Do we underestimate the culture change needed for success?

The learning and culture change never stop (courtesy kris krug on Flickr CC)
The learning never stops (courtesy kris krug on Flickr CC)

I am trying to get more comfortable with the how-to of business sales, so I subscribe to Anthony Iannarino’s Sales Blog newsletter. I met him years ago at a conference when he was just starting his blog, and I appreciate his approach to salesmanship, which is less about pushing people to buy in order to make your sales numbers, and more about showing customers how your product or service will help them solve a problem.

After all, if you aren’t actually selling things, you won’t be in business for very long.

Getting over my own reluctance to learn how to be a better salesperson is an ongoing project, but it starts with my attitude and commitment.

A quote in one of Anthony’s newsletters caught my attention:

“We spend too little time actually exploring and building an understanding of what our client is doing and why they are struggling. We are too focused on selling our solution, when more often than not, there are real changes the client must make to produce the results they need. We are negligent in not trying to understand the root cause of their issues, and that is often what is really necessary for producing the result they need.”

“Look at a deal you are working on now and tell me how much work you have done to understand their competitive strategy and measured it against what is going on in the world right now. I am not suggesting you do a full SWOT analysis on every client, but real discovery means getting a fuller picture of where they are now and whether or not they are keeping pace or lagging the constant, accelerating, disruptive change that is the new normal.”

“​What about the company’s culture? What impact is this going to have on the ability to produce the results the client needs?”

I’m in the business of social media marketing training, but over the years we’ve learned that it is not enough to just teach our tourism or hospitality clients about digital destination marketing through our workshops, online course, or webinars.

No matter how much time you invest in creating and delivering quality training materials, your customer still has to commit to absorbing them.

They have to be invested in, and fully committed to, their own learning – plus develop an online communications/publishing mindset – before they can really use digital tools effectively to tell their story and connect with visitors and guests.

That can mean a LOT of change for many people, and for their staff, their Board of Directors, and their tourism partners in the community as well.

Can our training actually change marketing behavior, and thereby lead to communications success in today’s world? We think so, but frankly, I’m not sure we’re explaining that well enough to prospective customers. Or, in other words, our sales pitch needs some work.

We recently finished a successful event speaking at a conference for travel consultants (the preferred term for today’s travel agents.) Many were ready to get right down to hiring us to teach them, which was a little surprising compared to the tourism industry, where there’s a long time between getting to know us and being ready to hire us.

We wondered why, then realized….in addition to a more flexible budget structure, many of these consultants have a sense of urgency.

If they don’t learn how to “fish where the fish are” – online and on social media – their businesses will fail. They know that, so they commit to their own learning a lot faster.

That’s our theory, at least.

Now we are thinking about ways to get other prospective customers to feel that sense of urgency (as the world of online communications rockets forward) and to commit to learning for the sake of their own success.

Does your product or service require a culture change or a certain kind of commitment in order to really make a difference? Let me know in the comments.

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Posted in Tourism Currents, Tourism Marketing on the Web, Web Communications | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to automate your network. Or not.

Automation meets human hand (courtesy Peter Kurdulija on Flickr CC)
Automation meets humanity (courtesy Peter Kurdulija on Flickr CC)

Someone asked me recently about different aspects of automating one’s online presence….automating content marketing, of course, but also “automating my network.”

Specifically, this person asked:

“What do you do to automate those [social media] post shares; guessing you are not doing it manually? How ‘networked’ are you insofar as your buddies doing RTs [retweet by followers] and similar? Is there any way to ‘automate your network’ to generate cross support? What seems most important in Twitter is that RT to generate leveraged visibility.”

“Generate leveraged visibility?”

Where do people FIND this terminology?

Anyway, my answer is below, since I’ve learned to be more efficient in re-purposing content. I took the time to think up and write out a response to a question, so it only makes sense to also turn it into a blog post.

