3 Effective Ways to Build a Twitter Following

In most things in life, size isn’t everything.


And people might have told you the same when it comes to Twitter – it’s the quality of your followers that matters, not the quantity.


Well in my view, that’s not true. Quality in itself isn’t enough, you need quantity too.


That’s because of the very nature of the medium. There’s simply such a volume of material that it’s difficult to get noticed. If you want your content to have a chance of going viral, then you need a decent following.


And that’s really the purpose of Twitter from a marketing point of view.  It does allow you to identify influential individuals in your industry – for example, travel journalists and bloggers – and build an individual rapport with them. And it does also allow you to identify your ‘tribe’ – in this case, those interested in travel and tourism – reach them and interact with them to modify, deliver and amplify your own messages.


But how do you find your tribe and ensure they’re following you?  Well, the easy bit is the 2nd bit – if you follow them, by the law of reciprocation, many will follow you back. Identifying them is the hard bit.


Here are a few tips and tools to help you along the way.


1. Find Your Tribe via Hashtags


‘Tribes’ congregate around hashtags. All you have to do is identify the hashtags that your tribe is using, search for that hashtag on Twitter or via your Twitter client (Hootsuite, Tweetdeck etc) and then follow those that are posting using it.


For example, type the hashtages #travel, #ttot (travel talk on a Tuesday), #cruise or #honeymoon into the Twitter seach and see what you find.


2. Find Your Tribe Using Their Bio


People’s bios are a great way of telling the sort of things they’re interested in. But, how on earth do you search people’s bios quickly and easily? Well, you use a tool called Twellow.  Twellow allows you to search for a keyword and then it will search Twitter accounts for people with that keyword in that bio. So you might search for ‘travel’, or ‘holiday’ or ‘cruise’, or even for a locality or town if most of your business is local.


Twellow will list the results from most followed users to least followed, so you start by following those most likely to be able to amplify your message. And if you sync your Twitter account with Twellow, you can follow people in Twellow – no need to flick back and forth between web pages.


3. Find Your Tribe By Who Else They Follow


I manage social media for a flight comparison site.  How can I build my following?   By finding and following the followers of other flight comparison sites.


That sounds complicated until you discover Tweepi. Tweepi is a wonderful tool that enable you to find out who’s following other accounts and, if you sync Tweepi with your Twitter account, to follow them.


It’s also rather handy for flushing out those who you’ve followed by who didn’t follow you back – useful when you’re reaching follow limits – and following those who have followed you but you haven’t yet followed back (remember, they could use Tweepi to flush you out too).


Unfortunately, these tools don’t do all the work. You still have to go through a manual and time consuming process of following people one by one. But at least you know who to follow.


Of course, another way of building a following is creating effective tweets that are more likely to go viral. But that’s a subject for another day!




How Seriously Should Travel Marketers Take Google+?

Since Google launched its social sharing service Google+ 7 months ago, it’s remained at the bottom of the priority list for travel and tourism marketers – a poor third behind Facebook and Twitter. Even when Google launched brand pages to emulate those on Facebook, there was hardly a stampede of travel and tourism brands to set them up. But all of that has changed.


That’s because Google has announced the release of ‘Search Plus Your World’  – the integration of ‘public’ search results and private search results from the user’s social network.  And the user’s network is defined solely as their connections on Google+.


So now, if you’re a Google+ member and you search whilst logged into Google, you’ll see not only the usual results you’d expect to see from the public web but also content you’ve shared on Google+ and content your connections have made public or shared with you (see below).



Not only that but Google will also recommend ‘People & Pages’ results in a box on the right hand side of the main results page for certain searches – basically people and companies on Google+ that Google believes are authorities on the subjects you’ve search for (although the eg Google provides is a search for ‘music’ which returns Britney Spears as a recommended profile – debateable…).  This is a way of encouraging users to build out their Google+ connections but, as these results will also sometimes be delivered to those who aren’t logged into Google, it’s a chance to attract more subscribers too.


Now search has been a personal experience for some time.  For example, my results are tailored based on my location and, if I’m signed into Google, the sites I’ve shown a preference for visiting. But if Google+ and ‘Search Plus Your World’ takes off then the whole concept of chasing positions on the SERPs (search engine results pages) becomes meaningless as there won’t be a standard SERP for any query.


