Social media helps customers tell stories

by Carl Natale on May 18, 2010

If anyone was born for social media marketing, I would have to say it’s Heather Wasklewicz. She uses tools such as Twitter and Facebook to market Stabilicers for 32North.

“I love stories and hearing people’s stories,” she said at Friday’s Social Media Breakfast. Heather gave one of three presentations at the monthly gathering. All were case studies of how travel and tourism businesses used social media.

Here’s the lineup:

  • Heather represents a company that makes Stabilicers, ice cleats that fit over your shoes or boots.
  • Norm Forgey owns Maine Day Trip, which offers personalized tours for small groups.
  • Darcy Liberty and Nick Lambert represent Sunday River.

These three businesses have something in common beyond being in the tourism industry. Their products/services are props in their tourists’ stories.

Travel and tourism businesses sell experiences – literally. Because humans are wired to tell stories, it’s not a stretch for us to use blogs, Twitter and Facebook to tell stories about those experiences.

That’s how Heather turned Facebook and Twitter into marketing tools for Stabilicers. She encouraged people to tell stories about using the product. Social media also has become a customer service tool. Customers use it lodge complaints, which Heather addresses. That very public way of communication helps create fans and educates people on how to get the best use of the Stabilicers.

She’s also getting a lot of traction out of YouTube videos. They’re able to produce very fun videos. They’re the kind of videos you’re going to e-mail to your friends.

Norm has a slightly different strategy. He uses a blog to boost his web site’s SEO. It’s so effective that 55 percent of his business comes from the web. His blogging strategy is to write a script for a tour. It produces keyword-rich content that’s very enticing for people who want to visit Maine.

He has Facebook and Twitter accounts but not a clear strategy. I don’t know if his tourists are on those social networks, so it may not work so well for him. But if he can encourage anyone to update with testimonials, it’s gotta help. His tourists will have stories to tell after a day with him. Norm needs to find a way to help them tell those stories.

Nick and Darcy don’t have that problem. They use Twitter, Facebook, blogs and their own online community to encourage storytelling. It’s a natural. Like I say, this is an experience. It’s an experience that thrills skiers. They aren’t customers. They’re fans.

They use the tools to encourage those fans to create word-of-mouth marketing. And when WOM isn’t all positive? Like Heather, they use the tools to address complaints. Those complaints are going to be expressed whether Sunday River has an online presence or not. This way they can tell their story and turn people with problems into fans again.

How to use these examples

Like I said, travel and tourism is about offering experiences. Before tourists become customers, they want to know if those experiences are enjoyable. Sure, you can tell them that your business is all that and a bag of chips. Are they going to believe you? Or are they more likely to believe the traveler who just posted “Great time!” on his or her Facebook page? Oh yeah, that satisfied tourist is a cousin they don’t see often.

Start a blog and tell your stories. Give examples of what tourists can do. Use photos.

So get on Facebook and Twitter. See if you can find your tourists there. Give them a way to find out what you have to offer and talk about your trip.

What if your tourists aren’t the type to post updates in social networks? Do it for them. Get a video camera. They’re incredibly cheap and easy to use. Take video of what they do. Get them to say how much they enjoy the trip on camera. Upload it to YouTube. Then e-mail it to them and their friends. Call it a video postcard.

Do the same with still photos. Post those shots on your web site, Flickr and Facebook. Make sure your tourists can find them when they get home.

Give them the material, and they will use it as props in the stories they tell. It’s all about their stories, not yours.

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