Automating and Scheduling Social Media

My reminders to re-share blog posts are in my Google Calendar, which sends me reminders, but yes, I usually do my shares manually. On Twitter, which is the noisiest platform and therefore the hardest place to get traction, I share the post at a minimum:

  • on the day it’s published
  • the next day
  • the next week
  • one month later
  • 3 months later
  • 6 months later
  • 1 year later

Full credit for the bones of that schedule goes to this Kissmetrics blog post about getting more traffic by sharing more often on social media.

I generally time the shares for when followers are most active on that account, which varies across accounts – for Twitter, I get that data from Followerwonk.

The only social media I automate cross-posting for is my occasional Instagram photos shared to Twitter, using an IFTTT recipe so the photo shows up natively on Twitter (not sharing to Twitter via the Instagram app itself.)

I do schedule some social shares, using Buffer plus the built-in Facebook and TweetDeck schedulers. Buffer is the only service I’ve found for scheduling posts to a LinkedIn Company Page.

Here is the problem with trying to “save time” by automating….

Every social channel has its own culture and language. All those people sending their @ and # tweets automatically to LinkedIn, for example, look lazy and silly. They’re not speaking the language of LinkedIn. They’re merely ticking a box.

Automatically cross-posting across a bunch of social channels is never the right approach, any more than you’d share a radio spot on TV. It is wasting your impact in order to save piddly amounts of time.

Craft each tweet, post, etc. to fit the channel.

Automating My Network

I have zero interest in “automating my network.”

People do not want to be automated.

People are not interested in serving as my mouthpiece.

Yes, there are “Engagement Groups” where people interact with and thereby boost the visibility of each others’ social media posts. This is especially true on Instagram with Instagram Engagement Pods, which is why a lot of the “engagement” you see on some IG accounts is kinda fake, and there’s also something called Tailwind Tribes for Pinterest, but all of that is just not my style.

I did try a B2B-focused sharing effort via a private Facebook Group, but because my destination marketing/tourism specialty is relatively narrow, the posts that were put up for sharing wouldn’t have been a good fit.

When sharing on social, I always try to tag relevant people or brands that might be interested, and of course I hope they then share.

If I do make a specific personal request for a share, the results are pretty good, but I never want to overplay my hand. I’m pretty networked across social because I’ve been at it a long time (Twitter since 2007, for example) plus I bring value and don’t bug people with spammy stuff. No way will I risk that trust.

Want to guarantee eyeballs? Pay for social media sponsored posts and ads. It’s affordable and if the item is well-targeted, it works.

As always, there is no magic bullet. You have to do the work.

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Posted in Web Communications | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

A social media bio mistake that means no one can find you

Social media bio words count in search (courtesy jonhoward on Flickr CC)
Word (courtesy jonhoward on Flickr Creative Commons)

(Part of my “Better Online Content” series of posts: quick tips on creating more effective content that takes advantage of the social web’s unique publishing environment.)

This is a simple thing to check and fix on your Twitter and/or Facebook Page account bio.

Your account name, and the words in the text of your account bio/description, are all crawl-able by search engines. Those keywords should make it very clear who you are, and what you do.

Too often, I see a simple mistake….the account name is squished together and not separated into searchable words.

(“Squished together” is not the most elegant term, I know, but it explains the problem.)

For example, a New Mexico town’s CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau) Twitter handle might be @VisitSmithvilleNM, but you do not want the name of the account to also be VisitSmithvilleNM.

It needs to be Visit Smithville NM, not VisitSmithvilleNM, so that search engines will associate the account with Smithville, New Mexico.

I know it’s hard to believe that the lack of a few spaces makes that much of a difference to search engine bots and therefore, a destination’s online visibility, but it does.

Social media accounts have a lot of “Google juice” – they will always show up at the top of search results for a destination, attraction, hotel, or tourism partner business brand name.

Do yourself an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) favor, and make sure that your social media bio words are clear, separated, and searchable.

“Squished-together” account words make it harder for people to find you.

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Posted in Better Online Content series, Facebook, Twitter, Web Communications | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s the difference between a writer and a blogger?

