Social Network Marketing and the Gay Travel Market

The first step in the social network marketing process is to develop your primary “Touch Points”, including a Facebook Business/Fan page and Twitter account (see this link for more information: http://gaybizreport.blogspot.com/2009/04/social-network-marketing-updates-for.html).

Touch Points need Connections/Friends in order to make them work for your business.  To get started, follow GLTBT travel individuals and businesses on Twitter (use the SEARCH function on Twitter to identify new connections to follow).  Also, invite GLBT travel contacts in Facebook to join your Facebook Business/Fan page.  You may also want to consider advertising with Facebook on a CPC basis (cost per click) in order to drive more traffic and get more people to connect with you on your Facebook page.  Your ad can target "gay" and then keywords such as "travel" and "vacation".  This ad can be set to target travelers in specific regions (thus focusing on your destination’s “feeder markets”) as well as by gender, age range and more.  The benefits of this ad is that it will include your logo, thus providing you branding as well as directly measurable performance.  To maximize the effectiveness of this ad, be sure to link it to your Facebook page, not directly to your website... you’ll get more Facebook members opting in to connect with you if you do.

Lastly, assuming you’ve been maintaining a LinkedIn.com and Plaxo.com account, keep the connections in these sites up to date with all of your main business contacts in travel. When you meet someone new at a trade show, don’t just add them to your contact database... ensure you’ve added them as a connection/friend in these sites as well.

The next step in the social network marketing process is developing a “story to tell” about your organization, product or service and posting it in the form of a blog.  This story becomes the cornerstone of your social network marketing process, and feeds into the various “touch points” created in Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Rather than make this a place to post press releases, product information, etc., you should instead try to make this story more interesting and humanize the editorial as best as you can.  Online consumers tend to view and read this editorial more frequently, and a good story is passed along to friends, thus increasing the viral nature of your content.

For the world of gay travel, there are a variety of blog posting themes you could choose from in order to keep your blog, and thus its content, fresh in the gay travel consumer’s eye.

These themes could include:
  • Events:  you could focus on upcoming GLBT events in your area, including Pride festivals, film festivals and more.
  • Club and Bar Reviews:  you could run a series of blog postings highlighting GLBT clubs and bars in your area
  • Restaurant Reviews:  you could run a series of blog postings highlighting GLBT and GLBT-friendly restaurants in your area
  • Hotel Reviews:  you could run a series of blog postings highlighting GLBT-friendly hotels in your area
  • Destination Attractions and Highlights: you can feature art exhibitions, museum openings and wide variety of attractions and highlights in your area
  • Individual interviews:  you could have featured interviews done as blog postings of key GLBT business leaders in your area
This content would be posted on your blog, as well as requested for inclusion on other gay travel blogs you’ve developed a relationship with over the past few months, along with direct links back to your site.  A link to the blog posting would also be posted on your Facebook page and promoted using your Twitter account.

To make your blog more interesting, consider the use of photos taken in a variety of social environments (bars, events, groups traveling together, etc.).  A few of the key photos can be integrated into the blog along with a link to the full set of photos you’ve posted online. You should upload and tag the photos onto Facebook as well as uploaded to Flick (photos should be described and tagged with web link in description in order to maximize their marketing efforts in driving more traffic to your website.)  An additional advantage to using Flickr is that the photos can be added to their gay travel group, currently at almost 700 members.

For hotel owners, try taking photos of hotel guests who would agree to having their photos uploaded onto your Facebook page and tagged so that they could share and remember their hotel stay with you. The same can be done for bars, clubs, group travelers and various other GLBT events as well.  In all of these cases, when taking photos, do all you can to get the names of people in the photos, connect with them on Facebook and then tag the photos... this will increase your overall viral marketing and increase your overall number of connections/friends.

Lastly, the use of traditional destination photos can be used here as well... our recommendation is to always focus on people when using photos for social network marketing, but for a destination’s Facebook page, quality destination photos could work here as well.  Similarly, a hotel or bar could use property photos to help make the online visitor more familiar with their property.

For those ready to take a more advanced leap in online viral content, videos can be a useful tool for destinations, hotels, bars and more.  The videos can be informative (having a narrated walking tour depicting gay life in your city) as well as designed to tell their own story as well.  The more unique the story in the video production, the more likely the videos will be shared and spread virally online.  Posting video on YouTube and your Facebook page and properly tagging these uploaded videos will allow them to do the work for you.  Posting the 
video on your blog will increase your exposure even more.

To ensure your automated viral social networking is working for you, make sure to connect up your blog, photos, video and Twitter to Plaxo’s GLBT travel group, LinkedIn.com’s GLBT travel group and other relevant groups found on social networks including those found on Ning.com, CollectiveX.com and more.  Also ensure you’ve connected your blog, photos, video and Twitter to Friendfeed.com and other automated social networks.

Also make sure to work some of the more manual social network updates that reach your specific audience, including posting some of your blog, photo and video updates in GLBT Travel groups on Facebook. More specifically, if you’re a bar or restaurant, ensure your up to date with Yelp.com.  If you’re a hotel, you would use TripAdvisor.com.  Specific social networks in the travel industry include TripWolf.com and specific social networks in the GLBT travel industry include GayCities.com with their user-generated reviews, and the new OutAdvisor.com.


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