Meetup Summary

Your target audience may not be seeking out tours or getaways right now, but they seeking ways to stay connected on Facebook, Instagram, and other social platforms. Join us to hear from tour operators that are finding creative ways to engage their target audience right now that are helping them to plant seeds for future bookings.

Guest Panel

Video Recording

Key Takeaways

  1. Pivot– For the moment, move your social media focus away from selling & hard calls-to-action to interesting or fun content, building desire for future events and asking questions to facilitate engagement
  2. Social Media Posting Is Free Advertising – use it to your advantage.
  3. Schedule – Plan to do social media posting regularly and stick to it.
  4. You Don’t Have To Be Perfect.
  5. Re-Post – don’t be afraid to re-post your old posts, or to re-post or share the others’ posts

Resource Links

Social Media Content Management:

Social Media Content Creation:

Social Media Ad Management

Other Social Media Tools

Meetup Transcript

[Carl] I just wanna welcome everybody to the Accelerate Tourism Marketing Meetup! Appreciate you joining today. For those of you who joined us last week, we welcome you back. For those of you who are new, welcome to the group. We’re gonna be doing these every week, at least as long as we’re under lockdown, and then we may transition to more like a monthly schedule once we’re all back in business, ’cause we won’t have as much time to do relentless Zoom meetings, right? Hopefully, so yeah, welcome to the session. If you came for the Accelerate Tourism Meetup, you’re in the right place. For those of you who are new, this is a virtual meetup for business leaders serving the tourism industry. Like I said, we’re gonna hold these weekly, and our focus is gonna be sharing tourism marketing ideas through guest speakers and open discussion. So this will be a little different than some of the webinars and things like that, that you might’ve been participating in. We will have guests, but we’re not really going after famous speakers or people that are on the tour circuit, or writing books or things like that. We’re focusing on people who’ve got boots on the ground, running businesses in local communities and highlighting ideas and successes and maybe even failures that we can all learn from together, and also trying to have some time during these calls for open discussions, so that everyone in the call can share ideas and talk about what they’re doing, and even ask questions, too. So yeah, so our main goal is to help each other improve our businesses as we swap practical marketing ideas and strategies through regular virtual meetups, so hopefully you guys enjoy that. Just a couple quick ground rules. We’ll do our best to stay on-topic, and if anyone’s submitting questions and things like that, again, keep this focused on tourism marketing ideas. This is not a forum for promotions or sales pitches. We do wanna support each other’s businesses, but more through sharing ideas, sharing discussion. And of course, be kind and courteous, respect each other’s privacy.

Topic Introduction

[Carl] So our topic today, when we met last week, we took a poll with the group and asked about topics that people wanted to hear about, and one of the most frequently mentioned was social media, people wanting to find out strategies for staying connected, and how can we leverage social media right now to build business for the future? So we’ve invited Eric Kazda and Jamie Burkhart, and we also have Scott on the Accelerate Tourism team, that’s gonna be sharing some examples here today, and I’ll introduce Eric and Jamie a little bit more as we get to the interview here, so without further ado, we’re gonna go ahead and get started! So I’d like to introduce Eric. Eric, for those of you who don’t know him, opened the Lancaster Virtual Reality Lounge in February 2019, that’s in downtown Lancaster. He’s also the owner and operator of Quantum Dynamix, which is a web and digital marketing firm. Eric, welcome to the call!

Eric Kazda, Owner of Lancaster Virtual Reality Lounge

[Eric] Hey, thanks for having me, appreciate it!

[Carl] You bet, so Eric, I’ve got questions for you on the screen here. I’ll go ahead and ask you, but you feel free to just respond and share what you have prepared today. So tell us a little bit more about how social media fits within your strategy for the VR Lounge.

[Eric] Yeah, it’s interesting, I mean, like you said, the arcade, the Lancaster VR Lounge, opened in February of ’19. So as a young business, we’re obviously trying to get our word out. So we’re using social media in a few different ways, but it’s not all that we do. We’re still doing Google Ad, Google paid promote, we’re doing a lot of networking to get the word out, we’re doing earned media, trying to get into newspapers, publications, local avenues, to try to get people to know about us. A lot of print, we do a lot of print advertising in the tourism space, rack cards, brochures, other printed material that are for tourists, and we do a lot of keyword marketing, so going after things to do, working on where can I find an arcade, where can I take kids, where can I do birthday parties, all that kind of stuff, those are all things we’re focused on. When it comes to the social media aspect of our business, when we look at the stats that social bring to our site and to our door, right now they’re admittedly low. If you look at our social media page, we don’t have an abundance of followers. We’re a little under 1,000. So we try to use social to really engage our current audience, and to try to build an audience. So I have examples of ways that we do that a little later, but social is just a portion of the pie that we work on at the arcade.

[Carl] Gotcha, so obviously, COVID-19 has changed things quite a bit. How has that changed your approach to social media?