Difference between writers and bloggers I'm so going to blog that SOBCON lanyard (photo by Sheila Scarborough)
I’m so going to blog that – lanyard from the late lamented SOBCON business blogging conference (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

This question came up in a Facebook discussion … what IS the difference between a writer and a blogger?

As someone who has been a blogger since early 2006 and a writer before that, here was my answer:

A writer writes.

A blogger:

  • Writes
  • Shoots photos
  • Shoots video
  • Operates online publishing software like WordPress
  • Knows how to distribute and promote his/her work via email, social media, and savvy SEO (Search Engine Optimization.)

I’m proud to call myself a blogger.

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Posted in Blogs, Web Communications | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

What even momentary Email Inbox Zero can teach you

Email inbox zero can bring clarity (courtesy Javier Morales on Flickr Creative Commons)
Clarity (courtesy Javier Morales on Flickr Creative Commons)

It’s a running battle for all of us, trying to quell the email beast.

All the best email management advice I’ve read can be summed up thusly:

  1. Stop the flow from coming in at all. Mercilessly unsubscribe from emails you don’t really want. Use phone calls or in-person meetings for complicated discussions.
  2. Keep unimportant, “nice to read” emails out of your main inbox by setting up filters to automatically route them into their own folders by topic. Read them when you have down time, not when they butt into your inbox on THEIR schedule, not yours.
  3. Do not use your inbox as a To Do list. Open an email, do something with it, and if more work on it is needed, move it into some sort of “work in progress” folder.
  4. Don’t forget to work on the items in the “work in progress” folder. You’ll need to adjust your workflow to get used to not working out of your main inbox.
  5. Batch process. Sit down and handle your emails for a set time, a few times a day, instead of a Pavlovian reaction/response to each one as it comes in, jerking you around hour after hour. Tip – Try to group them by sender,  then march through one by one. It’s easier on the brain to handle similar items/topics all at once.

I do pretty well with suggestions 1 and 2.

I am not making as much progress as I should on 3, 4, or 5, but I continue to try.

The tip about “group by sender, then march through them” has been a lifesaver for me.

Does it really matter if you achieve a relatively clean, empty inbox? A recent mistake showed me that indeed, it is a worthy goal to keep striving for.

Unintended Email Inbox Zero

I took some of my own advice from a Tourism Currents New Year’s productivity post about how to start the year off right, but by mistake I moved not just older emails, but every single one out of my inbox and into a Work In Progress folder.

Whoops.

They were all still there, nothing was lost, but I suddenly beheld the quiet, clean, slightly terrifying bliss of Inbox Zero.

You know the biggest benefit? Clarity.

In the days that followed, as new emails invariably flooded in, I was able to clearly see which ones mattered to me and which ones did not (there was a lot of unsubscribing going on.)

I could machine-gun through them pretty mercilessly, without ever feeling overwhelmed by a giant pile of things to read, reply to, make a decision about, etc.

Alas, since I have not taken my own advice to batch process, the pile has tended to build back up. Now that I’ve seen Nirvana and enjoyed a few days of sparkling email clarity, though, I’m not likely to give up on beating the inbox into submission.

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Posted in Life-hacking and Tips for Better Living, Web Communications | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

How to take 360 photos for Facebook using your phone

How to take 360 photos for Facebook like this one taken inside Magnolia in Waco TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)
Panorama 360 photo taken inside Magnolia in Waco, Texas (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

(Part of my “Better Online Content” series of posts: quick tips on creating more effective content that takes advantage of the social web’s unique publishing environment.)

For a more immersive online visual experience, you’ll be glad to know that it’s gotten a lot easier to shoot basic 360 degree photos with your phone, and then upload them to your brand/business Facebook Page, or personal profile.

In the photo above, I stood at the top of steps leading down into a big room, which helped with perspective. Even having people moving around as I was shooting didn’t cause any strange, blurry effects.

