Written By: Tom Ogg
Social media and mobile technology is not a “stand alone” marketing venue. To successfully use social media you need to have a fully integrated approach for selling river cruises. You also need a very specific value proposition. As an example, having a specialty of selling Danube River Cruises will likely attract more followers than a general river cruising niche. People considering a river cruise are going to be well traveled and probably have considerable cruise experience, as well. They will have done a lot of research on the various river cruise lines and destinations and if they have narrowed their focus on cruising the Danube they will be quite open to communicating with an obvious expert on Danube River cruises. This is where and how having a strong social media platform may possibly help your marketing effort.
Using the example of specializing in Danube River cruises, you should get an appropriate url for your website such as DanubeRiverCruiseExpert.com (which is actually available for anyone that wants to register it). Your website should have a ton of information about Danube River cruises, ports, sightseeing options, video, tips and hints. The value proposition should be clean and crisp and shout “If you are taking a river cruise on the Danube River, you are in the right place.”
You should also have an opt-in/out email list that would focus solely on Danube River cruises. Your email strategy would be to entice potential new customers to visit your website to read an article, view a special, participate in a survey and so on. Having a value packed email list that shares relevant and important information and advice is critical to your success in social media.
You should incorporate video into your website and email processes. By using video snippets in your email communication your will gain a 40% higher response rate. The very best videos are ship reviews, port reviews, cruising tips and advice and any other information that would be valuable for people cruising on the Danube River. Also, since over 50% of devices viewing cruise information on the web are done with smart phones your digital media needs to be responsive to mobile devices.
The role that social media plays in your marketing effort is simply another channel in which to reach out to people that are considering taking a Danube River cruise and engage them in your overall marketing strategy. So let’s look at the grand daddy of them all, Facebook
Facebook has three tools (pages, ads, and groups) that can be used by anyone. Each of these options have their own purpose, and they can be combined for greater reach.
Pages: Facebook pages are similar to profiles, but for businesses. Users can “Like” a page, which means they’ll automatically receive updates from that page in their news feed. Users also have the option to “Like” a page but not follow it. However, the reality is that few users will actually see the posts from a page that they have liked unless the page “boosts” the post for an additional amount of money. Boosting can cost quite a bit of money, so it is important to understand the results from a boosted post to determine if it is worthy of the investment.
While profiles require a mutual relationship between friends, pages can be liked by anyone, without a requirement for the page creator to accept a fan. They also don’t have a restriction on the number of friends/fans they can have (unlike profiles, which are limited to 5,000 friends).
Ads: Facebook ads enjoy the focus of a targeted audience. Because Facebook has such detailed information about its users, one can easily target by age, education, location (country, state, zip code, radius and so on), language, gender, interest based targeting and behavior based targeting. But, the real power of Facebook ads is the ability to create a Custom Audience for the purpose of re-marketing to visitors to your website or Facebook page.
Groups: Operating a Facebook group for niche river cruises makes a ton of sense. People are already used to joining Facebook groups. It is estimated that over 1 billion people use Facebook Groups monthly.
So let’s apply our example of selling Danube River Cruises to Facebook. The first thing we would do is create a business page (remember we already have our website and email strategy in place) Your “Danube River Cruise Expert” page will serve as the touchpoint for your Facebook advertising campaign. Once you have established your page you can also run ads and start a group.
It is vastly important that your specific value proposition is made within seconds of the arrival of new potential
client. Here are some important elements you should consider.
Branding: You should definitely invest in a quality logo that shouts your specific niche. In they case of the example it might be a colorful logo of the Danube River and a river boat. The branding should be uniform across all of your various platforms.
A Beautiful and Enticing Cover Photo: Again, think your special niche and have the cover photo endorse your specific value proposition.
A Custom url: When you create your Facebook page Facebook will sign a generic url something like facebook.com/pages/DanubeRiverCruiseEspert/33883736.reg?-fg. Once you achieve 25 followers you can then change your url to facebook.com/pages/DanubeRiverCruiseExpert which is a lot more memorable.
Engaging and Relevant Posts: When followers see your posts as irrelevant your social media effort may be costing you business, not gaining you business. Focus on posting information that is new and relevant rather than posting general information and pictures of tourist spots. Make your posts stand out with video and digital media of all types. Try to avoid posting off-topic posts to protect your page’s value proposition.
Call to Action: When visitors arrive at your Facebook page what do you want them to do? The best strategy is to offer them a Special Report, an online interactive flip page book or a downloadable ebook. Give it a title that will motivate them to take action “21 Secrets You Must Know Before You Cruise the Danube” is an example of something that might motivate visitors to click. Of course, they then arrive on a landing page on your website that collects their name and email address before they download the items Whatever the action that you want your visitors to take make sure that there is a clear call to action button or image that can’t be mistaken for anything else. Have it appear above the fold and at the end of the offer as well.
Contact Information: Do not make it difficult for potential clients to contact you. You should have your telephone number, email address, text number and physical location. Of course, your “About” page will display it, but why make it difficult for potential clients to reach out to you? And, your About page should really be more about the benefits that potential clients will receive by electing you to book their cruise with than about you personally.
