Social media was already an important channel for reaching and engaging tourists and local consumers, but with COVID-19 it has become a critical channel that business owners can’t afford to ignore. With limited time and resources, where should you focus your energy and how do you make sure your time is productive? Join us this week to learn important concepts that will help you maximize your time on social media:
- Focus on the platforms that matter most for your brand
- Leverage the content you already have
- Curate content that will attract and engage your audience
- Use tools to batch create and schedule content
- Utilize live streaming to take advantage of the moment
- Jamie Burkhart, Social Media Manager & Events Coordinator at The Amish Farm and House
- Tony Gorick, Creative Services Manager at the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce
- Sam Shoemaker, Creative Director at Improve & Grow
- Scott Rehnberg, Content & Outreach Manager at Improve & Grow
Focus on the social media platforms that matter most for your business
- Don’t try to sign up and use every social media platform
- Get to know your audience and find out which platforms they use the most
- See resources list for links to research that compares social media platforms
- If you do manage multiple social media platforms, adjust what, how and when you post based on how people tend to use that platform
Re-purpose content that you already have or can easily create
- Re-post popular pictures with a different caption
- Re-post testimonials from TripAdvisor and other platforms (with a good picture)
- If your guests sign waivers – include a waiver for photos and videos so that you can shoot images and use them without having to chase down permissions later
- Use content you are already using on your property or in print and repurpose for use on social
- Post about what is happening on your property or in your area
Schedule time for social media and get organized to make the most of time
- Batch content development. Schedule time on a particular day and develop/schedule posts in advance for the next week or month
- You can schedule posts in advance directly on Facebook. There are also scheduling platforms like Sprout Social, Buffer, HootSuite, etc.
- Pick a schedule and stick to it, make it a regular part of your campaign
- Map out ideas that you can repeat, like throwback Thursday or post a relevant fact every Tuesday or post responses to frequently asked questions
- Keep your photos and videos organized so that they are easy to find when you have them
Curate relevant content to share or re-post on your social media
- Monitor people talking about the destination you market in and like, share, comment or re-post from your company profile
- Check your local DMO for local events that you could promote
- Get the know other businesses in your area and establish relationships; like, comment and share their posts, collaborate on promotions, etc.
Use live video to create highly engaging content on the fly
- Video content helps to build engagement. Live video does particularly well.
- Shoot a short video tour of your property
- Do a live product overview
- Interview a satisfied customer
- Take a behind the scenes video
Key your eye on important metrics so you can see what’s working and what’s not
- Engagement mertics like likes, shares, etc. are helpful, but may not tie back to actual bookings
- Focus on longer term metrics like followers – if your followers are growing, that’s a good sign and provides an engaged audience you can interact with
- Consult with peers – get feedback on the quality of your posts
- Use Google Analytics to see how many users are visiting your website from social and what kinds of actions they are taking
- Don’t overthink it. You don’t have the be perfect. Don’t’ be afraid to fail. Try something, see if it works and it does, repeat it. If it doesn’t, move onto the next thing to try.
- Reply back to comments on your posts; this shows you are engaged, it expands the reach of the post
- Monitor private/direct messages regularly. Make sure to respond
Comparisons of Social Media Platforms
- Article from HubSpot on Which Social Media Networks to Focus On
- Article from SmartInsights on Social Media Research
- Article from Pew Research on Social Media Research
- Article from Sprout Social on Social Media Demographics
[Sam] For all of you that are new, that are coming into the webinar right now, this is obviously the Accelerate Tourism Marketing Meetup. We focus on digital marketing here for tourism owners, operators, business leaders. And our usual host, Carl Lefever, he is actually joining the call today, but I am gonna be hosting today, along with my friend, Scott, coworker, and he’s gonna help moderate. And also joining, with our panelists, Tony and Jamie. We’ll give it another minute, while the numbers keep coming in, make sure everybody is in. It feels weird that this is obviously the first- Well, this is obvious, for those of you who have been with us for the past couple of months, this is the first meetup we’ve done on kind of a monthly schedule. We are obviously doing this weekly when, you know, the majority of the state and the country was shut down. So we’re moving now to this monthly rhythm and we hope it’ll give us some more time to improve the quality and improve the engagement of what we’re doing here. And we hope that we continue to be helpful. And I think we will. I think we have a great panel and a great discussion on the docks for us today.
[Sam] So as a segue, obviously we are talking about social media. This was the highest rated, the most requested topic from our last meetup. We ran a poll where you all voted to suggest what you wanna talk about. This was the the clear, most popular topic. We weren’t sure what to do. There’ a couple of different ways that we could kind of go into this and take this discussion. But the main thing we wanted to do was really talk about social media from the perspective of somebody who is a business owner, somebody who is really busy and how can they effectively do social, you know, when they have no time and no budget.
Now obviously, let’s just put something out on the table to be clear. That’s idealistic. We know that there’s certainly going to be things that, you know, if time is money, there’s obviously gonna be cost here in some way, shape or form. But I think the thing that we wanna kind of combat is that, you know, social is supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to be this thing that comes naturally. And ’cause we’re already doing it in our personal lives, and it should be just as easy for our business, but that doesn’t typically happen. So I think the ideal for the busy small business owner, is to build a process around social media that achieves the feeling that social is just naturally happening. But maybe in other words, it’s so integrated into what you actually do, that it kind of just happens. And you know, that in itself might be idealistic, but I think that is maybe a more achievable way of thinking about how social can work for somebody who’s busy that has no time and no budget.