Check your phone camera setting for something named “Panorama” or similar, select it, then shoot in a slow, steady rotation from your far left to your far right, or far right to far left. The resulting photo will go into the photo gallery on your phone, but will have a little symbol on it, like a globe, that indicates it is panoramic.

Open your Facebook Page Manager app, select Add Photo, then pick that one, or do the same for your personal Facebook profile from the regular Facebook app. Facebook will then “auto-magically” post it, with a helpful little note on it to “Tilt or drag to look around” so viewers will know to use a finger to scroll the photo back and forth.

People won’t be able to look up and down as they would with a true 360 photo, but they will still feel as though they are standing right there in your destination, hotel, attraction, restaurant, or business.

There is a Facebook Group for 360 enthusiasts, and you can learn more (including about 360 video) on Facebook’s 360 microsite.

Is your tourism organization or partner business using 360 yet? What have you learned so far? Leave a comment below and let us know….

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Posted in Better Online Content series, Facebook, Photos and Images, Tourism Marketing on the Web, Web Communications | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Travel Post Friday: a guide to travel gift guides

Guide to gift guides when in doubt eat Texas pecans from Berdoll Pecan Candy and Gift Company near Austin TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)
Someone is getting this tin of Texas pecans from Berdoll Pecan Candy and Gift Company near Austin TX, but if I get too overwhelmed by Christmas shopping, I’ll probably eat them myself (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Holiday gift-giving was a lot easier when my Navy ships went on six-month deployments.

I’d do leisurely shopping for gifts in ports across Asia or Europe or the Middle East (depending upon where the ship was deployed and how much time I had off duty) and the biggest problem when I got home was finding a place to hide it all, time to wrap things, and not missing package shipping cutoff dates.

Even though I still travel a lot today as a civilian, I don’t seem to have as much interest or inspiration when I walk out of random conference centers or hotels.

If you’re like me and starting to get that “deer in the headlights” holiday feeling, I’ve got a round-up of gift round-ups here – 2016 gift guides from some of my favorite travel blogs.

Of course, the best option is to shop your local stores and support your local retailers (pay cash or check to save them the merchant credit card fees, too) but you can also use these gift guides to at least start a list and get moving….

**  Holiday Gift Guide for Families Who Love to Travel, from family travel experts Trekaroo.

**  2016 Holiday Gift Guide for Travel Lovers, from my longtime friend and “value luxury” travel specialist Mary Jo Manzanares.

**  Great, Affordable Gifts for Travelers from Jodi Ettenberg, former corporate lawyer & now with Legal Nomads. PS. If you’re a celiac traveler, her blog is a godsend.

**  2016 Travelers Gift Guide, from fun PR maven Angie Away.

**  The Tim Ferriss 2016 Holiday Gift Guide, from the 4-Hour Workweek/Body/Chef guy Tim Ferriss, who also has a new book, Tools of Titans.

**  A Holiday Gift Guide for Runners (and check out their tours while you’re there) from Wanderlust and Lipstick.

**  They don’t have a gift guide per se, but Practical Travel Gear is loaded with reviews and ideas.

Bonus Ideas

**  If you know someone who loves tea, my friend Andy’s Plum Deluxe tea subscription service might be just the thing.

**  When in doubt or totally stumped, try gifts under US$50 from Uncommon Goods. They have such a mix of offerings, you’re bound to find something that works.

Best of luck in your shopping quest!

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Posted in Travel and Travel Media, Travel Post Friday | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Travel Post Friday: a guide to travel gift guides

Facebook Interest Lists are going away

Screenshot of a Facebook Interests List we set up for some Tourism Currents clients. Very handy for tracking what folks were talking about on their Pages.
Screenshot of a Facebook Interest List that we set up for some Tourism Currents clients. Very handy for tracking, in one place, what folks were talking about on their Pages, rather than manually going from Page to Page to see their latest posts.

 

Boy, I hate just stumbling without warning on the demise of a favorite feature….