Travel companies have been rather slow to jump onto the social media bandwagon – you just need to look at the fact that British Airways has just 196,000 fans on Facebook compared to the following of another iconic British brand, Burberry, at 10m+. But this change is certainly going to make travel marketers sit up and take notice because it inextricably links social media with something we all know is a proven business driver – search.


By creating a Google+ page – and British Airways already has – building a following and creating and sharing content optimised for search, a travel brand increases the chances that the content created, and its Google+ profile, will appear in the personalised search results of their Google+ connections and the friends of those connections. And by focusing that content on a specific authority topic, they also increase the chance their profile will appear on searches related to that topic in the ‘People and Pages’ box.


Hence, social media is directly driving search results, and we know search engine results lead to traffic and bookings. Suddenly, social media has business case.


Or does it?  There are 4 drawbacks to note before rushing headlong to turn your social media strategy upside down.


Firstly, although Google+ is growing fast (90m subscribers announced by Larry Page last week) we don’t know where they are, who they are or, more tellingly, how much and what they’re sharing. Reports I’ve read suggest that the average Google+ subscriber is biased male and techy. How much sharing of holiday content is actually going on?


Secondly, marketers need to be where their target market is and their target market is more likely to be on Facebook and, to a lesser extent, on Twitter. Not only are their numbers bigger – much bigger in Facebook’s case – but we don’t understand how Google+ subscribers are using the service. Has it become their primary social profile or just a ‘handy to have’ extra on top of Facebook which they’ve subscribed to because they’ve subscribed to other Google services such as Gmail? And how compelling will social search prove to users – so compelling that they stampede to sign up to Google+?


Thirdly, how effective will social search be? Will it really drive traffic. We all know that recommendations from friends and family play a large part in the holiday decison process but will this translate to recommendations delivered ‘impersonally’ via search results?


And finally, I’m not sure this is the last move in what could be a long game. I can imagine antitrust legislators looking carefully at Google’s move to promote just it’s own social service within search results. Google must know this so maybe this is just part of a process designed to force the hands of their rivals and get access to more social data from Facebook and Twitter to enhance their search results and spike any attempts for Bing/Facebook to enhance their own search offerings.


That said, I’m recommending to my clients that they set up a Google+ page sooner rather than later.  The unknowns can tip both ways and I’d rather be playing the game and watching the impact on my business from the inside rather than wondered what’s happening from the outside.


So I’d recommend you set up your Google+ page, integrate buttons across your other channels (website, email etc) to build a following (although don’t raise your expectations too high – think Twitter following rather than Facebook following in terms of numbers) and start posting. To save time, you may want to post the content you’re sharing on Facebook anyway, although to make the most of the channel you’d be better advised to modify your posts to include your key search terms.


Then just wait and see. Watch referral traffic or changes in traffic from various search terms your posts are optimised around and let that be the guide to how much time you dedicate to managing your profile.


‘Liking’ – There’s Not of It Happening on Travel Websites (But There Should Be)

I’ve been meaning to write a blog on Facebook’s Open Social Graph ever since it was launched back in April, and having finally got round to it, I decided to do some research on which travel companies had integrated the functionality into the site. How many did I find? Well…..none actually.


That’s not hugely surprising. The adoption of these features has been much quicker over in the US as you’d expect, and in environments frequented by social media savvy types such as mashable.com.


So what is the Open Social Graph and why should you be paying attention to it?  Well, it’s a way of making the web a more social experience – with other Facebook users, and particularly your Facebook friends, guiding you around.


Facebook's 'Like' Button Replaces 'Become a Fan'

Facebook's 'Like' Button Replaces 'Become a Fan'

The first thing to note is that nobody ‘Becomes a Fan’ of your site or brand anymore. This has been replaced by a ‘Like’ button – something you’ll be familar with when commenting on your friends’ Facebook postings. So people don’t ‘Become Fans’ of your brand anymore, they ‘Like’ it instead.


Once a piece of content is ‘Liked’, a story appears in the ‘Liker’s’ friends’ newsfeeds – a nice piece of potential viral marketing. At the very least, it namechecks your brand to your Liker’s friends – and we all know how important friends recommendations are in generating new business. At best, their friend might be intrigued and click on the link created to find our more – valuable qualified traffic. And let’s not forget, you’ll have an incoming link that’s just been set up – great for boosting your search engine rankings.


But there are 2 other interesting things about the ‘Like’ button. Firstly, you’ve now got more than 1 bite of the cherry.  Previously, people ‘became a fan’ of your brand once. Now, they can ‘Like’ all sorts of content on your site – be it a product , an article or an offer – that’s lots of opportunities for different aspects of your offering to spread virally. Secondly, if you tag the content using the Facebook’s Open Graph guidelines, the ‘Liked’ content can form a permanant part of that person’s Facebook profile, becoming part of the ‘Likes and Interests’ part of their profile. Even more interestly, the ‘Liked’ page then becomes the equivalent of a Facebook page showing up in the same places pages show up in Facebook – namely in search. Hmm – lots more potential traffic.


The other way the Open Social Graph is manifested is via a number of social ‘plugins’ – little bits of Facebook functionality that you can ‘plugin’ to pages of your site just by dropping in a few lines of code. And it’s these that really power the social shopping experience.


For example, the ‘Comments’ plugin enables users to comment on your site’s content – be it a webpage, article or photo. And then the ‘commenter’ can share the comment on their wall, and in their friends streams. A nice way to capture comments but also a nice way to ensure they’re shared with as wide an audience as possible.


The ‘Activity Feed’ plugin shares the most recent activity taking place about your site or content- displaying if the content has been liked and shared and how many times. Also, if a visitor’s Facebook friends are among the ‘likers’ or ‘sharers’, they will be visible to that visitor, as long as the visitor is signed into Facebook. Hence, an overt recommendation, that may not have been made via word of mouth, has been made via the power of Facebook.


Facebook's Activity Feed Plugin on the CNN Site

Facebook's Activity Feed Plugin on the CNN Site

Now I’m a little sceptical about how powerful the ‘what have my friends liked/shared’ aspect of the social graph might become. The chances of one of my Facebook friends ‘liking’a particular piece of content I stumble across on the web when looking for a holiday are pretty remote. The chances of it being a friend who’s opinion I rate when selecting my holiday are even more unlikely.


However, I can see the ‘Like’ button taking off as an easy and less involved way of ‘commenting’ on content on the web without actually having to comment. Few people ‘create’ content, but lots of people are prepared to anonymously push a button to express their preference. And sites that are ‘Liked’ by more people, and content on the site that is more popular, is going to mean a higher conversion of visitors to bookings as people see that the company or product is legitimised by the favourable response of so many.


And I can see travel companions expressing preferences to each other by ‘Liking’ pages – why cut and paste links and then email them when you can ‘Like’ your preferred holidays and then tell your partner to check out your newsfeed entries to see if he/she ‘Likes’ them too.


So if I was you I’d be talking to my web developers and integrating the ‘Like’ button in particular and the the Activity Feed plugin on to all my company, product and article pages, unless you have compelling evidence that your audience isn’t using Facebook (and to be honest, they’d have to be positively geriatric for that to be the case).The response may initially be slow, but it will pick up as word spreads.


And as my research has proved, you’ll be at least one step ahead of your tardy competitors.

Effective Social Media – Don’t Let the Tools Rule the Roost

Too many social campaigns are ‘channel specific’, isolated, unintegrated and therefore doomed to have a fraction of the impact they could have had if planning had started with the objectives and audiences, rather than the tools to connect with them.


I don’t know about you but when I’m planning a bit of DIY around the house (a rare event I’ll admit), I don’t make a beeline for my toolbox and look in there for inspiration as for what I should do (hmmmm – what could I make with these….).


I start off with an objective that I need to achieve (usually allocated by my wife), like putting up a shelf, and then head for the tool box for the tools I need to achieve it – in this case, my drill, some wallplugs and screws, a pencil and a spirit level (should I be starting a DIY blog?) – with the aim of communicating a message to my target audience (e.g. I do do stuff around the house other than work).