[Eric] Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely changed what we do a lot. I was just looking, to get prepared for this call, I went onto Google Analytics and just checked our web stats. And one thing we’ve noticed is that our traffic has plummeted over 50% with the COVID outbreak, so obviously, we’re closed, we’ve had communication with a lot of our customers about being closed, but people are not searching for things to do. They might be searching for where to eat or where to get takeout, but they’re not looking for where to go to an arcade anymore. So overall, traffic’s dropped 55%, organic dropped 83, direct, 72, referral, 80. Social’s even dropped 75. The only thing that’s stayed steady is paid promote, in Google AdWords, but even with that, we’re not closing any of those deals right now, because a lot of our paid promote is for birthday party scheduling, so I mean, people are being informed, but they’re not actually closing. So we’ve been really trying to reengage our customer base. And admittedly, we kinda went on hiatus for a week or two just to figure out what the new landscape was gonna be, and just to do a little bit of housekeeping, you know? How do we afford to continue operating? How do we work with our landlords, and how do we work with our banks to get things situated? Now that we realize that this is a little bit more long-term than I think any of us had hoped, we are starting to reengage, and we’re doing that through I think trying to be jovial, trying to be sincere, honest, try to give people something to look at and to engage with, and I think to just stay relevant. And we’re continually coming up with new and creative ideas on how to do that. But I think that that’s kinda the approach that we’re taking, is figuring out ways to just kind of ramp back up what we’re doing in social, and kind of lean into the fact that we are all dealing with this together, and figure out ways to engage in an honest and sincere way about, you know, are you struggling at home with children, so like how are you engaging with kids at home, and what type of games are you playing there, or do you have a VR headset at home, or are you going back to kickin’ it retro? So we’re just trying to find and kind of hone in what that’s gonna look like, and we’re continuing to invent that every day. Like you said earlier, before the call, there’s no secret sauce to this, so it’s a lot of trial and error and trying to figure out what hits and what doesn’t, and then trying to improve on successes and learn from failures.

[Carl] Very cool, yeah, I think it’s definitely, I think this was a theme before, that on social media, you’ve really got to craft, you’ve gotta be creative and find a way to tie what you do as a business and what your audience, I mean, people that liked your page or people that are connecting with your posts, are doing that for a reason, but you’ve gotta keep it in context of your business but also find a way to keep it in context of what’s goin’ on in their lives, and obviously that’s been a big change, so that’s interesting, the way you’re approaching that. You mentioned learning from successes and failures. Anything over the last couple of weeks you’ve done that you felt like was particularly successful?

[Eric] I mean, I think you guys have a poster too, that you’re gonna highlight from us a little later, but yes, I think that people, I had mentioned that we’re doing a lot of different advertising for the arcade, which obviously is moot now. Our tourism advertising isn’t gonna do us any help, our paid promote isn’t gonna do us much help right now, so obviously, the best way to engage is gonna be with social. We’ve been putting up some information, or some posts that are just relevant to our target market, asking questions and kind of driving engagement through the intentionality of a post. For instance, we have a post, and you’ll show an example later, “Who’s your favorite Mario Kart character when you play?” And we got a lot of engagement off of that. We put up a video asking what people are doing during this timeframe. We got a lot of engagement off of that. So I think video content has been helpful. I think we’re gonna do more video content, more of me doing video content, of letting people kind of see behind the curtain a little bit. Normally, our posts are showing our customers engaging with virtual reality, because a lot of people don’t understand what virtual reality is, still. They haven’t experienced that. So a lot of times we’ll show people playing and interacting and we’ll show game videos. But I do think during this, we’ll probably show more of me kind of engaging, personally, with an audience, so that there’s a more of a face to the organization. Also, a little bit like leaning into local, being local, being a small business, being a sole proprietor, for us, I think that’ll be beneficial. There’s been a lot of support, especially in Lancaster, for supporting the small business, for supporting the ones that are, quote, unquote, maybe struggling, and giving them your love. So I think some of that will be helpful for us as we explain honestly who we are, what we are, what we’re doing, what we’re trying to do, and continuing to try to do moving forward. So I would assume, you’re gonna see some posts very soon about starting to plan your birthday parties that are in the late summer, fall, winter, even maybe thinking about holiday pushes already, to try to get people maybe thinking about, you know, this is gonna end at some point, and we can get back to normal, and let’s figure out what getting back to life is, there. So even with that, like being honest about our cancellation policy, which is, you can cancel at any time with no repercussion for us, especially with the COVID outbreak, so I think just that kind of sharing of information is gonna be important for us, and that honest interpretation of what we do.

[Carl] Nice, thanks for sharing, Eric.

[Eric] Yeah, absolutely!

Jamie Burkhart, Social Media Manager at The Amish Farm and House

[Carl] So I’d like to introduce Jamie. Jamie manages social media accounts for the Amish Farm and House, and also is a Spanish tour guide and does their event coordination. Welcome, Jamie!

[Jamie] Hi, guys, thanks for having me!

[Carl] You bet, so Jamie, how does social media fit within the marketing strategy at the Amish Farm and House?

[Jamie] So we, just like Eric said, we do all type of print advertisement, brochures, online advertisement with Google AdWords, everything like that, but all of our campaigns now have been stopped, so social media is now our primary focus. So before, when I was posting on social media, I was posting to get people to our farm, to take tours, so I was calling them, doing a very specific call to action, like, “We are doing a new bus tour this weekend. “Come on over,” that type of thing, but now we are kind of changing it, and I’m posting more about just what Lancaster County is, reminding people that it’s still a great place to visit after all of this is over. So we use social media really just to engage with our followers. It’s a free tool that we can use. It doesn’t cost much, and I think that’s huge for people that are just starting out. It is the best way to advertise for free. You can obviously do things online, you can do paid AdWords and things like that.

[Carl] Gotcha, gotcha. So has anything changed about the way you’re approaching social media in light of COVID-19?

[Jamie] Like I said before, just doing more about what Lancaster County has to offer, instead of trying to get people here to our farm, and also pairing our advertisements with more information. So we are a small business that requires cash flow. We need it to survive, so what we’ve kind of been doing is, instead of telling people, “Hey, go buy this quilt,” we’ve been pairing it with information. So, “Look at this quilt, this is what happens to this quilt, “this is how you sew this quilt, “this is the name of the quilt,” and then just giving a link to all of our quilts online, and hoping that the customer kind of makes that connection, goes online, sees the quilts, buys a quilt. So instead of trying to be really pushy with our cash flow initiative, trying to get people to buy things, we’re trying to go more informational.

