Facebook_logoI’m often asked by tourism professionals what I would recommend as a good first step in learning how to communicate with social media.

More and more these days, I immediately mention a Facebook Page.

By that I mean a Facebook “Fan” or “Business” Page for your tourism-related organization, not a personal page (although you must have a personal account/page in order to start a Fan/Business Page.)

Why do it?

  • Social networking dominance – over 300 million worldwide Facebook users as of this writing.  Go where the people are, because….
  • Your prospective visitors are probably there already. Facebook is no longer a “young person’s thing” – the fastest-growing demographic is aged 35 and older (with a big spike from women over 55….women outnumber men on Facebook.)
  • It’s free. Whose destination marketing budget doesn’t love that?
  • It’s a flexible platform to post not only written news and updates, but also the all-important photos and video. More importantly, your Facebook fans can also share their thoughts/photos/videos about your destination or attraction, so it’s great for building a sense of community (one that has worldwide exposure.)
  • It’s hooked right into the explosive growth of mobile and smartphones. This is a no-brainer, folks.  Worldwide Facebook mobile usage is up 300%….combine that with the sense that we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of mobile/smartphone growth across the board.  You need to be in this space. Like, yesterday.

Now, I know this sets your hair on fire and you’re ready to go sign up for a Page right now, but the next step is to make sure that this fits into your organization’s communications and destination marketing strategy.

This isn’t play (although it IS fun!) – this is professional communicating.  It needs to be integrated into your overall marketing plan along with the press releases or brochures or billboard buys, but remember, the social Web is different.

It is two-way, social communications with human beings; if you just pour stuff out into a broadcast pipe like you may be used to doing, your Page will fail. Your fans want to interact with you, not read your regurgitated press releases, so get some responsive personality in there.

Think of your Facebook business page as a “digital storefront” extension of your “home base” website.  Try not to clutter it up too much, show up regularly to say hello and interact, and make sure that your fans and customers can find the page.  Put prominent links to it on your home page, in your email signatures, mention the Page occasionally on Twitter and blog about it.

Now, go knock ’em dead (and leave a comment below if you have any questions or further suggestions – thanks!)