Remember that Socia Media is “Social”.

by Joanne Steele on August 14, 2009

A friend recently emailed me that there was “much talk about social media” at the recent Western Association of Chamber Executives annual Summer Academy.

She had cc’d both me and her chamber office manager in hopes that we could “get this done”, mentioning Facebook, LinkedIn, a blog and more.

This is happening all over the world as tourism professionals, small town chamber boards and tourism business owners feel compelled to take the plunge into online social media marketing.

The problem too often is that they set up their Facebook and Twitter sites, sign up for a blog, or add one to their existing web site and call it done. The tools of social marketing become hardly more than an extension of their old brochure style “catch’em and reel them in” style of marketing.

For small rural tourism businesses and their town’s chambers,  social marketing needs to start with the realization that it is something they’re already doing:

Everyday their business is open.
Every time they have a friendly conversation with a customer.
Every time they return a phone call to personally take a reservation.
Every time they step away from their role as “owner/operator of their business to provide a visitor with additional information about their town or region.

Social media is nothing more than the internet’s “front porch” with written words and pictures and videos in place of rocking chairs. Setting up social media sites has to start with the realization that not much will happen of value online without someone regularly inhabiting those cyber front porch rocking chairs.

My advice is to take the plunge – we small town business owners are a gregarious bunch, and it’s natural for us to take our conversations online. But go slow. Get some online activity going, one thing at a time. Do it well, then add another social media tool until you are out on the cyber front porch just as much as you want to be, with plenty of time to work on serving all the new customers you’re likely to attract in the process.

Where to start? Read the post on this site, “Take Control! You’re on the web even if you don’t have a web site.” Join the online conversation about your business by answering complaints and thanking people for their compliments.

We’ll take a closer look in the near future at other social media options.

Are you online now? What is working for you, and what isn’t. Your comments can help me craft future posts.

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