Effective Social Media - Don't Forget Your Objectives and Audience

But I see so many examples in modern marketing of the tools coming first, and the objective and the message coming second – especially with social media. People jump on the bandwagon and start letting the tools drive them, rather than working out the best way the tools can help them achieve their objectives and engage their audience. Worse still, this activity becomes discrete, isolated from the other tools their using – like putting a set of shelves up with just a spirit level – and so therefore doing only part of the job.  And even worse, customer relationship implications are not thought through – the niche audiences that use these tools are afforded better service, discounts and offers than the customer’s core client base.


My advice would be would be to start with your objectives and your audiences and then look at the tools at your disposal in the context of these. What social media tools are my audience using and how? What can these tools help me achieve?


Best Job in the World - How to Use the Tools Not Get Used by Them

Best Job in the World - How to Use the Tools Not Get Used by Them

Of course, make sure you understand these tools and the unique features they offer for you to connect with your clients and/or prospects and get your message across, but be wary of creating an effective 2 or 3 tier service where niche audiences who use these tools get something that others aren’t. You could end up upsetting alot of loyal customers.


I love the ‘Best Job in the World’ campaign as an excellent example of a way to use social media tools to amplify a message communicated through a wide range of channels to support a specific objective. So much better than all these gimmicky ‘channel specific’ campaigns which if properly thought through, could have been so much more effective.


Which reminds me, I really need to get that coat rack up….

Has Social Media Re-Written the Rules of Travel & Tourism Marketing?

Have the rules of travel and tourism marketing been re-written with the emergence of Facebook, Twitter et al? Or are we simply playing the same game with a different set of tools at our disposal?

We’ve all heard quotes like ‘social media is a game changer’ or ‘you’ve lost control of your brand’ from the new crop of social media experts that have sprung up due to the rapid adoption of services such as Twitter and Facebook.  But have the rules of marketing really been re-written? For me, the answer is ‘no’.


A very clever chap called Marcus Codrington-Fernandez, a man who has worked on brands such as IBM, Mercedes and Orange (and has now invented a cricket bat) explained to many years before the social media revolution that a brand was communicated by a series of conversations. Some of these conversations the brand would be directly involved with and some not (see fig 1 below). A large part of the marketer’s brief was to get the right sort of conversations going about their brand.

Brand Conversations - the Good Old Days

Brand Conversations - the Good Old Days

So brands have always been about conversations, and people were having conversations long before social media came along. So what has social media changed?  Well I’m not sure ‘change’ is the right word. ‘Amplied’ and/or ‘Multiplied’ would be more appropriate.


What it has done is engendered new social connections, multiplied the level of conversation, increased the speed of diffusion of those conversations and made them much more visible (see fig 2 below).


Brand Conversations - Post Social Media

Brand Conversations - Post Social Media


To give you can example close to home, my wife is an avid ‘Facebooker’ and I dabble with Twitter. We’ve have both made new social connections as a result of these services with people we may not have been in contact with otherwise. For my wife, its old friends and colleagues she’d lost touch with and for me its people who share a professional interest.


And there’s no doubt that the number of conversations we have has increased. Both of us now have conversations with new and existing contacts that simply wouldn’t have happened before. You post something about your day you think your friends might be interested in, and ‘hey presto’ they respond. But we still email, we still skype, we still text and, heaven forbid, we still occasionally talk to people face to face.


Of course we’ve all heard the ‘wildfire’ effect of social media. The Jan Moir/Stephen Gately furore was whipped up on Twitter and most people who complained about the Jonathan Ross/Russel Brand incident never ever heard it live. But ‘old’ media could spread good and bad news – the Mail in the case of JR/RB – it’s just speeded things up and allowed us to more readily connect directly with the people in the heart of the firestorm.


And social media conversations, especially on Twitter, are much more visible than they were before – Google can’t index personal emails and IM like it can Twitter for eg. As a travel company, you can use twitter search to find someone looking for honeymoon ideas and make some useful suggestions. Or find someone moaning about your service and nip the problem in the bud.  But then again, you could find someone complaining about your service on TripAdvisor – it just that social media makes it easier to identify and connect.


