Small Rural Tourism Businesses! Ignore Social Networking at Your Peril!

by Joanne Steele on October 9, 2009

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This short video is one of the best wake-up calls I’ve ever seen.

Social networking is vital, but before you run out and join Twitter, or set up a Facebook page take a breath and think about your own customer base.

Where are your potential customers congregating online to network about your business sector? Are they visiting blogs and leaving comments? Are they in forums? Are they leaving reviews on review sites? Okay, are they on Facebook and Twitter?

Watch the video again… very carefully. Social networking is a good deal more than Facebook and Twitter, although they may be the most visible and talked about.

Two things to remember as you approach social networking.

1. Social Networking is about having conversations.

It is not the same as advertising, where you plaster your message some place and wait for customers. You get into the conversation, offering your advice and expertise.

It facilitates global word of mouth. You build trust in your expertise that turns into interest in your business.

Social networking is about engagement. Conversations. Interacting. Responding.

2. Social networking needs to be integrated into your total marketing roadmap.

“But I don’t have time!!!” you say.

I agree. You don’t have time for every type of social networking. But neither do your customers! They are spending time in a few places where they meet the most people who share their interests.

The key is to spend time finding those places on the Internet before randomly selecting one or another social media site. Use Google searches and Google alerts. Search for forums and the very targeted social networking sites at places like Ning.com

Identify one place and concentrate on that. When interacting there becomes like second nature, look for another place to meet and greet more prospective customers.

Here’s an example. I am finding Twitter to be an excellent way to connect with rural visitors’ bureaus. I’m not convinced that Twitter is the best place for those visitors’ bureaus to connect with their own customers. (If you are a rural CVB give me your thoughts on this.)

I’m finding all kinds of forums on every type of outdoor recreation. Most are very targeted as to type and location. That is where outdoor recreation businesses should be spending time.

We are experiencing the first wave of a social revolution that is changing the way we communicate and get information.

We are all confused and uncertain about how to proceed. Look at musicians and book publishers! Look at print media like newspapers and magazines!

You are not alone. Everyone is experimenting and looking for ways to work within this new social networking paradigm.

The important thing is to acknowledge its vital reality and begin integrating it into your own marketing roadmap.

Here are some posts that might help:

How to use Twitter for Small Town Tourism Businesses

Follow the Facebook Rules To Set Up Your Business Page, OR ELSE!

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