Category Archives: Blogging

Website upgrade – please visit site to keep following

Hi,

We’ve recently moved the site over to WordPress.org to give visitors a better experience free from unwanted adverts.

Unfortunately it means that you won’t be notified of any new posts unless you visit the site and click to follow again.

Please make your way over to www.refresh-marketing.co.uk and enter your email address on the right hand side.

We promise to reward you with regular posts taking a fresh look at marketing and communications.

Hope to see you there!

Refresh Marketing

www.refresh-marketing.co.uk

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Filed under Blogging, Communications

Why content marketing is perfect for the travel industry

Since the days of the first dot.com boom the travel industry has been at the forefront of social and digital media. Despite this there are still travel companies out there who believe that online booking won’t work for them, or organisations who have failed to enter the social marketing space.

There are some persuasive arguments as to why the tourism & travel industry should embrace social media and content marketing as strategies to promote their services, raise brand awareness and generate bookings and a positive reputation. The key to success is finding the right strategy and implementation for your organization.

Let me see it through your eyes

Customer expectation of travel websites has evolved from the transactional to experiential. As well as being able to research a holiday or journey the user now expects to be able to imagine themselves there. Travel companies can achieve this through the use of visual media eg photography and video, and encouraging user reviews, which allow potential bookers to see what past visitors have experienced. Bookers use both official and unofficial channels to research and plan their trip as together they provide a more complete picture of the destination under consideration.

Every traveller is now a reporter – sharing their own visual content to give the ‘warts and all’ view of each location. At very least the booker expects to be able to scroll through a gallery of images and maybe even a 360 photo of each location – a single photo will no longer satisfy our appetite for visual media. Content always has and always will be king.

If you’re seeking evidence of this thirst for visual information – look to the rapid rise of Pinterest and Instagram, as well as Facebook’s latest redesign – which makes visual content even more important in their page layout.

global connectionsGoing social

A natural progression for travel marketing has been the social sharing of information. Status updates, holiday photos and even video make their way onto Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare and are shared across the world. Much of this sharing takes place via mobile devices. Harnessing this power enables travel brands to multiply their marketing budgets and enable information to spread faster than a well planned and executed marcomms campaign could ever do. This is word of mouth referral advertising for the digital age.

SEO should be your number one priority

A website optimized for natural search is every marketing manager’s number one action. However it is now thought in geek circles that Google Search’s latest algorythms are promoting content posted and shared on social networks even higher. The reach of your social network and the sharing you do to those networks will have a substantive, possibly massive, effect on your search traffic.

What can travel brands do to leverage social media?

Here are some essential steps for travel and leisure brands wanting to bring their digital strategy up to date:

1. Create official platforms for sharing. You need to have an authentic presence on all the relevant social networks. If you don’t set it up, a user might, and then you risk your brand being misrepresented by a (hopefully) well-meaning customer. Which social platforms you select will depend naturally on your target markets and marketing objectives. The most important networks for the travel and leisure industry are Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Pinterest, Youtube and Flikr, and blogging (eg WordPress or Blogger). The strategy for each will depend on your business and customer profile.

Connected2. Connect your social networks by cross linking so that your Twitter feed promotes your Facebook page and so on. Pinterest allows you to verify your web address so that it appears in your profile header. These administrative tasks are well worth the time as it demonstrates to Google’s robots that your social profiles are connected and that you are one and the same organisation.

3. Link your organisation’s official website to your social channels. Invite website visitors to connect with you and follow your updates. Even better, incorporate a feed of ‘latest tweets’ or ‘updates’ directly into your company website. Make sure your website is optimised for mobile or better still create a mobile version.

4. Create original content. Anyone can share existing content out there, but brands are in the ideal position of having access to the product or service themselves. Create stunning new photography, create a chalet host’s blog, present survey results as an infographic. Interesting, useful, engaging and most of all entertaining content is shared.

5. Ask users to share it. Word of mouth recommendations will happen regardless, but are vastly accelerated if we ask happy customers to share and recommend the service to their friends. When posting content ask your followers to share or comment – both of which will spread the word virally to their circles.

6. Create events – real or virtual online events and ask followers to join in. If you’re attending trade shows add those as events, or set up a live chat event for your followers.

7. Create unique content that is only available via each network. Competitions work well but have to involve the community and provide a worthwhile reward. Don’t fall foul of competition rules – check out my earlier post for info. Give your followers something special – a preview of a new video, or a discount code off their booking. If you reward their loyalty they will become brand ambassadors and do the hard work for you.

8. Don’t shout, listen to your customers instead. It is more important to engage with and converse with your social media followers than it is to keep pushing out messages to them. They may sometimes complain about your services, but that is fine. A sanitised social media channel will come across as entirely artificial. Listen to their comments, respond and take action in the real world. Learn when to respond to complaints posted on TripAdvisor and know when to leave alone.

9. Make it easy to research and book online. Customer expectations are that this should be possible, and the idea of waiting for a phone line to re-open could lose you valuable business. Ensure that the user journey for each process is as quick and simple as possible – remove redundant steps and only ask for data when it is needed.

Of course social media is only part of the digital marketing landscape, and any social media strategy has to be in synergy with your overarching marketing strategy. Customers will care about every interaction with your brand – from social media, to company website, to phone operative and everyone they meet along their journey. If any of these customer touchpoints are not up to scratch then it lets the whole customer experience down. So take the time to take a renewed look at your customer journey and the content you are sharing and consider where you can make a difference. This relatively small investment of time and budget will pay dividends in terms of future bookings.