I was a big fan of setting up Facebook Interest Lists of the Pages run by Tourism Currents clients and prospective clients. Such lists meant that I could click one link on my News Feed left sidebar, see all the latest posts from a certain group, and Like/Share/Comment on each one as appropriate.

It was an easy way to keep in touch with folks, stay visible to them, and give their posts a little algorithm help, too. It was smart business. We showed people how to do it all the time in our social media workshops for tourism.

Now, it looks like Facebook is removing the Interest List feature. I discovered this when I went to confirm the list setup process – in case it had changed, as things do – and I couldn’t find the “Add a List” feature on my News Feed left sidebar any more.

It’s also buried in this post about changes to Facebook metrics and reporting:

“Interest Lists – Follower Counts.

Interest lists are a way to organize and view content on Facebook. Given low consumer usage of interest lists, we have decided to retire this feature, [emphasis mine] which will result in a drop in the total number of followers for profiles that created interest lists or were featured in lists. There are two reasons for this: 1) For people that created or were featured in an interest list, profile follower counts include the followers of the interest list; 2) People can follow someone from a profile and through an interest list, which means a profile’s follower number could double count that person. This update does not impact News Feed distribution or Page Insights. The impact to profile follower counts will vary, depending on the number of interest lists the profile created and was featured in. Most profiles will see a drop in followers of less than 5%.”

 

I am NOT happy about this; it was super-handy to be able to show a CVB, DMO, Chamber of Commerce, or Main Street organization how they could see tourism partner Facebook updates all in one place.

This is another reminder that Facebook controls Facebook, not you, so don’t get too fond of any of its features.

 

—->>  Update December 2016  –  First, I’ve found that I can still see my old Interest Lists, but only on mobile, in the Facebook app on my phone. I can’t see the list of List members, but at least I can see the latest updates from them. It’s all gone from my desktop.

Second, thanks to suggestions from the comments on this post, I’ve been experimenting with adding Pages to a Facebook Friend List. The Friend Lists are supposed to be for grouping together certain people/personal profiles. You find them in your left sidebar. Facebook may have already auto-created some for you, with names like Family, or ones with people from your high school or college. When I created a new Friend List, it would not let me add a Page to it unless I had at least one person already in it. So far, this has worked for me. Since I can still see my Interest Lists on mobile, I’ll try to re-create them as Friend Lists as quickly as I can before they totally disappear.

 

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Posted in Facebook, Tourism Currents, Web Communications | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 46 Comments

This is how hotels and tourism folks screw up social media

I’m in a big city for a conference.

My original hotel plans for my last night in this city fell through – a local college football game drove up prices in my preferred area to insane levels that I would not pay.

There is another hotel available not too far away. It is reasonably priced. Reviews look pretty good. I book a room there for a Friday night.

I love the hotel. I love the location. The staff is cheery and friendly.

I love my room so much that before unpacking, I set my suitcase aside in the entryway, turn on all the lights for a better presentation, and take photos. Even the Do Not Disturb door hangar gets a photo, because it is unique and funny.

My room’s balcony has a nice view; the next morning at sunrise, I roll out of bed and get out there to take a photo of the tranquil scene.

I paid for the room myself – about US$200 with a AAA rate, one of my standard tips for traveling like a pro. The local tourism board has no idea that I’m in town. This wasn’t a freebie press trip or influencer gig.

I post about the hotel to a couple of different social media channels, simply because the place is awesome and I want people to know about it, and taking care to include photos and tag the hotel so they’ll see my positive mentions of their lovely property.

Nothing.

No response from the hotel’s social media accounts, except for a Like of my photo tweets on Twitter two days later.

No friendly greeting in response like, “Hey, so glad you’re in town and enjoying our hotel; thanks for your business.”

Nothing.

And this happens all the time. This is unfortunately the norm in my travels, not the exception.

So much effort is expended to bring people to town – to get them to book a room and spend money – only to ignore them when they actually visit.

I try to be understanding. I know people are busy, but this lack of attention to basic online communications is pathetic in this day and age.

