Published on Monday, June 20, 2011

Travel industry told to join the party and spread some love



Dismiss social networking sites as a waste of time and you could be missing an opportunity to drive traffic to your website, according to online marketing expert Mark Hodson (pictured here).


He said companies who used Twitter and Facebook effectively were ranked higher by the search engine Google, raising their profile and the number of click-throughs from users.


"There is a prevailing view among companies that social media is a waste of time and money and I think that comes from a lack of understanding," said Hodson. Addressing AITO members at the Association's annual conference, Hodson, a former Sunday Times journalist and founder of Travel SEO, said often businesses that got involved with Twitter didn't know how to make the best use of it.


While admitting that Twitter is not necessarily a great way to talk to customers, Hodson said it was a good business-to-business platform. "It's a good way to stay in touch; you can eavesdrop on what people are talking about." More importantly, Google has recently started integrating Tweets into search results so it now promotes the pages of those companies with heavy traffic on Twitter, whose tweets are regularly retweeted (passed on), higher than others.


"The higher up you are on Google, the more traffic you will get," said Hodson. "Number one and two (on Google) get half of all click-throughs; the remaining pages share the remaining 50%."


By using Twitter you can also see what pages on your website people fin interesting, you can also thank them for their business and reward them. "It's a it like being at a party," said Hodson. "If you want to be talked about go to the party, don't stay at home. If you want to be talked about on Twitter, you need to be on Twitter."


Start following influential people on Twitter, he said, join in conversations and reweet (share) other users' tweets and publish interesting content on your website and publish links to those pages on Twitter. With any luck, they will be retweeted by others, increasing your profile on search engines.


Turning to Facebook, Hodson described the introduction of the "Like" button as a "game changer". Companies can add it to their web pages and if users click on the button, the company will appear on their Facebook pages, showing their friends what they like. "That's pretty influential," said Hodson. "People like what other people like."


When Levi added the "Like" button to its website, traffic to its website rose 40%. Hodson suggested travel companies added the "Like" button, using the version that allows people to add comments, to both the top and bottom of pages on their websites to make it easy for users to recommend them. When people go to their friends Facebook pages, they can see what they like, making it a great way to advertise products.


While admitting that using social media sites can take time, Hodson said it didn't necessarily require a high-level of commitment. "Twitter involves a certain time commitment and it's easy to get sucked in, but adding the 'Like' button to websites takes no time at all, so for me it's a clear win."


by Linsey McNeill


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