But the first thing about that, I think it’s important to set a healthy perspective on social. Because I think a lot of it is just really kind of it’s mindset. And I think we need to just watch ourselves when we’re on social and we’re seeing these other sort of social media stars or influencers or whatever we wanna call them, and make sure that they’re not setting the standard for what we’re doing. I think that’s a good foundation because, you know, there’s a lot of industries out there, there’s a lot of businesses out there, who have been very successful in social, and they more than likely have spent a lot of time and a lot of energy and a lot of money in making social seem like it’s so easy, it’s so high quality for them.
So just like any other skill or trade or craft that we might have, you know, if we’re just starting out, if we’re just starting to try to figure these things out, we’re going to be less polished, we’re going to be less flashy. But we do have one advantage for social media, is that we will be authentic. Because social loves authenticity, and it loves transparency and it loves people being real with each other and real to their customers. That is, you will build a solid group that will be actively following you as your foundation. And that is really the advantage you have, when you’re starting out.
So with all of that said, I think one other rule we would like to apply on how we wanna go forward, and this is gonna set up the question for today. You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s the 80/20 rule. So it’s this idea that we can achieve 80% of impact with only 20% of effort, or I guess in other words, like accomplish 80% of our goals with only spending maybe 20% of time or 20% of our resources to achieve 100%. So that’s kind of the thing, how can we best spend our time or what’s the best thing for us to do with the smallest amount of time? That’s really the question I wanna use as the foundation, going into the conversation. What is the best thing for me, for us, to do with the smallest amount of time that we have.
So that’s what we’re gonna get into. Just as a reminder though, we do have a feature on this webinar format where you can ask questions. So while you’re getting into it, and while we’re discussing, you know, please use the Q&A feature. It will just help us move on into the Q&A with some great questions. So, anytime you have a question during it, please hit that button, please put in a question, and we’ll get to it after our discussion.
So with that I wanna move over here to our first question. Again, obviously, managing social media with no time, zero budget. And the first thing I wanna set up for this question is, with the many different platforms that we have, how can we evaluate, how can we prioritize where we post? So that’s the first question. Tony Gorick is the Creative Services Manager at the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce. And Jamie Burkhart is the Social Media Manager and Events Coordinator at the Amish Farm and House. This is your second time joining us, Jamie, thank you. So that’s it, we’re here. How can we prioritize and evaluate where we want to post? Floor is open to either one of you. Tony, you wanna start us off?
Which Social Media Platforms Should a Business Owner Focus On?
[Tony] Sure, definitely. Hello everyone, thanks for joining. I am excited to be on this. Like Sam said, I’m from Lancaster Chamber, and then also I’ve been involved in communications for the Recovery Lancaster project, which is the Economic Recovery Plan for Lancaster County too. So we’ve been deep in social media strategy with little resources, so this is good timing. I think the biggest thing about evaluating where and how to utilize social media is to really know your audience. And I know that sounds easy but it’s so critical to deciding what platforms to use. You know, there’s resources, and I know Sam mentioned maybe gathering some of these resources after this call, but there’s resources really showing the demographics of Facebook compared to Instagram, compared to, you know, Snapchat and LinkedIn, and things like that, where if you’re selling a certain product or if you’re marketing a certain experience and you know you wanna hit a certain demographics, a certain age group, you know, certain area even, you wanna make sure you’re utilizing the social media platforms that best capture that. So, you know, at the Lancaster Chamber, for instance, we are very B2B, and we skew much older in our audience. So our efforts go more into Facebook, LinkedIn, tend to be older demographics. We’re not gonna be signing up for TikTok any time soon, just wanna say that. But you know, you might have an escape room or a cartoon network hotel who, you know, is targeting families, but also kids. And you wanna evaluate the platforms. I think the words, social media marketing, is very overwhelming, especially to people who are not used to it, and think, oh my gosh, I need to be on every single platform, posting 16 things a day, and it all needs to be super creative and interesting. And that’s just not the case. You really want to look at your audience, have that influence, what platforms to use. And then I know we’ll kinda talk about this a little bit later too but, and then curate your content based on that audience and that platform. So, I’d caution signing up for every social media platform possible. It’s really relying on who you wanna reach, and then that will help influence how many resources you put into what platform.
[Sam] That’s great. Jamie, do you have anything to add to that?
[Jamie] The only thing I would add to it is, if you are going to be on multiple different platforms, like if you wanna use Facebook and Instagram, which might seem like a lot to some people, but if you’re gonna play both games, then post different things. So Instagram, the caption sizes need to be way smaller. Nobody’s clicking to read more. On Facebook, people are spending a little bit more time, so you can obviously put more information. So if you wanna play both games, you just have to go at it differently. Like for example, Twitter does not work for travel whatsoever. I personally never plan a vacation while I’m getting on Twitter. I get on Twitter to laugh. But on Instagram, you know, if I’m going to the beach, I’m gonna be clicking what beach I wanna go to, and then seeing people’s posts. So just knowing what platform is best for your business. So if you’re a Bed and Breakfast, and you wanna post 20 new pictures, well Instagram only lets you post 10. So maybe Facebook is the best way to go. So knowing what type of resources both of those platforms have, is great. So like on Facebook, you can post an event. On Instagram, you can’t. But Instagram, you can put up a story saying “Countdown to the event” and people are gonna be like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait! There’s something happening in two days? This sounds really interesting.” So knowing what platforms offer, helps you evaluate which one you should use.
[Sam] That’s great. Yeah, it’s one of those things where I think, it’s just our human nature that kind of want to think of everybody, which is a good thing, but that just becomes tiring. And, you know, just because your audience is on a particular platform, Jamie, your example was great, like, it doesn’t mean that it’s the platform that’s gonna work for your business. So even if you were on that platform, doesn’t mean that your business needs to be on that platform.
How do you find and repurpose content for social media?