It happens with hotels. It happens with tourism partner restaurants, attractions, and merchants. It happens with organizations whose entire reason for existence is destination marketing and making visitors feel welcomed.

I don’t want a response because I work in the tourism industry, or because I’m fortunate enough to have a few followers on social media.

I want a response because I am a guest and that is the hotel’s JOB – to be hospitable to guests. They should be especially hospitable to guests who, without any quid pro quo or handouts, are enthusiastically telling friends and family positive things about the property.

Too many otherwise smart people still do not seem to understand that social media is a powerful way to connect and communicate – publicly – with visitors, guests, and customers.

Ignoring social mentions is like turning your back on your front desk, or ignoring your business phone when it is ringing.

The silence is deafening. Your visitors and customers (and their social networks) notice it.

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Posted in Hospitality and Hotels, Tourism Marketing on the Web, Web Communications | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Does B2B marketing on Facebook make any sense?

Add B2B marketing on Facebook to your To Do List (courtesy Geneva Vanderzeil A Pair and a Spare on Flickr CC)
Does an active Facebook Page belong on your To Do List if you’re a B2B business? (photo courtesy Geneva Vanderzeil A Pair and a Spare on Flickr CC)

Is it worth the time and effort for a B2B (business to business) brand, consultant, or staff team to maintain an active Facebook Page, on top of other social media demands?

It might be, if you get a lot of good business from personal referrals and word-of-mouth.

Here is a recent question from a friend and professional colleague …

“I’m considering bringing my business Facebook Page back online. It’s been dark/unused for several years, because I felt like it was a time suck since potential clients aren’t looking for me on Facebook. Over time, I’ve started thinking that while they may not be looking for me, they are on Facebook for their own work, so maybe it makes sense. Doing this [social media] for others is easy. Doing it for myself – not so much.

Two questions: (1) does it make sense? (2) how do I jumpstart and not look lame that it was dark so long?”

My advice back to him:

1)  Yes, it makes sense to have an active brand Facebook Page, because Facebook is where everybody on the planet spends their time right now, including your current, former, and prospective clients.

I think there’s too much focus on B2B vs. B2C business communications – it’s kind of a silly differentiation especially when it comes to social media. Most B2B communications advice seems to consist of, “Stop being so boring! Do stuff like a B2C business would!”

People prefer to work with people they like and trust. An active Facebook Page highlights your business as human, fun, smart, and worth people’s hard-earned money.

2)  Nobody really notices that you’ve been dark, so don’t worry about it. Frankly, because you’ve been dark, no one will notice that you’re posting, at least for awhile, because the Facebook algorithm will ignore you. 🙂

Most people only interact in the News Feed anyway, less so directly on Pages. If they DO go directly to your Page, as long as a few of the most recent posts are not from 2011, they probably won’t scroll back far enough to notice that you “came alive” fairly recently.

3)  To jump-start your Page – make a list of the top 5-7 questions people ask you all the time, or problems/issues you come across all the time in your business. Make a simple editorial calendar addressing each one – on Mondays you’ll share updates about X, on Tuesdays the topic is Y, on Wednesdays it is Z, and so on.

Re-share evergreen blog posts from your archives. It’s OK if they’re a few years old as long as they’re still accurate (check and tweak them first.) You can get more elaborate and organized later with some sort of content marketing editorial calendar that ties in email newsletter, blog posts, tweets, Page updates, etc.

Be prepared to drop a little money on a few Sponsored posts, to get back in front of followers.

Once your Facebook Page is reasonably lively, it will have a lot of “Google juice” authority – like all social profiles do – so it will come up high when people search for your brand name. That’s a nice SEO benefit.

Don’t forget to add a Facebook Page social button to your website, and make sure it’s linked correctly. You can also send a note to your email list that the Page is now active, announce it on other social media, and invite your personal profile Facebook connections to Like the Page, if you think it makes sense for them (don’t blast all of your connections.)

Did I miss anything? Am I way off the mark? Let’s talk down in the comments!

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Posted in Facebook, Web Communications | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment