I was honoured to present at the rocking Eco-Tourism, Sustainable Tourism Conference in September 2011. It was a great crowd and everyone was clamoring for more! In the roundtable sessions – I promised to send links to the software that I use and help my clients use efficiently – this post is for you keeners willing to learn!
Vicky Hastings at Maxwell PR reminded us of the value of telling our stories and Andy Crestodina at Orbit Media gave specific instructions on how to make our website easier to find. The presentation on How to Stretch your Marketing Budget for Tourism operators can be found on slide share.
First let me re-iterate my motto: It’s not social media – it’s marketing. At the Tartan Group – we build integrated marketing communication and public relations strategies for tourism providers. And social media is not “the” answer, it is one of the tools we use.
These tools (like Facebook) change constantly and there are lots of them. The following is a list of the tools I have been using though I keep trying new ones every month! Most of the free tools also have paid versions. If you start using them a lot, I always recommend that you bump up to the premium once you know what the value is for you.
List of Social Media Dashboards
Hootsuite/Tweetdeck/Social Oomph/Mediafeedia: take your pick. They all have pros and cons and are being bought and sold faster than coffee at a morning hockey practice. I use the paid version of Hootsuite and am pretty happy with it though their bulk scheduling tool has some sort of bug in the excel sheet so I stopped using it for that. They might have fixed it by now. Support is email only for the paid version that I am on (and the user forum) which ended up being no help at all. Luckily the interface is pretty easy to use.
Choosing a dashboard is sort of like deciding on your grocery store. Take a look at the features of each and then decide what fits. As I have settled on Hootsuite – I haven’t taken a look at the others recently though I hear from other people that they are pretty good. I know Mediafeedia allows you to pay to private label your tweets which could be a neat feature. UPDATE 2014: I am really settled into Hootsuite and find their Trendrr app to be really valuable for finding appropriate content. I recommend it to my clients. I also like ContentDJ though it is a paid tool with a free trial period.
List of Twitter Tools
Followerwonk :UPdate 2014. Followerwonk was purchased by my friends at MOZ.com. YOu can still access the tool though the more powerful features are piad. It remains a favourite of mine. FREE – Great tool to find tweeters by the words in their bio. Want to create a list of all the people who use the word “travel New Zealand” in their bio? Followerwonk is your tool.
Tweetspinner : NO longer available. Alas Tweetspinner was ahead of the curve and is no longer available. I have heard of some macros that restore some of its previous functionality but have not employed them myself. PAID – This is a tool to manage your twitter account. It helps you find people to follow and unfollow and auto follows those who follow your competition – did you follow that? Tweetspinner is not for the faint of heart – it can take a bit of struggling to get going.
Tweet Adder: PAID – the Jury is still out for me. It might be that I am just comfortable with Tweetspinner but I am rather stubborn so I will keep trying to figure out the value.
TweetReach : FREE – great way to track hashtags for contests and promotions. It only has a history of a few days though so if you are running a long promotion, you may be better to bump to the paid version.
List of Facebook Third Party Applications
There are many to choose from. They all have their pros and cons though I have settled on a few that I like and that offer most of the features for a price I and my clients can afford. There are some free apps you can get like a sign up for newsletter form other service providers like as Constant Contact.
My primary advice is to keep it simple – there are only so many apps you can run on Facebook as they then get buried in the tabs on the left anyway. And recreating your website defeats the purpose. As a result – we typically keep our clients focused on using Facebook for a specific purpose: engagement, customer service or contesting/promotions. Remember my motto? It’s marketing which means you start with a strategy!
There are a lot of open source applications out there. I have not had good success with them. This is likely because of my limited skills – when open source breaks, I can’t fix it. And the Facebook API (software code) is constantly changing. My recommendation: if you can’t fix it, don’t use it. I would rather pay and have someone I can call when thing go awry. Also – did I mention that the Facebook API changes often? That means things break and are out of our control – another reason to have someone at the end of the phone to talk to.
The other option is hard coding the site but this take a long time and can be costly, though you do get more control.
These applications are generally designed so anyone can use them. That said, the reality is that like any other software – there is a learning curve. Like all things in life, it may come down to a build vs. buy decision. If you have someone on staff who has time to run the applications and is pretty web savvy, you can do it in house. Typically, I do the first promos for my clients and then they either decide to go it alone or they let me continue to run them! The magic is not in the software anyway – it is really in the creativity of the campaign and integrating it into other marketing and media pushes so that it meets goals. Remember that putting up a facebook app will not make it successful – it still needs to be promoted!
Pagemodo: FREE – You can put up a free welcome page. Somewhat limited but easy to use and a great place to start!
Wildfire Apps : PAID – They do micro-sites and facebook apps (and now Linkedin apps too). I find their product to be too high end for my client base. WildFire keeps their branding on the less expensive promotions and taking the branding off costs a fortune. If the client wants to use it or has the the deep pockets to remove the branding – then its all good. Their apps are very well done and there is not doubt that they have a premium product but it comes at a cost. Mid-sized businesses can achieve many of the same goals without the hefty price tag.
North Social : PAID – I love these guys. Their facebook apps are simple to use and effective. I use an enterprise account and they have always treated me well – even when I make mistakes.
YUPIQ : PAID – yup – love these guys too and they are in Victoria, BC so I can track them down if there are any glitches (that matters). They are a new player in the apps field though specialize in mobile couponing and rewarding. Their claim to fame is closing the loop between social sharing and the call to action – you can give a reward to friends for sharing information. This is a nice feature for marketers. They also provide unique coupon codes and provide barcodes. Call Will and say Terry told you to call.
Involver : PAID – like North Social – they have a suite of applications that you can choose from and the pricing is about the same. Their couponing application is very good for grocery stores or retail operations that want to be able to offer their coupons on-line.
UPDATE 2014: Since Facebook changed their requirement to use third party apps for contesting, the use of apps has been reduced and of course, people really don’t like giving out access to their data to the app providers. That said, if your contest is a major campaign with a sizable prize, I believe in contest integrity so using an app might still be a good idea based on your goals. As always, keep you contest simple. Requiring too many actions by the entrants will cause them to tune out.
List of Social Media Monitoring Tools
The free tools work pretty well though they are limited in the historical data they can gather and depends on the search terms you use.
Social Mention : FREE – it works quite well – gives a quick snapshot of where your search terms are mentioned in social media.
Addictomatic : FREE – builds a dashboard for you with mentions on a particular search term though I find many of the locations they bring up to be irrelevant (e.g. FriendFeed).
Social Report : This is a nice tool for medium size accounts though many of the metrics are things that have marginal value (how many women vs. men Facebook fans). There is a campaign tool using Google URL builder which is pretty neat if you are doing a lot of twitter or facebook offers. The interface is easy to use and the support is good – really nice people!
The next step up with monitoring is moving into the business intelligence and analysis …and the big dollars – these are the systems used by larger brands. There are many competing systems like Radian6, Sysemos Heartbeat and Pulse, Meltwater, Brandwatch – whew – it goes on and on. In the end – it depends on what you want to do and what your price point is. If you want an engagement platform and have lots of community managers, Radian 6 and Sysemos are great. Brandwatch does great internationalization and Meltwater has great options. MediaMiser is a great option if you need social media and traditional media monitoring. Some charge flat fees and have account managers you can call, others charge by bandwidth used and provide email support. These systems are generally beyond the price point available to my clients though we are offering the MediaMiser system to our clients based on the agency (shared) fee model.
If you have other tools that you use – leave a comment below!
Terry Rachwalski is a certified management consultant (CMC) in Victoria BC who specializes in product launch and marketing plans and adamantly defines herself as belonging in the management consulting camp not as a social media consultant. Rachwalski believes in sharing information and building internal capacity with her clients. She has partnered with the Tartan Group, a Canadian marketing communications and public relations firm to provide digital and social media consulting services to tourism, travel and hospitality clients. The Tartan Group integrates marketing communications and digital strategies to help get your message out where your audience is.