As individuals. social media enables us to do things that we’ve always done and always wanted to do – have conversations with people we share an affinity with. It’s just made it a darn site easier and therefore encouraged us to do it more often. When push comes to shove, it’s people using these things, and people’s motivations are the same as they’ve always been.


So the game hasn’t changed – engender the right sort of conversations about your brand – you’ve just got a few new tools in your locker which means you need to re-think your tactics.  But don’t throw out the old rulebook.


And the de rigueur phrase that irritates me most of all – ‘you’ve lost control of your brand’. Rubbish.  You haven’t suddenly lost control of your brand because you never had complete control of it in the first place. Conversations were always taking place about your brand that you never had complete control over. But by focusing on delivering a customer experience consistent with your vision and values, you could influence those conversations in the same way you can influence the new conversations happening as a result of Facebook, Twitter et al.

Six ‘Digital’ Resolutions for 2010

 Digital marketing is cost effective, measurable and the likelihood is you’re under-investing in it. Make sure you’re keeping an eye on what’s coming over the hill but don’t forget some of the more established digital disciplines.


You could argue that I’m writing this a little late in the year because, believe it or not, we’re already beyond the point when most people have lapsed in their commitment to a new lifestyle for a new year. I have to admit to having one foot in this camp myself as my resolution to blog once a week has already proved an abject failure.


Despite that, I did think it was still worth sharing a few ‘digital marketing’ resolutions for 2010 with you. Why only digital?  Well it’s where your customers are most likely to find you and engage with you, it’s highly cost effective and measureable and if you’re like most brands, it’s likely that you’re under-investing in this sector.  So here goes:


1. Invest in your Website, Invest in your Website, Invest in Your Website


Sorry to labour the point, but it makes sense that you’re going to get more ‘bang for your buck’ if you invest more in converting the people that are already coming to your site rather than trying to drive more of them to a site which isn’t working to the optimum.


Think long and hard about what purpose your site is there for and what sort of people are going to be using it.  With websites, less is often more and you need to resist the temptation to bombard users with navigation options and content that cater for their every possible need and whim but create a confusing experience for those trying to use the site for its primary purpose.


Pore over your analytics to see if your site isn’t performing as you envisaged – primary navigation not being used or pages featuring amongst the top exits when they shouldn’t, for example. Explore more rich media options such as larger images and video which can improve the ‘stickiness’ of your site. And continually gather feedback from all the company’s stakeholders, both internal and external.


2. Search is Still the Daddy


When was the last time you had a thorough review of your paid search campaign? When did you last review your keywords?  Do you have a least 3 creatives running at any one time on each ad group to continually test effectiveness? What about your natural search efforts?  Do you have a content strategy integrated with your search efforts?  Are you working on building your incoming links?


Digital Resolutions for 2010

Digital Resolutions for 2010

If you answer is ‘yes’ to all of those questions then my hat goes off to you, but the chances are that there are some ‘nos’ scattered in there. My point is that search is the ‘big daddy’ of online marketing and its still growing (UK searches in December ’09 were 35% up on December ’08).  So although you may have been distracted by the winsome looks of social media or mobile phone apps, you need to make sure you’re keeping on top of it. Or keeping on top of the agency that looks after it for you (time for a performance-based deal perhaps?)


3. Let’s Reverse Those Declining Open Rates


Do you actually know why your email subscribers have signed up for email?  And are you giving them what they want?  Are your email efforts one way style ‘broadcast’ communications or are you using them to engage with your customers? Are you treating your recent subscribers in a different way to your past subscribers?


Because email marketing is so cheap, the temptation is to blast everyone with everything, just in case. But you’ll achieve a much closer relationship with your customers if you ask them what they want and then deliver. Much like social media, email offers the opportunity to enter into conversations and you’ll get much better results if you take the time to engage with your audience.


4. It’s Social Media So Start Being Sociable


You wouldn’t have many friends left it you talked at them and never expressed an interest in them or listened to what they had so say, but a surprising number of brands take this approach to social media. One way  ‘brand to consumer’ communication is old fashioned marketing so start getting interactive. Search social media platforms to find out what people are saying and intervene if you can help. Get interactive with your followers, find out what they want from you, and then deliver. The time for ‘dabbling’ is over – set yourself clear goals for what you want to achieve and work out how you’re going to get there.