[Sam] So the second thing I wanna talk about is content. Content is something that can really be a mental block for people, just because it can seem overwhelming, especially when we see the high quality content that these platforms, you know, host, and that these people that are posting on these platforms create. But for a business leader who has no time to do it, just seeing those and thinking that, oh that’s the standard, I have to do that? It can be enough that it just says, you know what, I’m not even gonna pursue it. So I think the thing that we’ve found in our business and for our clients, is whether or not we actually realize it, there’s a lot of content that’s typically created already in a business that can be, you know, if you find it, if you identify it, you can repurpose it for social. So just the question I have for that is, how can we do this? How can we discover and repurpose content? Jamie or Tony, either one of you wanna take that?
[Jamie] Okay, so one of my biggest hacks is reposting other people’s pictures. Obviously I work in a very, very specific thing, Amish. So there’s millions of people that come here every year. I am so fortunate that people take good pictures of the Amish and that they want to do that. So it is easy. You just follow hashtags, download the repost app, repost it, give them the credit in the comments. Usually people love their pictures being reposted, so even if you find a professional photographer, they think it’s great exposure. So reposting other people’s pictures. If you’re going to use your own content over again, like there’s a thousand pictures that I keep wanting to use, so what I usually do, if I’ve already posted it, like say it’s a picture of an Amish buggy, and I’m posting a fact about the Amish buggy, you know, “Come to Amish country, take a buggy tour.” “Did you know that they have turn signals?” But I wanna use that picture again because it’s really good. What I’ll usually do is repost it with a good review. So I’ll take a good review from TripAdvisor, from Google, and I’ll use that as the caption. Because, one, people don’t remember that you posted it two weeks ago. Even if they did, it’s gonna be a different caption. So it’s gonna mean something different. And also it makes that connection of, oh, that’s a beautiful picture. And it’s a beautiful review. Those two things in my experience, have worked really, really well. And then also, just repost old things. Honestly, no one is going to remember. Or something I use is, I will post a video on Instagram today, and then three days later, I’ll post it on Facebook. So even if I do have the same followers, then they’re probably not remembering that they saw it on Facebook two days ago, or Instagram two days ago. So I use that to help me gain more leverage with the content than I already do have.
[Sam] Yeah, I like that. You don’t have to go very far to find that content, ’cause you’re talking about just reusing the content that’s actually already on these platforms that you’ve already posted or that, you know, somebody else has posted, and doing it in a way that’s respectful and gives credit where credit is due. That’s great. Yeah, that seems-
[Jamie] Or also like something that, so other people can use too is, I know we’re talking about time, but if you can take one day, like one beautiful sunny day that you’ve got people on your property, go around with model release forms, asking people to sign model release forms. It’d be like, “Can I take pictures for the website?” Most of them will be like, “Yes, oh my gosh, I’m gonna be famous on Facebook!” Like, they love it. And then have them sign a piece of paper, and then you’re allowed to use that. I think that’s something that’s very, very underrated to do, which again, it is time consuming, but those pictures, if you take 200 pictures that day, you can use them for a whole month. So it does help you.
[Sam] Yeah, cool. And the other thing too is, you could always, if you have a friend who does photography or if you have somebody who does, you know, of course we are talking about a cost thing again, but there are a lot of- Anybody who has a half decent camera who, you know, whether or not they are professional photographer or not, if it’s a nice day and you respect them to interact with your customers well, you know, I’m sure anybody would love, who’s kind of like an aspiring photographer, would love that opportunity if you know anybody like that. Cool, Tony, do you have anything to add to that?
[Tony] Yeah, I mean, I just wanted to affirm what Jamie said. I’m really glad you brought up the, not being concerned to repost something again. ‘Cause I think some people think, well, I’ll post it and I’m done. And they put all this time and energy into this great post and they think, well, it’s done now. And that’s just not the case. So I’m really glad that you mentioned that. I also think when it comes to repurposing content, I think of how social media, like you mentioned to Sam earlier, which I’m really glad you mentioned, it’s just the importance of authenticity and how your social media posts and presence should be authentic. And so even if you have, you know, facts or sales or something that feels a little cold or stale in your organization, think about how you can repurpose that content in a way that feels like more of a storytelling aspect or, you know, Jamie mentioned, a cool fact, or, you know, instead of saying, I don’t know, we have, this deal on hotel stays, try to reformat that, try to repurpose that into something that’s a little more driven by personality and storytelling. Also because of social media, just really downplaying sales speech in general. They want you to pay a bunch of money basically to say the words like sale and discount and things. So I would just add that when you’re thinking about repurposing, even think about repurposing things that you already are doing from even a sales perspective, you just might need to funnel it through a storytelling perspective, to kind of pull some of that authenticity out on social.
[Sam] Yeah and the storytelling thing is pretty key. ‘Cause some of the stuff that we’ve done for our clients, you know, we don’t do- Actually part of our services, we don’t actually manage a lot of our client’s social media accounts. That’s something that some of our clients have asked about, well we just don’t do that yet. But we’ve repurposed content in other ways and whoever we’re working with on social, we will suggest, hey, we’ve repurposed this piece, we’ve repurposed this blog article into a video or we’ve taken all these different sales sheets and turned them into an ebook. So I think when you get into it too, like some of the content that might be out there in your business already, or even print materials that may have been created from a long time ago, or even photos of your business, physical photos, that you could simply just take your phone, put it in a nice, like outside, or somewhere where the lighting is nice and bright and even. You know, just take a quick photo of that photo and just repost it. There’s probably a lot, like even outside of the stuff that you’ve already posted, you can take and just copy the text from, or you know, you might actually have to physically type it out instead of just copying and pasting. But there’s probably a lot of assets that your company already has or your business already has that, you know, you can maybe just use to, instead of having to feel like you need to reinvent the wheel all the time.
How to batch create and schedule social media content?
[Sam] Great, so this next question is very much related to that. And I think Jamie, and I think Tony, you both touched on an aspect of this, but this idea of how can we efficiently batch create and schedule content? So, instead of having this pressure to be on social every single day, that can just get tiring. And it’s hard to maybe keep up a rhythm like that. That’s so intense with creating content. The one thing that I think is wise to do, and it helps to create some strategy and intentionality around what you’re posting, is to batch create the content. So, whenever you have, or whenever you schedule a time to sit down for 10 minutes, you could probably, if you can get into the mindset that, you know, it doesn’t have to be this revolutionary artistically perfect photo or you can start just knocking out like five posts at a time, a week’s worth of posts, you could essentially put together in five minutes, 10 minutes. So just talking about that a little bit, in your experience, how can we efficiently batch create and schedule content?
[Tony] Yeah, I mean, I would say social, I think people have the connotation with social media that it needs to be live all the time. And there’s definitely aspects where there’s live video components and there’s some exciting things you can do with that. But like Sam said, the user experience is not knowing you scheduled those five posts on Monday and then it’s posted on Thursday. So to the user experience, as long as you’re using an authentic voice and even throwing in a throwback Thursday or whatever, being able to sit down and schedule those out and not feel that pressure like, oh my gosh, I am in the middle of my crazy day and I need to throw up a photo about a, you know, throwback to an old building on my property. Those batches, that’s helped so much with just planning our time. Because I think some people think, how do I even begin to plan out my time with social media strategy? And that’s a step, one is, you can always batch. And you know, I’m sure programs have been mentioned before, like Sprout Social or like Hootsuite, there’s platforms that are pre-scheduling platforms, that make it really, really easy, that also provides some insights that help too. You can pre-schedule some things directly on social media platforms too, but I definitely think, and we can maybe provide you with some of these resources afterwards, but things like Hootsuite and Sprout Social and some social scheduling software really, really does help. The one thing I would just, as a caution with it, it’s a great resource and it’s fantastic, you just also wanna be aware of what’s going on within the context of your community. Things change, you know, I mean, even you think about the last three months, and the last thing you’d want, if you have this great post scheduled for Saturday, talking about how beautiful and wonderful the day is, and that was the day where, you know, our COVID trends spiked and protests were happening and there was a lot of unrest, and it could come off tone deaf. So the batch scheduling is great. Just, you wanna just be aware of what you’re scheduling and putting out there, just so you don’t happen to accidentally have as posts go out there that might feel like it’s a little off for the moment.
[Sam] Jamie, what do you think?
[Jamie] So I’m gonna be 100% honest and say that I am super bad at planning ahead. I will obviously use the scheduler on Facebook. Like, I’m leaving the next day, I don’t wanna to get up early to do it tomorrow, I’ll schedule it. But I, yeah, gotta be honest. I’m not one to sit down and be like, on Thursday, I’m gonna post this. So what I do instead is, I block out hours of the day. Obviously this is my full time job, so I’ve got it. I have time and I have money and I research this. I’m also kinda like the Operations Manager here too. So the days can get really packed with things. So I will get up early in the morning and my 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. is Instagram. That’s what I’m doing, I’m commenting on things. And then 3:00 to 4:00 is my Facebook time. So I’ll get on Facebook and do it then. Like obviously, I’m checking in between, but that’s really when I’m sitting down and I’m focusing. And that kind of pattern has really just helped me to make my posts every day. Obviously, if I’m on vacation, if there’s a day off, I have to do a tour, then I use the schedulers. But like Tony said, scheduling too far in advance can sometimes bite you in the butt. So I’m not the most organized person. And I think that’s like good for people to hear because you don’t have to. Like, if you slip up, it’s no big deal. My only big suggestion is, if you’re gonna post, post regularly, pick a schedule like, once every week, twice daily. You just have to pick your schedule and keep rolling with it. But don’t fret if you sleep in and forget to post something because the world will never know.
[Sam] Yeah, and I think that, you know, the key thing that you said there is, you’re valuing what you’re doing on social enough, that you’re actually scheduling it into your day. And you know, I know personally from that that is not the easy thing for me to do or business owners to do because they have so many other commitments. But it is like one of those things where we’re not gonna get around and we just kind of have to call it as it is. Obviously this takes time, obviously in some ways it takes money. But if you really wanna value it, you can schedule that little bit of time to start off. Or if you feel like you’re doing social and it just feels like a burden to you, it might be that you’re just kind of, it’s sort of like the spray and pray method, you’re just kind of all scattered and you don’t have a focus. And what you might wanna do is just say, okay, I’m gonna stop. And I’m just going to, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for 15 minutes, I’m gonna just jot down with a piece of paper, here’s the three posts that I’m gonna knock out, or I’m gonna put together for the week. And it’s just that intentionality. And I think with that intentionality, with scheduling out like even just the time that you’re going to do it, you can do it in less time that way. Because you can kind of get in the mindset, you can kind of prepare for it mentally that, okay, it’s noon right now, and I said I was going to sit down for 15 minutes at 2:00 o’clock and write social. So I can kinda be thinking that I need to mentally prepare for that when I get to 2:00 o’clock.
[Tony] I was just gonna add, I think a key part of it too, is not to overthink the content that you’re pushing out. I think sometimes, I know from my experience too, I’ve thought, oh my gosh, every single post has to be this fantastic in-depth something or, you know, this amazing photo or this really well thought out campaign. And like what Jamie even mentioned, with that beautiful photo of the buggy and a fact, I mean, that could be your post for that Thursday. I think I would just encourage people not to overthink, oh, my word. When we think content, I think that even also is overwhelming. Like, oh my gosh, I had to come up with content, just tons of content. That content can also be a fact every Thursday you’d even map out. Oh my gosh, I wanna to be consistent, I’ll do a fact every Thursday, I’ll do a throwback every other day. I just wanted to throw that in there too. When you talk about planning out social, to keep in mind, it’s all about engagement. And even if it’s just, you know, tell me your favorite memory from visiting Lancaster when you were here. There’s short, sweet and easier things to do that might not feel as time inducive.