[Carl] Cool, yeah, I meant to comment on this when Eric was talking, but you mentioned it as well, just the focus on local and the focus on Lancaster. I agree with the sentiment, that people, particularly in Lancaster, I’m familiar with some other communities, maybe not as familiar. I think the same could be true there as well, which is, it’s just really people getting behind local businesses, and I think particularly, as we move towards, if and when we move towards recovery, not if but when we move towards recovery, I think there’s gonna be a natural inclination for people to give back to businesses that have been giving through this time, and I think that’s really amazing. I know it’s a little off-topic, but just what I’ve seen with the coffee shops, even before the recovery, when some of the big-name coffee shops have moved in here recently, there’s just been, we’ve actually seen an increase in business with some of the local, more boutique coffee shops, which I think is pretty cool and I think that’s just an example of how people in good, strong local communities will support local business, so that’s great. Jamie, I think you have some examples to share with us, right? On things that’ve been workin’ well over the last couple of weeks?

[Jamie] Yes, I do, except for right now, which is the worst time for this to be happening, my computer is, I don’t know what it’s doing, it’s freaking out, I don’t even know if my video’s coming across to people right now!

[Carl] Okay, your video and then audio is coming through fine.

[Jamie] Okay, perfect, you should see my screen on the other side. It looks like my computer’s crashing right now.

[Carl] Okay.

[Jamie] This is awful!

[Carl] Well, do you wanna, are there any examples you wanna speak to?

[Jamie] Yeah, so what we’ve been using is animals. Now I get it, we are blessed to have a farm as our business, so I can post about animals all day long. But I think that people really resonate with animals, they love funny animal videos. So at any time you can pair your advertisement with animals, in my opinion, it will engage. Something else that we do to engage our audiences on Facebook and Instagram, which has worked really well, is asking people where they are from, or what the weather is, or what they’re doing that day, because people like to share upon their personal experiences. So we’re doing right now a PA Dutch Word of the Day, where we share a Pennsylvania Dutch word, and we did home for one of them, and then I ask people, “Where is your home, what do you call home?” And people engaged with that. it took off.

[Carl] Very cool.

[Jamie] And also, I know that content can be hard for people, going out and getting content and finding content, so if you don’t have your own content, you can always repost or share other people’s posts and other people’s pictures. It’s really easy to do that on Instagram. You just use the Repost app, you give the person who took the picture credit, and it’s an easy way to get content out there. Something else that’s really important to me, I think, is posting on a regular basis. So if you’re going to pick a media strategy that you like, if it’s posting animals, if it’s posting about your hotel, pick a schedule, do it every Wednesday, do it every Thursday, but you have to kind of stick with that schedule, because for me, as a millennial, when I am researching a brand and I wanna buy something from that brand, I’m gonna check their socials. And it doesn’t really matter to me how many followers they have, but it matters to me if they are posting regularly. I don’t want to see their last post was four months ago, or to see on their post that they have 700 comments but they didn’t respond to even one of them. So I think it’s just important to engage with your followers, give them something that they like, which, like Eric said before, is trial and error. You never know what’s gonna work with your social posting, you just keep trying. When you find what works, roll with it. I think I’ve seen too many social media pages trying to do seven different things at once, and I think they really need just to hone in on that one thing that works for them. But again, it’s all trial and error, so just keep trying until you find it.

[Carl] Yeah, yeah, something that you said reminded me of something we’ve talked about in our team, Sam, I think you’re the one who’s brought it up, is really thinking about your social media profile as a personality. And so, being consistent, trying different, if you think about it, if you almost humanize it, it almost makes it more real if you make some mistakes and if you’re consistent in the things you do, and you’re trying new things, and if it has a consistent voice to it. So yeah, that’s really cool.

[Jamie] And some tips that I would share with people that are beginners, definitely make sure that your Instagram is a business account. I’ve seen far too many accounts that are not business. And a business account allows you to put a link in your Instagram bio, which you can link to your website or whatever you want to link it to. If you do that, make sure that you use Linktree, something that we use, you can put seven different links on a free account with Linktree. It’s awesome, I love it, and you can also see how many times people click on that link. It just helps you so you don’t have to constantly be changing your photo captions to, “Link in bio,” and then you have to change it and say, “See link on website.” So I’d definitely use Linktree, and also use Canva.com. They are a really, really great place to make pictures and advertisements. I use Canva when I don’t have enough time to open up Photoshop and make an advertisement. So if we’re doing a sale in the gift shop, I’ll go on there, search 20% off graphics, and they’ll have premade ones. It’s free for the most part. You can buy other graphics, but something easy that I think all beginners should use. And like Eric said, use Google Analytics. If you’re not using Google Analytics, you need to stop what you’re doing, figure it out, find a tech person that can help you, or contact your website provider.

[Carl] Cool, Jamie, I’m watching chat here and seeing some interaction specific to some of the things you’re talking about, so Chris Bradley mentioned, “A cool idea would be asking your Facebook audience to name “a new animal that’s born during the crisis,” don’t know if you guys have thought about that.

[Jamie] Yeah, so we actually just had two lambs born this morning, and I have a post set for two o’clock today.

[carl] Oh, nice!

[Jamie] Yeah, we’re very happy about that.

[Carl] Great minds think alike, cool. And another one was, “Can you comment “at all on Instagram Stories?”

[Jamie] Yeah, use them! They are the best thing for your Instagram account. It’s really easy to do. I would always suggest, when you make a new post, put it to your Story. We always, in our Instagram Stories, I will collaborate with other businesses. So I really like Only in Lancaster, PA’s spot. I follow a whole bunch of photographers in Lancaster County, and I will just constantly reshare their pictures of the countryside. It’s something that our followers like to see. They like to see horse and buggies. I don’t have the time to constantly be going out and taking pictures of horse and buggies, so using that Story is an easy way to show, like, “Hey, we’re still here,” and it doesn’t take a lot of planning on your part. Posting on social media takes a lot of time out of your day, and you should plan your posts and you should plan to spend a lot of time on it. But doing things to your Story does not take any time at all, so it’s an easy way to use it. And always tag people in your Story, so that they can repost them, as well.

[Carl] Cool. I did drop links for the Amish Farm and House Facebook, Insta, in the chat, and there’s also a link out to Linktree. I’ll drop Canva in there, as well.

[Jamie] Thank you, yes, I’m really so afraid of my computer crashing right now. It’s the worst time!

[Carl] Well, I’m glad it worked out, Jamie, thank you.

[Jamie] Thanks for having me!

Scott Rehnberg, Content and Outreach Manager at Improve and Grow

[Carl] You bet. Scott, I’d like to introduce Scott to the group. Sorry, Scott, I think I’m trying to unmute you, and you’re unmuting yourself, you’re good.

[Scott] That’s all right.

[Carl] So I asked Scott, Scott’s a member of the Improve & Grow team, and he’s our outreach manager. He’s also, has a great family and loves coffee, and you can anything else that you’d like, Scott, but just to kind of intro this, Scott has been scouring social media over the last week just looking for good examples to share with the team here, and that’s what we’ve asked Scott to do today. Thanks, Scott.

[Scott] Yeah, thanks, Jamie and Eric, for speaking into this. I’ve been just kind of going through social media and seeing what some people are doing. One of the things with right now that we’re looking at is there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when dealing with the circumstances we’re dealing with, but there are some key things that I saw, that seemed to be really working well for a lot of companies, and then some other social media and marketing professionals have commented on, as well. So I just wanted to highlight a few of those today. So the first thing that I noticed that keeps popping up is virtual tours and live streaming, allowing people to engage with different performances or visiting your attractions. And one of the things that Jamie brought up, too, was animals being able to show people behind the scenes of what’s going on. I think Eric talked about that. Doing virtual tours and live streams, especially right now, with kids at home, people looking for things, just to be a part of the experience. Here’s an example from the Shedd Aquarium. They did this live stream of taking penguins on a tour to meet other animals, and it got a lot of great engagement, it did really well. So just being able to see sights from the safety of people’s homes is a really good avenue to take right now.

[Carl] If I’m readin’ that post right, that’s 165,000 likes, is that right?

[Scott] That is, yes.

[Carl] Yeah. Scott, just ’cause there’s a question from the group that relates to this slide, I think, somebody asked, “Is Facebook Live working really well right now?” I’m pretty sure the answer to that’s yes, would you agree?

[Scott] Yes, yeah, I mean, specific to, depending on the post and your audience, obviously, all of these examples are, like I said, there’s no one-size-fits-all, but Facebook Live is really working well right now. Any type of live media that people are able to interact with.

[Carl] Cool.

[Sam] I wanna just jump in real quick and talk about the principle behind that. I know we talked a little bit about some virtual tours, and Nicole Anderson, who’s on the call right now, runs a bed and breakfast and has been doing some really cool things with that. The principle behind that, though, is you wanna be building up desire in this time, in your customer base, that we just can’t wait to get outta this box that we’re in, and go out and do something. So by doing these virtual tours, by sharing what you already do, for those who are already familiar with what you offer and things like that, they’re just gonna be more excited to be able to reengage when things start to normalize a little bit. But then, those people who are engaging with you for the first time, they’re going to see all of your happy customers and see how excited they are about your products, and you’re just gonna increase the desire for, you’re gonna build up that desire, for your current customers and your future customers. But I think that’s kinda the whole idea with doing these virtual tours, is just amping up that reminder that this is something that you want to go out and do.

[Carl] Cool.

[Scott] Yeah, exactly. And I think, for a few of these posts here, that will sum them up, about creating that anticipation. People do wanna get out and they do wanna leave. They can’t right now. Staying at the top of their mind and giving them that, keeping that awareness so when they get out, you give them something to anticipate, is huge, then it’s really huge. Supporting local communities, so you know, something that was talked about before, the support for local, this idea that we’re all in this together, is really big, and being able to build that trust, be empathetic, be able to engage with people where they’re at, is a really, really big thing right now. Everybody wants to support local businesses, everybody wants to know where they go, what they can do, they wanna be a part of a solution. And sharing content that addresses those health advisories, while supporting areas around you, specific to your destination, is a really great way to engage, to stay present, and to show that sincerity that you want your brand to have, and like I said, in building that trust. So here’s an example of staying calm, shopping local, and different opportunities that people can have, what can they do right now? Buying gift cards, curbside pickups. But if you keep it around where you’re at, too, you’re pointing people to your location, keeping it relevant, showing what’s going on in that area, and building upon that trust. So we can go to the next one, Carl. And showing support with your response. If you’re doing anything in your community right now to help, highlighting those things, again, engaging with your audience, featuring areas that you’re involved with your local community. This is something Kitchen Kettle did, and they worked with this Anchorage Breakfast Ministry at the First United Methodist Church. And they’re just highlighting, what are they doing right now to give back, keeping that behind the scenes look, but also, showing that support that you have, being able to, I think we get such in this business mindset, that sell, sell, sell, and Jamie had mentioned, we’re kind of usually, or Eric, as well, we’re focused on that presence of what we sell so much. But right now, being able to kinda sit back and take a breath and show what we’re actually doing to engage with our community is very, very helpful, it gets people excited to help, too. People wanna get involved and be a part of it, as well.

