Social media fear makes people spend dumb money

Scared yet? (courtesy Unfurled at Flickr Creative Commons)Look, I understand that there are still organizations that haven’t even reached the Cluetrain Manifesto stage – they still do not understand social media and they’re still scared of it.

That’s precisely why Becky McCray and I do social media training through Tourism Currents, with a “teach you to fish” philosophy.

I mean, I freak out about cooking and I’m still scared of math after making a blazing grade of “13” on my first college pre-calculus test.  We all have our problems.

But this is ridiculous.

If you are a professional tourism person, you are by default a professional communicator. Representing a destination, attraction, hotel, shop or restaurant means that you communicate with the public (and hopefully do it well) in a proactive manner.

Professional communicators don’t let someone else horn in on their conversations. They may not always have positive conversations, they may step on their own tongue occasionally, but it’s their conversation.

That’s why tourism people must understand why something like Seth Godin’s “Brands in Public” is taking them down a fool’s path.

Sure, it looks like the “Brands” idea – having a single page with most Web mentions of your brand aggregated into one spot – would make it easy to “manage” conversations. Here’s the page for the Best Western hotel chain, so you can see what I’m talking about.

Update: Brands in Public & Squidoo is now defunct so I’ve removed some links)

Herd all those cats onto one page and give ’em the spin, for only $400/month to Mr. Godin.

Don’t be a sucker, folks. The Web does not work that way. It’s messy. It’s splattered. It’s people in all their messy, splattered, opinionated selves.  To respond to their gripes, compliments, observations and suggestions, you must engage them at the source of the discussion.

It might be on Yelp or the Chowhound forums. It might be on TripAdvisor. It might be on their personal blog, whether they have positive or negative things to say about you. It would be great if lots of the conversations were on YOUR tourism blog or Facebook Page, wouldn’t it? You know, like the Arkansas tourism blog or Iowa’s Facebook Page.

I guarantee you that the conversations of value are not going to be on some aggregator Squidoo page like “Brands in Public,” and I don’t care if it is a product of Seth Godin, the marketing and philosophical wizard (who does not allow comments on his blog posts, but I digress.)

There is no magic social media bullet. It is your basic communications roll-up-sleeves-and-engage work, with two-way tools like Twitter and Facebook and souped up to a demanding 24/7 cycle.

You can do this. You might have to spend a little money to learn things and move your online communications strategy down the road, but don’t blow $400/month on attempting to herd a pile of Web links on Godin’s site.

You’re smarter than that.

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8 Responses to Social media fear makes people spend dumb money

  1. Andy Hayes says:

    Agreed. There are other sites that do the same thing (for less) and to be honest you can monitor the important things yourself.

  2. Seth Godin says:

    Thanks for reading Sheila.

    I don’t think I disagree that the web is messy or that you need to be in a lot of places or you need to learn as you go.

    I think it’s clear that large brands need structure and support. I didn’t say this was a magic bullet, and in fact encouraged people to build their own if they like.

    Part of the magic of the web is that different organizations use it in different ways. Not sure why it bothers some people so much if an organization prefers to also use leveraged tools, dashboards and systems that make it work better for them.

    • Hi Seth,

      Thanks very much for stopping by and commenting. I’m certainly OK with brands getting structure and support, and using the Web in different ways, but I’m still flummoxed that this late in the game, they have so little confidence in their own ability to monitor Internet/social media activity and respond appropriately.

      Regrettably, I can’t argue with your assertion that brands will think they need something like Brands in Public, and you bet they’ll pay for it. We both know 400 clams a month is nothing to big brands. My tourism-related clients are probably not going to have that 400 clams to throw around, which will force them to “do for themselves” in social media (in my opinion, the right way to go anyway.)

      It’s one of the few times that having a small budget is an advantage, but then, I’m a glass-half-full kinda gal.

      The good news is that by coming here to comment, you’ve shown my readers exactly how to interact in social media, and for that I sincerely thank you.

  3. Andy Hayes says:

    And it’s a shame that someone with such a good reputation is launching something so….poor value for money. (Choice of words carefully chosen!)

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  5. Tai Ward-Holmes says:

    Great self-marketing artilcle Sheila – I guess that’s what social media allows you to do!?

    Anyway, it seems to me there is no reason why a tourist region couldn’t do what ‘Seth’ is doing to con/brand large public companies. Someone within the area that has enough savvy to place two sentences together after receiving input from the operators of the region. Easy, peasy roll up pay just $50 bucks a week and group the logos, comments and complaints together.

    Let me see, our region ( – that’s me in the Discover Queenstown slide show on top of the mountain next to the lady in red) has 500 plus operators x $50.00 per week = $100,000 per month. I could just abut live on that!

    In fact, I may even give up my day job as an artist, painting landscapes to do that; if the operators would go ahead and subscribe…..yea right!

    So after breaking-up in the aisles laughing everyone; why not check out webcams ….and, see if you can see me on the mountain!? : )

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