5. Keep an Eye on Mobile


Mobile is the new buzzword on the digital ‘fashion’ calendar following in the wake of social media in 2009 but just because its faddy doesn’t mean you should turn your nose up at it.  Smartphones and feature phones actually enjoy high levels of penetration – if you look at your own you’ve probably got internet access and even a couple of apps tucked away that you weren’t aware of – but the iPhone has changed the landscape simply because its users are just so active.


The main buzz revolves around apps and mobile advertising, with the former growing at an explosive pace and the latter being fuelled by high profile purchases of mobile ad networks by Apple and Google.  But don’t forget about mobile search, location-based services are offered on both Bing and Google, and whether having a website developed for mobile use (a bit of a nightmare given all those screen resolutions, operating systems and differing key functions) makes sense for your brand.


Don't Just Think iPhone

Don't Just Think iPhone

The question to ask yourself before you plunge in are are what are my target market using their mobile for, and what can I do for them that will be useful for them when they’re on the move?  For example, for city centre business hotels, a presence in mobile search and a mobile website could make sense – I could imagine a tech-savvy and PA-less businessman organising his hotel on the go between meetings. I could also imagine mobile websites for booking hotel facilities such as spas, room service and restaurant reservations when you’re there. By the same token, people on holiday might like to search for local attractions on their mobile device.


And don’t rule out mobile marketing if you target audience is not connecting to the internet on their mobile, which most aren’t. Old and enduring technologies, such as text, offer opportunities as well. Services such as TravelBuddy can add value to your clients when they’re away with you, and text based gaming can offer interaction at visitor sites and attraction for adults and children alike.


6. Keep on Top of Your Craft


I don’t care how you do it, twitter, RSS and/or email, but take the time to take in what’s happening in the world of digital. It’s moving so fast you need to keep on top of it. That’s not to say that you need to get carried away with it – your target audience’s attitudes, needs, motivations and behaviours should always be the filter you see these developments through – but unless you’re on top of what’s coming over the hill, you could miss a big opportunity that your competitors don’t.

In Praise of RSS – 11% of the Population Can’t Be Wrong

Sign up for Navigator Marketing RSS FeedsWhatever it stands for, it’s a peeRleSS tool for keeping on top of your marketing environment.


RSS is one of those technologies that until your try it out, you don’t really get your head round it.


It doesn’t help that no-one’s 100% sure what RSS means. I thought it meant “Really Simple Syndication” but then discovered some thought it stood for “Rich Site Summary”.


I was always told by web designers that we really ought to have a RSS feed on the site and would nod, agree and sign it off with only a partial understanding of what I’d signed up for.


Rather than write my own definition, let me defer to Seth Godin, the father of permission marketing:


RSS is just a little peep, a signal, a ping that comes from a favorite blog or site, telling your computer that it has been updated. If you have an RSS reader (and they’re free and easy, and two of the easiest live on the web so you don’t even have to install anything), whenever a blog is updated, it shows up in your reader and you can catch up on the news. If there’s nothing new, it doesn’t show up and you don’t have to waste time surfing around.”


In a nutshell, you can kiss goodbye to all those email updates that you signed up for in your “I must stay on top of my craft” phase and now have no time to read in your “I’m frantically busy” phase.


It takes a little time to set up as you’ll choose an RSS reader (I’ve downloaded FeedDemon but if your IT department are like Orwell’s Thought Police and don’t let you download your own software, use a browser-based one like Google Reader) have to subscribe to feeds from all those sites that you’ve registered to, but once its up, there’s no more email to clog up your inbox and the information is so much easier to manipulate.


You can tag items that you want to keep for future reference with a relevant tag name (e.g. social media, twitter, direct mail etc) and set up watches for particular words, be they your own company, a competitor or a particular topic.


I’m a convert, and so are about 11% of the population. In fact, if you count the newsfeeds that are available on social media applications such as FaceBook, and with operating systems such as Vista etc, many more of us are using them than that.


And it’s an excellent low cost, no hassle support to your Content Generation strategy to get that content out there.


And did I mention there’s an RSS feed on this site too…