[Carl] And Scott, I’ll just kinda comment on that, that as businesses, we are obviously wanting to make money, we wanna see a return on investment from social media. Something that’s maybe not obvious to everyone is, each of the social media platforms has algorithms, and they tend to promote posts that are getting user engagement, and so if all you’re doing is posting buy messages or messages about your company, those aren’t posts that people are typically gonna like, share, or comment on, and so those aren’t really gonna get a lot of visibility, but if you are posting content that gets interaction, that gets lots of likes, comments, shares, that’s gonna raise your overall credibility, if you will, both with your audience and with the algorithms. And so what I love about social media is, they reward you for putting out valuable content, for supporting each other, for engaging with users, and so the next time you post something about a promotion or post something that has a pure buy message, it’s likely to get more engagement when you’re also doin’ a good job with good content and supporting others in the community, so I think that’s a really great point you’re making.

[Scott] Another great thing you can do to stay within that, being an example of a trusted source is highlighting examples of aid that align with your industry. If there’s something that people are doing within your community, and they’re helping and they’re supportive, but it also ties back to your business, and it’s relevant to what your viewers wanna see, post about it, highlight it. I thought this was an awesome example that the Amish Farm and House did. “The Amish in Lancaster are pulling together “to donate fabric and sew masks.” Linking to the article about it, but it’s also engaging with the audience, it’s staying relevant, so again, if you’re struggling to find content, this was brought up, of how to do something new, how to do something fresh, and there’s news out there that’s relevant to your brand, that’s showing what’s happening, post it! And again, these are all just testing these things, seeing what works, staying relevant. Here’s some different ideas of things that you can give a try, and see what people start to engage with. So I think we can pop over to the next one. Another thing right now, too, is not to take yourself so seriously with the posting, and you know, take a deep breath. I think right now it’s so easy to, for me, at least, when I’m thinking of social, to be almost like stoic. That’s just my voice when I get in a situation like this. But for organic channels, specifically, keep in mind your visitors. Keep in mind the fact that this was talked about earlier, that Sam brought up, they wanna see you in the future, they wanna come to your business in the future! They’ll engage with that kind of lighter content that you’re posting right now that they can relate to. Make it relatable, make it something that they want to engage with, that they wanna share, that they can participate in, without being so serious about everything that’s going on right now. We don’t always have to comment on the virus. We don’t always have to comment on what our business is doing right now, but we can take a deep breath, and engage with our audience in a lighter way, that has really a huge impact on keeping them engaged, staying at the top of their mind, and keeping in their mind that, “I can’t wait to do that, “when I’m able to get out of my house,” that’s huge. But those, in general, those are some examples of some social media types that are doing well. Again, this is all new for everyone, so there’s not huge resources of how to do this right. It’s trial and error, and seeing what works, and seeing, there’s definitely ways to do it wrong. And I know this was said before the call, there’s ways that, I think Jamie wrote, “There’s ways of doing this wrong, “but there’s no set method on how “to do this completely right.” Just giving things a try, seeing what’s working, seeing what your audience engages with, are really the big things, is constantly working on something new, and sticking with what works.

Open Q and A

[Carl] Good stuff, thank you, Scott. Yeah, so we’d like to now open it up for questions. I think there’s already a couple questions. I think there’s one here for Jamie, for instance, but Sam, you got some questions ready?

[Sam] Yeah, we have a couple here in the comments. The one that just came in was about affiliate marketers and looking for other, like how to partner with other businesses to sort of get a win-win for revenues. Is anybody doing that? Does anybody have any good examples to share?

[Eric] This is Eric. We aren’t, we aren’t doing anything with affiliates, so I wouldn’t have any information on my side for that.

[Sam] Looks like Ben does. Ben, would you want to share?

[Carl] Yeah, to be clear, this is for not just our guest speakers, but anybody who has experience, we’d love to hear from you.

[Sam] Ben, feel free to unmute and comment on that.

[Ben] So this isn’t actually for our business, but it’s for another local firm that we partner with for some stuff. So in Knoxville, the craft brewing industry is very large, and one of the businesses here did a brew tour, a Knox Brew Tour, which obviously is not happening right now because of the COVID-19 situation. So what this guy did with his buses, that were basically sitting dormant, is he put them to work with a delivery service. The health department relaxed a lot of the regulations surrounding alcohol delivery, so he took his brew tour and combined with some of the local restaurants and breweries in order to deliver food as a way to use his asset that he wasn’t using like that. So in this case, it was just taking an existing asset that could be used in a different fashion, but the synergy, obviously, is self-evident.

[Sam] Yeah, very cool example. Thank you, Ben! Anyone else on the call have an example of partnering together with other businesses, creating a win-win for each other?

[Preeti] So the reason I asked this question was, we partner with some of the tour operators, we have travel retail, and when they refer our products, we give them an affiliate commission. So it has worked out very well with one of them. I was just curious if others are leveraging that.

[Sam] Thank you, Preeti, cool. Jamie, there was a question for you. The question was, that video that you guys did, that did really well, the question was, “How were you able to put that together so quickly? “Did you have footage on hand, “or did you take it specifically that day?”