Are there best practices for curating and sharing other peoples content?
[Sam] Tony, that’s a great segue. And Jamie, I think you might have mentioned this, or some aspect of this, but one thing that we can do on social is find things that are online. Find other stuff that’s going on, that takes no active participation of you to kinda create content. But just find the content that’s already out there, that might be, you know, one of your business partners, or somebody else in another industry, and just find stuff and put it in one place for your audience that’s gonna value it. This idea, this burden of having to create content, I think it comes from feeling overwhelmed, when we’re viewing everybody else that’s posting. But how can we just simply curate the content that engages our audience? So, you have both have spoken on this I think in some ways, but how do you, and Jamie, you talked a little bit about how you do it in practice, maybe just some other examples would be helpful. Because we kind of get the idea but, are there some tools or there’s some tricks that we can find this stuff and repost it quickly?
[Jamie] So if you wanna repost pictures, on Instagram, this is where I mainly repost pictures, because it’s the easiest to find. So follow hashtags. So if you’re a Bed and Breakfast, follow the hashtags that your Bed and Breakfast is located in. Repost pictures of, you know, maybe not the rooms of your Bed and Breakfast, but what there is to do in Lancaster. Like, oh look at this beautiful couple who had a beautiful weekend in Lancaster. They didn’t need to stay at your Bed and Breakfast, nobody needs to know that. But just giving that idea of, if you come to Lancaster, you’re going to have a good time. Also using the location feature always on your posts. So there’s like a location for Amish Country, Lancaster. When people post things on Instagram, they love to put where they are. That’s a really easy way to find them. Another really good way of finding stuff to post really quickly is being organized in the first way. So like my photo albums are very, very organized. Like I have pictures of- I have an album of animals, horses, like everything is down to the nitty gritty. So if I’m like, oh, I need a picture of a dog, family-friendly, bring your dogs to Amish country posts, then I’ve got it right there. So that does take time on the backend, but it’s something that’s helped me in the future since then. And something else that if I, because I’m guilty of this too, like blocking out time for my social media and then not doing it because I had to go do a tour or something, is replying back to comments. It’s the easiest thing to do to make it seem like you are still engaging with your audience. So there might’ve been a post that I didn’t think was gonna do very well, but all of a sudden, thousands of people are commenting on it. I’ll just spend time replying back to people’s comments. And it does make your page seem like you’re doing more because that post will show up on people’s timelines again, if you’re commenting on it. I personally hate, hate, hate, hate seeing people post something, and then there’s 63 comments, and nobody’s responding to them. And they’re asking questions or they’re saying, oh those are beautiful pictures, and things like that. You’ve got to engage with your audience if you have them, even if you just have one. Like, if one person is like, oh my gosh, I love your pictures, and they’re somebody who does it every day, post every day and say, thank you. Thanks so much. Easiest way to make it seem like you’re still on board and posting.
[Sam] That’s great. Tony, any thoughts to add?
[Tony] Yeah, I love that. I love what you said about interacting, and this might be something we might have coming up to discuss but I think, as much as we don’t wanna be on social media all the time, ’cause we don’t have time, it is a customer service touch point now more than ever. So I really liked what Jamie said about, you know, liking people’s comments, getting back to them. ‘Cause you’re right, that’s key. As far as , there are so many resources out there. And I wanna say you’re not alone in thinking about how to curate content. Jamie mentioned consistency earlier. So even coming up with, you know, on Tuesdays, I’m gonna focus on this type of content, whether that’s a fact about my business, and then on Thursdays, there’s always throwback Thursdays or something like that. Maybe I’ll do something specific about that. And maybe I’ll do an Employee Spotlight or a Visitor Spotlight on Wednesdays. And that, at least to me, I’m a really creative person and that’s a good thing, but it could also spiral totally out of control. And so when I have a framework like that, that also helps me just plan ahead and curate content. So it doesn’t just feel like every week is like a blank slate or every week I have to think of 16 new great ideas. But you can kind of start falling in those buckets. And then, the consistency’s there too, which always helps with social media. So I would just say think of, maybe step one is just think of a few things that you would wanna share about your company, and then funnel those through different ways on different days just to kind of hone in, and not feel so overwhelmed, if that makes sense.
[Jamie] Also on that, don’t think that things are too obvious. Like for me, I always forget to post that we have a 15 acre farm, ’cause to me it’s obvious, like, come enjoy the farm. But for other people, they have no idea that we have a 15 acre farm. But I might have said that six weeks ago and I’m thinking that my followers are already up with me. Like if you have a Bed and Breakfast, you know that they serve breakfast, but maybe being like, hey, we have waffles on the menu. Like, did you know that kind of thing? So no detail is too small, and nothing is too important to keep repeating. Keep posting it in there, ’cause you might get new followers, and they don’t know anything about your business. It’s a little thing, they’re big.
[Sam] So a little bit is almost curating your own content. Another way to kind of say it.
How to use live video, stories and messaging as part of a social media marketing strategy?
[Sam] Great, and you two set up the next question perfectly, going back to the beginning of what we were just talking about, engaging in kind of this idea of real time. So the use of live videos and kind of other time sensitive content, you can, like I said, direct messaging, stories in some instances, those are obviously tools that have gotten so popular over the last, just say two years even. So how can we use these things like live video stories, messaging, for real time engagement? You gave some great examples of commenting, which I wasn’t even thinking of. But you know, these other ways that we can, kind of be immediately in front of our audience, what experience, what things can you recommend? How can we do that better, and do it efficiently? So Tony, why don’t you take us-
[Tony] Sure, yeah. So this is another one where, you know, don’t overthink it. I’m thinking live video specifically, how video content right now is just so engaging and so popular. Some people think video content and they think, oh my word, it’s gonna be like a produced documentary film or, you know, something like that. And that’s just so not the case in social media. Like Sam mentioned, it’s authentic, it’s personality, it’s behind the scenes, it’s a sneak peek. I love what Jamie said about the number of acres, you know, even just a live video of panning around the horizon of the acres, just things that are just interesting that we take for granted. You know, we have a pretty cool office at the Chamber and we did like a quick office tour that, you know, did not take long at all. It was informal, you got some personality in there. It helps to, a, build engagement, but also just to kinda show some behind the scenes things. I used to work at the Ten Thousand Villages home office doing their social media strategy and digital strategy. And they would do just really quick fun product reviews, and they’re still doing that now. They’re 20 seconds long, quick show of products, quick, you know, say what it is. And, you hear people shopping and laughing in the background, and that’s great. Like that shows, you know, environment and context. And so I think I would just say, don’t overthink it specifically with the video. It doesn’t have to be perfect. And actually, I think, you know, depends. Some of the imperfections and the personality gives it that authenticity. And then I would just say, you know, as much as you don’t wanna be on social media all the time, make sure you are still monitoring it enough because it’s a customer service touch point now. I even think of my generation where like, one of my first things sometimes to think about is to message the business on a social media platform before going to their website and using like a contact form. And I think that’s even getting more and more prevalent as generations are coming up. So just to keep that in the back of your mind. You don’t have to give tons of your time to it, but a response is so important eventually from customer service.
[Sam] Cool, Jamie anything to add?
[Jamie] I’ll touch on Instagram stories because I think that people are not using them as they should be. Instagram has made it very easy to upload pictures from your phone. I don’t know about anybody else, but my big, nice camera, I only use for Facebook pictures because it is so ridiculously time consuming to download pictures on your computer, then send it to your phone, and then upload to Instagram. So, you know, it’s a beautiful day out. Just go out, push record. There’s a bunny running across the farm. Perfect content, put it up there. It’s a beautiful day. And it’s very simple to do. Also if I’m being lazy and I don’t wanna post anything, I will repost my own post to my story, and just say like, oh look how beautiful this was. Do you remember this day? Also reposting other people’s, so when they tag you, you can repost it in your stories. Some of that might not apply to anyone because you don’t have that many visitors or things like that. And just reposting things that are happening right now. Like we have a quilt sale, or tickets are going fast! Things that make it seem like, you guys are actually busy, and things are booming. We also do a lot of like COVID safety things, because we are a customer tourism business. So I am always posting like, hey, our buses are being sanitized. There’s a whole new group floating on, everything’s safe. So even if people were not thinking about visiting Lancaster, maybe they’ll continuously hear me saying that it’s a safe, open place. There’s no contact here, then maybe a little visit. So just easy things that, again, like I overthink all the time, but my visitors and my followers might not know that we have bus tours because I said it four weeks ago and not today. So using stories is very easy to do.
[Sam] I’m glad you mentioned the COVID thing. I mean, how can you be more real time than just addressing those things that we’re always thinking about right now? Even if I’m not looking to come to your business, it’s just a reminder.
[Tony] And people, I was just gonna add really quick. Sorry Sam, I didn’t mean to cut you off. People just love, love, love, behind the scenes peeks at things. People just really like to see how things are working behind the scenes. It feels like an exclusive sneak peek, you know. People just really like that stuff. So if you have a chef at your Bed and Breakfast, or if you have something, you know, a quick photo, or video of them flipping a burger, I mean, people just love to see how things, I think, are ticking from the background. And so, again to Jamie’s point, what we take for granted, as being part of these businesses, might be super interesting and fun for your followers.
How do you measure the success of social media?
[Sam] Yeah, I love that. So all of this being said, we’ve talked about all of these different things that we can do, but I have two last questions, as we wrap up here. And the first one, you both are active in running social media accounts. How can we measure the efforts? How can we measure the success of our efforts? Because we obviously wanna be able to evaluate enough that we can say, this just isn’t working. I need to stop doing this. I need to stop this and I need to try something else. How do you guys, how do you both do this? How do you measure the success of what you’re doing, what you’re trying? Jamie, why don’t you take us on this one?
[Jmie] Sam, that is a hard question because I have even had other people, this is more for paid ads, like, how do I know if my paid ads are doing well, but it would be relevant for any post. I’ve actually had other people in my team, look at my posts and say like, how would you have changed that wording to make it better? Because I feel like, as a creative writer, you have your own style. And I feel like I post the same kind of thing. So I try to do peer reviews to see if my posts could be better. I don’t think, at least for my business, I cannot tell by the amount of likes or comments or engagements, if something did well or not, because it’s hard for me to tell, like, did they book a tour? Like, where was the success measure? Like, that post might have blew up, it might have had a thousand likes, but did they just like it because it was pretty, or did it make them want to come? So I think it’s just hard. So instead of trying to focus on, was it successful enough, I just keep trying to change it up. And in hopes, my follower account is growing, my engagement group is growing. So things are working but I don’t know for sure, if it’s actually money in the bank. Which is the problem with social media, because you might have lots of likes but you might not have a lot of business. But you need to have social media, you can’t just cut it out. So that’s a hard question. You’ve stumped me, sorry.
[Sam] Tony, what about you?
[Tony] I mean, I think it’s hard because I think, like Jamie said, it’s easier with paid promotions because you have such a clear objective of, you know, are you looking at- You know, my time at the Ten Thousand Villages, it was very easy to say, okay we had X number of conversions on this mug, based on our social media ads. It’s hard because social media is so authentic and engagement driven, and that’s sometimes where I think, like Jamie mentioned, it’s hard to track that because that is so important, but it feels a little more vague as far as trackability. But I think it goes back to just how important brand awareness is, and this is such a brand awareness piece. And brand awareness does directly impact your bottom line, it just might not be as clear of like, they saw this post, they booked this room, like Jamie said. Or, they saw this post, that means they bought this thing that I’m selling. But we definitely don’t wanna underplay how important that brand awareness is, ’cause you never know who’s sharing things. It’s funny, there’s a new- You’re gonna get to know some of my quirks. There’s a new LEGO store that just opened downtown Lancaster that I am beyond excited about. But anyway, so I was just helping them just for fun, to start up their social media ’cause I was like, literally no one has any idea you’re here. You just opened during a pandemic. So I helped them. Now they’re getting a lot of visitors from social, because people are seeing, but even just that brand awareness, that, okay, people are finding them now, and people might see, and people are tagging their friends in it and to check it out. It’s just, that is so valuable too. Like, Jamie, you mentioned too with followers and engagement, if you can track trends, and even some of those platforms like Hootsuite or Sprout Social, there’s some free platforms, free versions, and help you track some trends if you wanted to say, hey, you know, good, we grew X amount of followers this week. There’s some tactical things you can track. But if you feel like, oh my gosh, we’re getting a lot of engagement but there’s still not something happening yet, still keep pushing with that engagement, ’cause it’s so important from a brand perspective. That is helpful. I’m with it’s harder because you’re trying to track something that’s not like a conversion sometimes.
[Jamie] Yeah, and there’s obviously ways to track those conversions, but sometimes that’s not a good enough answer. Like, you can tell when your website- You know, you click something and you can tell, your Google Analytics is going crazy, but did they just wanna click on it? Was it just something funny? Or did it actually drive their thing? So there’s obvious ways that you can tell. And getting more followers is always a good thing. Like, if you’re paid to just getting more followers, you’re doing something right. In my opinion, that’s kinda how you know that you’re doing a good thing.
[Sam] Yeah, I think you both summed it up in a pretty accurate way. It is not a perfect science. It doesn’t have the same trackability of some of the tools that we have, or some of the capabilities we have with tracking website visitors and things like that, or email opens. I think the one practical thing that people can do, if they want to, but this requires more time, is to encode their links so they appear more literal in things like Google Analytics. But even then, what is the effort for the pay back? Like, I’m not sure if it always justifies that level of effort. But you both touched on something too, that is really important. That paid ads really is another way to engage with social. And I’ll use this to plug our next meetup, actually. Because in our agency, when we utilize social media, specifically Facebook and Insta, we are running paid ads. And that is purely for the fact that we can better control and better reach people that we have not reached before. And we can better track that. Because organic posting and just creating content and putting it out there, yes, you can evaluate likes, you can evaluate the comments, engagements, some of those metrics that Facebook, is specifically on Facebook includes, but it’s just- You could almost drive yourself crazy by trying to use the information that they provide and make intelligent decisions. So it is hard. And measuring the success of Facebook, or any social posting, the way I think about it is, you really have to take it with a spoonful of salt. You need to keep doing it and you need to keep engaging. And you can kind of I think of those likes conversations, and you know, that type of engagement is really kinda what you’re going for. Almost like these kind of these micro conversions. Like, usually those kind of term that people throw around their words, not actual purchases or things like that. But the other practical thing too is just traffic from your social to your website, I think is probably one of the easiest things. I think that, when I’m evaluating the online presence of one of our customers, that’s what we’re looking at.
What’s the most important thing you would tell someone that is currently struggling with their social media marketing?
[Sam] So, we’re kind of up against the clock here, and I wanna get to some questions, but in the spirit of the 80/20 rule, Jamie and Tony, I’d like to ask, is there one important thing that you wanna tell somebody who’s struggling with doing their social media, that would just be encouraging? So if you can both answer that, we’ll jump into some Q&A and go from there. So Tony, why don’t you go ahead and kick it off?
[Tony] Sure, I would say I think two things. I think, one, is just really know your audience. I think that would really help minimize the clutter in your brain about what platform should I use? What I should be saying? It just helps you funnel what you’re doing. And then secondly, and I’ve said this I think probably 10 times in this thing, don’t overthink it, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be laid back, it can be flexible, it can be personable and authentic. And to have fun with it. It’s a way brands can have fun in a way that, I think historically, like print advertising, or different kinds of marketing and PR, couldn’t be as much. But I would say the number one thing is, is figure out your audience. And that would really just help you funnel some of the content and things that you are doing.
[Sam] Great, great. Jamie, what about you?
[Jmaie] I would say probably, ask for help. In my experience, I’m young, I jumped into social media because nobody else in my business knew what social media was, and we weren’t using it. So for me, who doesn’t have lots of technical experience, I usually just literally ask for help. Like I’ll ask my older employees, how does this sound? And I’ll ask my younger employees, how does this sound? To kind of help me figure out what to do next. So some mornings, I’m just stumped, and I don’t know what to do, and I’ll ask for help. So don’t think that you’re alone.
[Sam] That’s great, Jamie, thank you. Cool, I like that. Keep it simple and laid back and just don’t feel like you have to do this in a bubble. I think those are great ways that we can just make this work a little bit better.
Open Q&A from Participants
[Sam] So, before we get into talking about the next meetup here, Scott, what questions do we have? I know there’s a couple in the Q&A.
Is it “legal” to share other other peoples photos or to post pictures you’ve taken of other people?
[Scott] We do, we’ve got a few good ones here. So I know a lot of people own retreat facilities or they have some tour groups that they manage. One of the questions is, they don’t get permission from their guests for photography or post photos for their marketing. And this goes back, I guess, to sharing posts that people have done previously on their own channels. Are they able to do that legally if they’ve post it on their social media channels? Are they able to legally repost those on their own social channels?
[Tony] So I know, so we went through all this at Ten Thousand Villages, to try to figure out how to, you know, the legality of certain things. The best thing that we came across, and Jamie, you might speak more into this than I can, but we created a brand hashtag, and I don’t wanna go all the way down that road, but we had some sort of hashtag that visitors could use in their posts. So it was Live Life Fair for Ten Thousand Villages, and they could use that in their posts, and then we would find those posts and we had some verbiage around if you use this, our company hashtag, you’re allowing us to repost this. But it doesn’t hurt to reach out to them in a direct message and just say, oh my gosh, we love your photo. It’s great. Can we repost it? Can we use it at our social platforms? A lot of people really, I’m not gonna say everyone, but a lot of users really like that. I know I’ve done that before. I’d take, you know, I’m totally one of those people who’d take an artsy photo of my coffee, like square one. If they were like, can I repost it? I’m like, yes, that’s awesome. So there are people who are willing. So even if you see a photo, and you’re like, wow, this is gorgeous, this is great, we love your reposting, give you credit, it wouldn’t hurt to reach out to them and just ask.
[Jamie] Yeah, I never post something always ask. And if you can’t ask, then just don’t use it. It’s way worse for somebody to be like, you stole my picture, or, I don’t wanna be on your page, than the hundred of likes that you’re gonna get. So always ask for permission, and if you can’t, then just find new ones that you can.
Does posting regularly on YouTube work?
[Scott] Great! All right, thoughts on YouTube. What do you post? Do you find it valuable? Sneak peeks, does it work?
[Tony] So I think video content is really really useful. YouTube, I think, depends on your comp. Like, if you do a sneak peek, or if you do a tour of your facility, I tend to think, and Jamie, you might think otherwise, I tend to think uploading that video directly to your social media platform, is a great way to get that video content out there. I think you can have a YouTube channel, and it feels like, and maybe this is just my experience coming through, it feels like that’s another fairly large thing to take on, ’cause you want it to be relevant content and continually uploading videos and things like that. When we have videos, we’ve uploaded directly to Instagram or Facebook, just because that it’s directly there. That’s just kind of how we utilized this. So, I don’t know if that was really helpful. I think if you’re evaluating platforms to use, that is a time-intensive one. Jamie, I don’t know if you have any other thoughts on that or otherwise.
[Jamie] Yeah, I agree. Now that Instagram lets you post longer videos, I would use Instagram, Facebook. You can upload for as long as you want. Even if you already did post your video on YouTube, when you literally put the link on your Facebook, that’s another link. And for me, I’m the laziest social media person, which is bad, because I literally run social media. If there’s a link I have to click, and then it opens up a different app, I’m done. Like, I don’t even care what it was, I don’t wanna do it. So making it easy is one of the biggest ones that I always go for. So using YouTube is like the most time consuming thing ever. I personally hate doing it, I don’t ever do it. I feel like it needs to be beautiful content, and I just don’t have time for that. So I’m always just posting my videos on Facebook and Instagram. But if you want to do YouTube, there are far better resources than probably Tony and I on the internet.
[Sam] Oh I’ll add to that just to say that it is a platform that is pretty monstrous. You can just passively post videos to it. There’s not gonna be anything wrong with that. If you’re gonna do it that way though, it’s probably not worth the effort, because there is a whole- You could ask our SEO Director at our agency, that there’s a whole strategy behind what is essentially a video search engine. And yes, it can be picked up by Google bots, yes, they can even kind of understand some of the content of the video, without you actually having any text. But it requires a ton of work. It requires a lot of, I think, some technical knowledge as well. And if we’re talking about being efficient with our time and our money, it’s probably not going to pay off, if you’re just passively posting videos. Or you shouldn’t expect it to pay off, in the forms of any traffic to your site and things like that.
[Tony] And I love, honestly, I just wanna say, I love what Jamie said about eliminating the barrier, that extra click. I mean, people are scrolling through their feeds, if it doesn’t start automatically playing, you lose them. And so I’m glad you mentioned that, ’cause I think that’s so true.
[Jamie] I hate myself sometimes though. Like, this person probably worked so hard but I’m just not gonna click on that link, sorry.
Wrap Up and Preview for the Next Meetup Topic: Social Media Ads
[Sam] We’ve all been there. So thank you folks very very much. And you, Tony especially you, set up this little plug for next week so nicely, talking about paid ads, and how they’re a little bit more trackable. It is a totally different animal when you go from creating and posting organically, or just posting using the post feature, and doing that well. There is a different way of doing paid ads well. We’re definitely gonna get into some very specific things. Maybe even show you some account setup information if we can figure out how to do that. It is very valuable, there is a way you can make it work specifically for the tourism industry. We’ve actually had success with that. But it does require a different mindset, a different strategy. So we wanna get into paid social ads next month, August 21st, we’re gonna be doing that again. We’ll have some more details for you as the month goes on. So, last thing here, just make sure that you’re a part of our Facebook group. Especially if we get to sharing some resources, sharing some other things about what we talked about today, that’s where we’re gonna be posting it. We’re gonna be posting it in this Facebook group. So I do invite you to follow that link. Or I believe, we have the link in the emails that we sent. So just click through to the Facebook group and ask to join. We’ll ask you a few questions, just to kinda get to know you. Just nothing crazy. And yeah, you can network and work with some other tour operators who are joining us, just trying to make digital marketing work so we can better our businesses. So thank you all very much for coming, and we hope to see you next time.