Turn Messaging On: Give clients and potential clients the ability to message you from your Facebook page. It is easy to do and millennials especially like the instant access to you. Facebook messaging is free to use and gives visitors the impression that you are always available.
The ability to target likely people compatible with the profile that you are looking for using Facebook Ads is what it is all about. Facebook knows a lot about their users and uses that knowledge to assist advertisers to reach the right potential prospect. Think about it, just about every Facebook user posts pictures when they are on vacation along with detailed information about where they are, what they are doing, what products they are buying and so on. Facebook’s algorithm digests all of this information and can easily target potential cruisers.
This is where having a very specific niche really pays off. Once you have the profile of a Danube River cruiser you can narrow your ads to focus solely on the very best prospects. This allows you to obtain the highest conversion ration for dollars spent on advertising.
Here is how Facebook describes its Ads targeting
Whether you’re a flower shop that wants more local customers or an online electronics retailer looking for people interested in your products, our Core Audiences targeting options—the targeting features built into Ads Manager—allow you to reach people based on their demographics, location, interests and behaviors.
Find people based on traits like age, gender, relationship status, education, workplace, job titles and more.
Reach people in areas where you want to do business. You can even create a radius around a store to help create more walk-ins.
Find people based on what they’re into, like hobbies, favorite entertainment and more.
Reach people based on their purchase behaviors, device usage and other activities.
Get in touch with people you already know
Custom Audiences help you find your existing customers and contacts on Facebook. By targeting people on Facebook who you’re already connected to, you can foster relationships and drive sales. Use one of these three sources to build your Custom Audience.
Reach out to your current customers and prospects to seal the deal.
People who visit your website are strong potential customers.
Show ads to people who already use your mobile app.
Build audiences based on people similar to your customers
Lookalike audiences helps you find people on Facebook who are similar to your customers or contacts. It’s a powerful tool that uses the insights you’ve gained from marketing on Facebook to increase your chances of reaching people who might be interested in your business.
Types of Ads Available on Facebook:
Photo Ads: This is one of the most popular types of ads. However, Facebook strictly controls just how much text can be displayed with a photo ad. The headline can be no more than 25 characters and the ad text can be no more than 90 characters. The link description can be no more than 30 characters. We have tried to use book and magazine covers which are minimalistic and they are consistently refused because there is text in the image itself.
Photo ads can be highly effective at driving traffic to either your website or your Facebook page. It is important that you make sure that you own the copyright of the photo that you use. Anyone with a smart phone can take quality photos and by using photo editing software like Photoshop or the Akvis suite of photo editing tools, anyone with even a moderate photo can create a masterpiece. This is what you are after. If you just can’t take good photos you can always use stock photos that you can get licensed at sites such as stock.adobe.com or BigStock.com. There are tons of stock photo sites; just google “sites like BigStock.com”.
You can always hire a professional photographer to shoot the pictures that you want for a photo campaign. This is definitely the best way to go if you want pictures of you, your staff or anything else that the quality of the picture will convey a good part of the message.
Whatever you do, never use a photo that you do not own the copyright for. If you are going to use a supplier’s photo, be sure to get their approval in writing before using it. Never think that you won’t get caught. Photo copyright search on the Internet is effective and constantly being used.
Video Ads: Facebook video ads are an outstanding opportunity to gain action from your viewers. Travel’s best medium is video and Facebook allows for you to use compelling video ads to reach your perfectly profiled potential new client. All you need is your smart phone and some video editing software like iMovie or something similar. Again, the power of Facebook’s targeting ability makes presenting your video ads to a focused viewership quite compelling and effective.
The challenge becomes getting your readers attention. Your video ad will show up in your potential new client’s news feed playing, but with no sound. Since you only have a second or two to engage the viewer to watch the video and take action, Facebook video ads must be unique and powerful. There are numerous companies that can produce quality Facebook video ads and when you get one that converts especially well, it is well worth the investment.
Avoid traditional video ads that do not have a high impact from the start but use the typical video layout of showing a river cruise ship quietly cruising up a river from an ariel shot or a similar format. Instead, go for a dramatic, comedic, shocking or other image that will get viewers to click to watch the video with sound.
Facebook Groups: Facebook defines its Groups as “they allow people to come together around a common cause, issue or activity to organize, express objectives, discuss issues, post photos and share related content.” Creating a “Danube River Cruising Group” on Facebook is quite easy and can become a very meaningful contributor to your success. However, understand that operating a Facebook group comes with a minimum of participation. Being the Administrator of a group requires daily involvement and even if it is moderately successful, might require you to engage with group members numerous times each and every day to maintain it.
Carefully weigh your intended results from a Facebook group with the level of involvement you will invest. As with all business activities, if it isn’t making money for you, why do it? One concern many have about Facebook Groups is that Facebook has now made it possible for Group Administrators to elect to charge a monthly fee to access his or her group. It is quite possible that in the future Admins of successful groups may be forced to collect from their group members to access the group which somewhat nullifies the value proposition Facebook Groups offer.
As you can see, Facebook may offer substantial opportunities to engage and grow your client base. But, don’t make the mistake that many make by making it your primary focus investing hour after hour with minimal return. Your time and money needs to perform for your business.