Social media seems like such a simple concept, doesn’t it? Share photos and inspirational content and people will love you! They will like and share and tell others about you. And what could possibly be a more perfect fit for social media than travel? Food, maybe. But Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest seem to be made for sharing travel-related posts.

But it never seems to be quite that easy, does it? When I talk to new people who are getting into the travel industry, they frequently tell me they are going to build their business on social media: “It’s perfect! I have lots of great pictures from travel! I love sharing my experiences!”

Ask an agent who has been at it for a while and you will get responses that are less enthusiastic. Of course, they have shared pictures, packing tips, and lots of great content. But they are also likely to be perplexed by what social media’s role should be in their marketing. They often wonder what kind of return on investment they should expect. How often should they post? And on top of all that uncertainty, the social media sites (especially Facebook) keep changing the rules of the game through their algorithms affecting what people see (and what they don’t).

Just like any form of marketing, you need to be really clear about who you are trying to reach and what message you want them to get. You shouldn’t just go out randomly posting things but have a clear goal for not only who your ideal client is, but also what you want to say to them. Lacking that focus leads to the first trap: Trying to be all things to all people.

No matter how hard you try, you cannot be successful trying to be a travel agent to all types of travelers. It is simply not possible. Period. You will work yourself to death trying. For a lot of agents fear of missing out on an opportunity (and commission) leads them to try to be all things to all people so they just post anything interesting that they come across.

Which is also the second trap: Letting your vendors dominate your posts. When you don’t have a clear idea of who you are trying to reach or what is important to them, it is easy to fall back on those very attractive posts created by travel vendors. They look good, they usually have an offer or some other enticing content, so why not use them? It’s fine to feature vendors, but don’t rely too heavily on them. Otherwise, you become an extension of their marketing department. Think about it: you are trying to get people to work with you by promoting someone else. Sure, that makes sense in small doses, but not as the majority of your social media content.

If you aren’t sure if you are relying too much on vendor posts, it’s a great idea to conduct an audit of your social media. Look at your posts on each platform for the past 30, 60 & 90 days. Divide your posts into categories that make sense for you. You might try 1) destination focused; 2) vendor focused; 3) focus on a type of travel (cruising, tours, etc.); 4) tips and tricks; 5) about you. The point is to identify how much of your social media falls into each bucket. You might also want to record what kind of response you received from each post (likes, comments, shares, etc.).

Once you have completed your evaluation and see how many posts fall into each category, you will have a better idea of what your social media strategy has actually been – even if that isn’t how you intended it. Have you been very heavily relying on vendor posts? Or are you focused very heavily on one destination or type of travel? Do these things represent your ideal product, or are they important to your ideal client?  What type of post generated the most response?

Once you have a better idea of what you’ve done and what category you’ve been neglecting you will have a good idea of how you can move forward. Next week I will take a look at some other social media traps, and I will also provide some suggestions for how to build a more effective social media strategy. And I will also give you some guidance on how to measure ROI (hint: it’s probably not how you think you should do it!). If you have questions related to this topic, just email me at sandy@giftedtravelnetwork.com.