[Jamie] Both, so I always have a huge library of videos throughout the years, because I’ve been in my position for three years, so this did not happen overnight. Don’t ever think that you can make something like that overnight. That was footage that I’ve had in my library for a long time. But then I did, it’s been beautiful outside the past week or so, so I did go out and take video specifically for that, and for the rest of our posts, but that didn’t happen overnight.

[Carl] Gotcha. Sam, any more questions from the group?

[Sam] Just what my dog’s name is. Here, it looks like we have another one from Marina. “Giveaways! “Are giveaways any good during this time, “taking into consideration the prizes “would be the only thing available after the crisis?” Yeah, so I think giveaways and social media go really hand-in-hand, especially when you’re trying to remain engaged and add value to the lives of those who are on the other end of your social media posts. So anybody doing giveaways and things like that, how are you doing them? I know that there’s some specific tools out there to help, so if anybody can speak to that. And to answer your question, the dog that’s right here on the bed is Phoenix, and the dog that’s right here is Uber.

Yeah, so does anybody have examples of giveaways or prizes or contests they’re running right now, that they’d be willing to share?

[Jamie] If nobody else is going to, we haven’t done it yet, but I am working on a contest. We’re using the hashtag, #WhyILoveAmishCountry, and we’re giving away a trip to Amish Country, with a hotel night, buggy ride, tours. We’re still in the planning process, so I’m not sure what it’s gonna eventually look like, but we’re working on one.

Yeah, and I mentioned it too, where we might start doing some online tournament play for gift cards that could be used obviously after. And I’ve actually, even during this call, I’ve been cookin’ up ideas about maybe what a virtual tour might look like, and then, once people bust outta this, what maybe date night for parents might look like, or even dropping kids off so parents can go onto the 300 block and have an evening for an hour or two, ’cause I can only imagine, parents with kids at home are going absolutely insane right now, so yeah, I mean, I definitely think there’s gonna be giveaways and pushes for gift cards and promote for us, too.

[Phil] Oh, sorry, yeah, I work at a retreat and adventure center in Lancaster County, and so one thing that we’ve been trying to do is at least have a Instagram Live story almost every day, just to kinda keep touch with people, kind of like Jamie was saying, it’s an easy, accessible way to stay connected. And we have everything from a wildlife center to a farm area, and then we have zip lines and high ropes courses and stuff like that, too. So one thing that we’re trying to work up right now, actually, is creating some blog posts and some social content that we’ll be sending out maybe by email and by social posts, to connect people with our wildlife center, and also our zip lines. And with our wildlife center, we have some coloring pages that we had sent out by email, and so possibly, we’re still in the works, like Jamie is, we’re still in the works of trying to work all this out, but maybe have them submit their coloring pages and win prizes to our wildlife center, free tickets to our wildlife center. And then we also have some content that we might do for teachers, that we’ll put out there for our zip lines, and physics, and some math stuff. And so, maybe drawings of our zip lines, and then the best pictures will get tickets for our zip line or high ropes course. So those are some things that we’re trying to work up right now.

[Carl] That’s very cool. Somethin’ I would encourage you guys, don’t wait until you’ve got it perfect. Even if you’re workin’ on an idea that’s gonna take time to develop, start droppin’ seeds about it, start letting people know what you’re thinking about, what you’re thinking about doing. I’m watchin’ in chat, Nicole from Twin Pine Manor. I know I’ve connected to Nicole online and I’ve been seeing the posts. They’re working on a big promotion that they’re not even planning to announce for a little while yet, but they’re letting people know about it, giving hints, getting people excited. That’s a really cool way. It also buys you some time to figure it out, right? But you can also create some curiosity, create some interest and some anticipation for that. Really cool examples, Phil, thank you.

[Sam] I wanna just jump in here real quick and introduce a tool that I used a couple times. And I’ve dropped the URL in the chat. It’s called KingSumo. It’s made by a company that does some really cool tools for websites and things like that, especially for engaging in and growing an email list, which is super valuable in this time. KingSumo allows you to put together a giveaway. It automatically collects your email addresses, and you can set up different ways that you can add additional entries for somebody who also likes your Facebook page, likes your Insta, and you can kind of weight the different things that, if you really want somebody, if you really wanna grow your presence on Facebook, you can assign a greater value to when somebody likes your Facebook page and things like that. There is a free version. Right now, they’re actually running a promo. I just pulled it up, it’s typically like $230 and they’re running a lifetime deal for 50 bucks. It would be a 50 bucks well spent, if you’re looking to run promotions. Yeah, I’ve really enjoyed using it, even just the free version, to play around with.

[Carl] And to be clear, Sam’s not a sales guy for AppSumo, so.

[Sam] Well!

[Sam] Cool, just watchin’ chat here, Kris Bradley mentions that one of his clients, US Hot Air Balloon, is working to do some giveaways, and Kris, do you wanna talk about that at all? I’m gonna do a bad job if I just read your comment there. Kris, are you on? Okay!

[Kris] Yeah. Yeah, I just wanted to mention, we actually did that prior to the crisis, that was before, it was over Christmas, we gave away a series of balloon rides to anybody that we felt needed an uplifting experience, first responders, military, people that were suffering from any kind of illnesses like cancer at the time. And we gave away, I think, eight total rides. But I thought it translated well to right now, the idea of being able to give away something like that, that somebody could look forward to after this is all done.

[Sam] Definitely, thank you Kris!

