engages its customer with organized, quality content and brand new, up-to-date information from not only its administrator but also its followers. How well do you know your customers? Are you asking them what they like, what they need, what they want?
2. You put a GPS in your car, so why not on your Social Media?
Why don’t you have a social media roadmap? If you don’t have a map, electronic or otherwise, chances are you won’t make it to your destination, especially if it’s in an unfamiliar area. Social media works the same way. No plan and, before you know it, you’re lost. Every marketing plan should have a section dedicated to web presence and social media. Here, by outlining your objectives, you can coordinate your marketing efforts and cross-utilize the various social media applications that will work best for each of your targeted market segments. It is essential to know what you plan to do, how you plan to do it and, most important of all, why you are doing it in the first place. All many people know for sure is that they should be participating in social media because everyone else is. This reasoning didn’t work with your mom and it won’t work here.
3. You’re pretty much just like everyone else.
There are more than 5 million active Facebook business pages. How do you stand out from all of the others? Avoid using Facebook simply to post all of the packages you have on your website. That’s generally a Romance package, Bed and Breakfast package and a Shopping package. You’re getting bored already? Give your followers special perks and discounts that they can’t get anywhere else. What about a free upgrade for the first 10 people that redeem the coupon?
4. You have not given your Guests a reason to keep you in their primary news feed.
Remember “If you build it, they will come.” Step in your customers’ shoes and take a long, honest look at your business page. Are the posts lively, compelling, unique, timely? There’s nothing more deadly than a dull Facebook page. If you take photos of your followers attending events at your hotel, tag them. Most people have notifications that deploy an alert when they have been tagged in a photo album. Make the most of your page’s tab settings by distributing special offers and coupons or holding contests and sweepstakes (be sure to follow Facebook’s full terms and conditions). The idea of winning something, anything, is a great incentive to keep fans coming back for more, not to mention attracting new fans. Reward your loyal supporters and don’t forget to remind your users to like and share.
5. Don’t even get a Facebook page if you can’t commit the time to work it.
There are enough excuses around why people can’t commit. My advice is don’t do it if you can’t commit! Your Facebook page is a daily commitment, so if you aren’t ready, don’t go there. For business pages there is a direct correlation between frequency of posts and number of followers. If you strive for one post per day, you’re on track to creating a successful page. Watch the activity on your page and post when your followers are most active, usually between mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Don’t know what to post? There is a story in everything, just mix it up with observations, tips, travel-related topics, breaking news and, without fail, open-ended questions to inspire observations from your followers.
Remember that if you want to be liked, you have to be likeable. Show your personality and have fun with your page. It will create that sense of community so essential to social networks.
Oh and by the way, there are other social media sites to support your business…
Beginning of this month, LinkedIn rolled out its new Company Pages, enabling businesses to develop more robust presence on the site, as well as more control over those pages. Here is some information to help you take advantage of these new features.
Setting up a company page is free and the news is that LinkedIn added tabs that businesses will be able to populate with information at will: Careers and Products & Services (services previously at a cost) .On Company Pages, administrators can add content to the Products & Services tab and each brand will have a greater extent of control over what is displayed on their pages. These various products’ lists will be able to be showcased dependent upon which industry category your LinkedIn account is a part of. Businesses can also modify their pages to display the strongest recommendations to prospective customers in an attempt to exhibit the trust in their brand and accelerate the growth of their product.
Companies can also add videos of products and services to their pages and feature particular products more prominently than others. In turn, LinkedIn members can recommend and review a product or service on a company profile and their recommendations will surface on their own profiles as well. Company Pages will list the people who have recommended a particular product as well.
Five Days in January.
I would not be surprised to learn that you are confused and overwhelmed by the options and opportunities vs. the amount of time available to commit to a well laid out social media action plan.
If you are interested in learning how you can, you may keep the week of January 17-21 open for a very special “Five Days in January” program that team SearchAmelia is conducting at Amelia Hotel at the Beach, in which you will walk in with limited or no knowledge of an internet presence and social media plan, and walk out with a completely optimized internet business you are in absolute control of.
Among many other features the program includes a segment that explains and sets you up for Hootsuite, a social media dashboard for individuals and teams (companies) using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and more.
Stay tuned for details next week.