[Carl] A question Eric posted was, all these great links to the social media posts, the resources, Skip , actually, one of the cohosts, is taking notes on all of this. We’ll grab the links out of the chat and put those in the document as well. For those of you who are members of the Facebook group already, we post the notes right up there as a document, with links and all that in it. We’ll do the same thing after this show, here. And for those of you aren’t members of the Facebook group yet, I’ll mention that at the end of the call so that you know how to access that. Great, well, what other questions do you guys have, for those of you who’ve joined, I’m sure you’re getting some ideas just from things you’re listening to, but we’d be really interested in hearing more from everybody else on the call. Do you have questions for the group, or do you have some good examples you’d like to share? Any of those are fair game. Just drop ’em in the comments and we’ll unmute you.

[Jamie] Carl, while everyone is thinking about more questions, I just posted in there about videos. We’ve found that videos are the best way to engage with others, but I don’t want to seem like our videos are the best ones out there, because of that really great video that went viral for us, but your videos do not need to be perfect. Throw them out there, if you don’t know how to use Adobe Premier, if you don’t know how to use iMovie, film it on your phone, upload it. Everyone knows that we’re in the middle of a crisis, so perfection is not needed, but content is needed, so just put your best foot forward, try your best. You’re not gonna fail, and if you do fail, you just try something else, and nobody will ever see it, because it’ll be months down your feed.

[Carl] That’s great advice.

[Eric] I couldn’t agree more with that, I mean, if you look at the last two videos we put on the arcade Facebook, I sat in front of the computer I’m sitting at right now and captured a video, I don’t know, after a few takes where I just sounded okay, I posted that direct, I didn’t edit it at all, I didn’t change the lighting at all. I was lucky if my shirt wasn’t wrinkled. So just get it out there, get it online, and let people consume it, couldn’t agree more.

[Jamie] Yeah, in fact, and I’ll third that. So yesterday I did a live Instagram feed Story, and it was almost pathetic, but– I had really poor service, but we had our goats out, and they were eating the grass, so I was like, “Look, we hired new maintenance workers, “and they’re cheap labor,” so I got that in, and then a huge storm rolled through and totally cut me off. So yeah, I totally, totally take that to heart, that it doesn’t need to be perfect.

[sam] I wanna put a plug in for the Facebook page. Jan shared in the Accelerate Tourism Facebook group a video that they did yesterday, and of course, she is very humble in it, but I think it is a great example of what social media videos should be. It’s super authentic, it was shot on her phone, and it was just enjoyable to watch! It was very personal, I think it spoke directly to the audience. They run a bed and breakfast. I recommend getting into the Facebook page and checking it out, it’s a great example.

[Carl] And it had a cat in it! Who doesn’t love cat videos?

[Sam] There’s your animal, right, Jamie?

[Jamie] Animals work, post them!

[Carl] Cool, what other ideas, guys? I know that some of you on the phone, or on the Zoom call here, you’re doin’ some cool things too. What have you seen work well over the last couple of weeks?

[Jamie] Carl, I’ll share again, if you get a really good video or you get a really good post, don’t be afraid to ask other people to reshare it. So that countryside video, I must’ve sent it to 30-plus people, asking if they would reshare it. So being pushy, also, it can be annoying, it can come across as annoying, but if you’re trying to get your message out there, you have to put your first foot forward, and you really have to get your message out there, ’cause nobody else is gonna do it for you! So if you don’t tell people about this really great video that you just posted, then no one’s going to look at it. So you know, we’re all here to reshare people’s stuff, but we gotta know what you have, so be pushy, share it with others, we’re all a team. We all need tourism back in Lancaster, so we have to help each other.

[Carl] Yeah, that is such a great point. I think that’s true for this group. I think this group is probably more likely to help each other out than just the average Joe, if you will, but I also think you make a great point just in general. A lot of people think that people with really popular blogs or really popular social media are just really creative content-creators, and that may be true. I don’t wanna take anything away from people’s creativeness, but what they often don’t see in the background is that those people are hustling. They are tracking people down, they’re emailing people, they’re connecting with other people, they’re posting on forums, they’re asking people to promote them, they’re inviting people to their page. They’re doin’ all kinds of stuff, and then eventually, it starts to catch hold. And yeah, some of those big names or examples we see, they do have a following. Pretty much everything they post might get attention today, but that’s not the way it started. That’s a really good piece of advice, thank you.

[Sam] Yeah, and to dovetail onto that, I mean, areas like Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, they’re a great avenue to share that content in, and you’re already talking about a pretty active audience, inside of a group, that normally they have that coming up their feed pretty high, or they’re actively participating inside those groups. Those are great places to post the content that you’re generating. A little simpler than sending out 30, 40-plus individual messages, drop it in a couple of those groups, those channels that are already advocates for what you do, and that can really get your content out there.

[Carl] Yeah, very cool, very cool.

[Sam] I think it’s also, something worth time spending on getting to know your audience a little bit more. If you have free time, just poke around, poke around Facebook, poke around on Instagram. See what other things that your followers are engaging with, and you’ll end up coming up with a lot of other ideas, maybe some people who you wouldn’t have thought of, to partner with, to do a video together or do a project together. For photographers out there, Preeti, I’m thinking of you, partnering with any local business, and doing a shoot for free for a product or something, is gonna get cross-promotion for you and for the business that you would partner with. But if you dig around your followers’ social media pages, you’ll begin to learn a little bit more about them and you’ll be able to post more relevant content that’s just not your content or just not about your business or your service and things like that.

[Preeti] That’s a great idea. That’s a great idea, Sam, yeah, makes sense.

Closing Summary

Carl] One last thing I’ll comment on from chat before we wrap up here today. Justin Mosebach’s put a reminder in the chat that content you’ve posted before that did well is okay to post again. That video you did a couple months ago or even a year ago, no one’s gonna go down through your feed to find that again, repost it today. You don’t wanna repost the same thing twice a day or even the next day, but posting it every once in a while, going back and looking to the thing that Jamie mentioned with analytics, looking at the analytics of the social media platform and looking at which posts were getting engagement, repost those posts, post things similar to that post. That’s another way to kinda stack or build upon things that you’re learning. So as we wrap up here today, just wanna share some resources with you and tell you a little bit more about our next meetup. So some of these resources were mentioned on the call, some of them were things that didn’t end up coming up, but for those of you who are new to social media content management, or just kind of overwhelmed by the idea of posting more frequently or posting on multiple platforms, there are tools out there to help with that, and this is not an exclusive list of tools. There’s many of them out there, but two that I’m pretty familiar with are Buffer and Hootsuite. Both of those, they have free versions, and then the paid versions are also pretty accessible. But they make it really easy to create content and share that content on multiple profiles. They also have some good analytics to help you understand what’s working. And Jamie mentioned Canva as a content creation tool. Promo is a video creation tool. For those of you who don’t have a lot of video content, there are some, just like there’s stock images, there’s stock video content you can use to throw messaging on top of. And sites like Fiverr are places you can get help. If you don’t have a creative team, you can get help from sites like that. Those of you who are running ads, there are tools out there, or who wanna run ads, there’s tools out there that can help you with that. Ad Espresso is one of those. Also, a free resource, the Facebook Ad Library. You can check out anybody’s ads. You can see what ads they’re running, you can see the kinds of creative they’re usin’, the kinds of messaging that they’re using, if you’re looking for inspiration. And one last tool, and again, this is not an exclusive list of tools. If folks have other tools that they rely upon or wanna mention, I encourage you to drop ’em in chat, we’ll put ’em in the notes, but another tool is this Hashtagify.me. The link is there, and we’ll put it in the notes. You can use that to identify hashtags that are trending for your particular topic. Because if you tag your post with the right hashtags, you can get a lot more visibility from people that are following those hashtags. So those are all some good resources. Again, if there are other tools that you’ve come to rely on that we haven’t mentioned here, drop a link to those tools in chat with an explanation of ’em and we’ll put those in the notes so everybody can see that. So just before we wrap up here, I wanna tell you a little bit about next week’s show, and would also like, while I’m doing that, we wanna get feedback from the group. This group is really for you. And so we’d like to just hear, are you enjoying these, do you like the format? Are there other things you’d like to see? I know some comments we got last time is, it felt a little bit too short, so we went a little bit longer this time. Did you like that? Give us some feedback in the chat line. So for next week’s topic, the title is, “Growth During Lockdown: Positive Stories “from Tour Operators Around the World.” Excited about our guest, Chris Torres. He runs “The Digital Marketing Show,” or, I’m sorry, I wrote that wrong, “The Digital Tourism Show.” My apologies for that, we’ll correct that in the notes. So he runs a podcast that’s all focused on tour operators. He interviews tour operators from all across the world and just highlights good things that are happening, things that are happening in the industry. And I follow Chris, and I happened to see a post from him the other day that just had 25 different stories of positive things that tour operators are doin’ right now, ways that they’re pivoting their business, ways that they’re finding ways to create revenue, ways to support other businesses, ways to support healthcare workers and other people that are suffering right now, and just some really cool stories to share. So I asked him if he could join us next week and just share stories that would inspire us, give us ideas for ways to think about pivoting our businesses, ways to think about what we need to be preparing for, as we come out of recovery. And with his experience worldwide, and even in the U.S., with tourism businesses, he’ll have some unique perspectives on what’s goin’ on right now as well as where things are likely to go. So, encourage you to sign up for that. We’ll be sending out emails early next week with registration links, and just one last thing, just kind of a technical reminder, the way that we are running these, we are requiring registration for these, just so that we can get to know who is signing up for these, and so that we know how many people to participate, and so that we can get feedback from those that are joining. So each week, there is a new link, so just make sure you are registering for those. And we’re also posting them on the Facebook group. We’ve got the address up here. If you could write that down, we’ll put that in the notes. If you haven’t joined the group, please do that. It is exclusive to those that are joining these calls. It’s got the same rules as the calls, no sales pitches, so you don’t have to worry that you’re gonna be spammed or slammed with lots of sales pitches or information you don’t want. What you will see there are recordings from these meetups. You’ll see the notes posted from these meetups. You’ll see posts from other group members on ideas that relate to the meetups, or other cool things that are goin’ on. So, just a really good place for us to interact between meetups, as well as a place to store resources coming out of the meetup, so that everyone can access them. So I encourage you to join, encourage you to interact, encourage you to like and share each other’s stuff on there, and let’s all figure out how to win together. Great, well, just to close, we will be posting the notes in the Facebook group a little bit later today, hopefully. We’ll include all the links, we’ll include a link to the recording, we’ll post the recording in the Facebook group. We’ll also send it out by email, ’cause I know not everyone’s on Facebook. Thanks, everyone, have a great day!

Bye!

Meet the Author:

Carl Lefever

Carl Lefever, Founder & President

Carl is the founder of Improve & Grow, LLC, where his primary passion is helping businesses grow by improving their online marketing. He leads the team and is involved in developing and executing internet marketing strategies for our clients. Carl's background is in continuous improvement disciplines, focused on sales and marketing operations and he is a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt. He is a proud father of 4 girls and loves traveling and supporting missions work.