Roisin Kirby is an experienced Marketing Consultant based in Nottingham (UK), with experience spanning a range of service industries, particularly the education and travel sectors.

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Filed under Blogging, Digital, Marketing, Mobile, Social media, Strategy, Travel and Tourism

Why I’ve reviewed my social media strategy

You’ve launched your social media profiles, you’re updating your status as often as you can – great – what next? In a previous post I listed some of the common mistakes businesses make with social media. The first mistake is of course not having a social media strategy to start with, the next is not reviewing the strategy and adapting or testing new approaches.

1. A social media strategy for business


Like many new businesses I launched my social media presence based on solid thinking. I’m keen to maintain distance between the personal and professional spheres, and chose LinkedIn, Twitter and blogging as my main communication channels. These have allowed me to interact with existing contacts, grow new networks and discuss topics related to marketing. In support of those three I have some secondary channels that I use to promote my blog posts, to test their usefulness as channels and explore the opportunities they present.

Last week I finally gave in and created a Facebook page for my marketing consultancy. I have resisted this move up until now – so what has changed?

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2. Evaluate and adapt


After delivering against my social media strategy for a few months I have taken stock and reviewed the effectiveness of each channel. Where am I getting interaction, click throughs and conversation? Which subjects are proving interesting to my contacts, which headlines work and what are people retweeting? The statistics are useful to shape my future actions.

The biggest change I have made has been to finally launch a Facebook page for my business. This might seem like a strange move as on first sight Facebook does not seem the obvious place to promote a marketing consultancy. However, other service businesses report having some success on Facebook, and consequently I am happy to give it a try. If it doesn’t perform over time I will review it’s use as a platform and may retreat, and only time will tell. It’s essential to monitor what is working for other organisations (as well as your own) as their successes can indicate that a change in thinking is due for you too.

3. Personal and professional life is merging


In addition, I have found that it is not easy, or necessarily a smart idea to keep the personal and professional life so separate. Many of my LinkedIn contacts are friends rather than people I have worked with, and I like to think that many of the people I have worked with have gone on to become friends. The distinction therefore is not that neat.

Networking for business relies on people meeting and doing business with other people. Being personable and liked is essential for good networking, as networking guru Rob Brown explains. So, yes you will be doing business with me in my professional capacity, but it is still essentially the same me.

Another consideration is that friends can be a great source of business. Like many professional people many of my friends are also in professional roles. They themselves may not be potential clients, but they are likely to recommend me should an opportunity come up.

Don’t worry, I won’t be posting my holiday photos on my business Facebook Page, but I’m relaxing the barrier between personal and professional social media.

4. The social media landscape doesn’t stand still


Finally, let’s not forget that the digital landscape is evolving at an ever increasing rate. The strategy we were happy with six months ago is likely to be out of date now. With a media landscape that is forever innovating, every business needs to review its social media strategy on a regular basis. Maybe it’s time for your business to also review those statistics and listen to what is working for your competitors.

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Filed under Blogging, Digital, Social media, Strategy

Blogging for business: 5 more tips

Previously I have provided 5 tips for new business bloggers that covered the basics. This post provides a bit more to think about once you are up and running.

1. Make use of tags and categories


If you are blogging on WordPress you will have both tags and categories to attach to each blog post. Blogger calls them labels. Use all of these to tag your article with relevant words. Check out what the popular tags are, in case they are relevant. This enables your article to be categorised and found when readers are searching for content.

2. Always include an image


Striking images attract attention. Use this to your advantage and always include at least one image per blog post. Not only will it aid readability but the image will be used when you promote your blog article (more on that later). Be careful about image rights – only use images you have paid for or are royalty free.

bloggers graphic

3. Use headings


Headings help to break up paragraphs of text, enable the reader to scan read and also allow you to emphasise key points. Headings should be in bold and separated from the body text by a line break. Furthermore, if you are able to use ‘Heading’ tags (H1, H2 etc.) this adds to your search engine optimisation as Google recognises the H tags as important text.

4. Include your search terms


To enable your post to be easily found by readers and on search engines you need to ensure that your key words are repeated often enough (but not too often!). So, if your post is about blogs, ensure that the word ‘blog’ appears in the title, intro paragraph and closing paragraph as a minimum. Be careful to ensure that the readability of your post is not compromised by over-peppering the copy with keywords.

5. Always spellcheck!


Spelling and grammar still matter to most people. Write your blog in Word or similar first and check spelling and grammar before you publish. Avoid US English spellings if your blog is aimed primarily at the UK market as it undermines your authenticity. The tone of voice you project is also important as it must appeal to your target audience.

My next post on blogging will concentrate on publicising your blog posts, which is perhaps even more important as the act of blogging itself. Good luck with your blogging!

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Filed under Blogging, Digital, Marketing

5 essential basics for newbie bloggers

Vector blog graphicIn launching this new site I have been undertaking plenty of research into what makes a good blog, and a good individual blog post. The basics are simple, with some more detailed tips to follow in a later blog post. These tips are aimed at business bloggers who want to know how to blog, not social or interest blogs, although many of the principles are the same.

1. Be clear about your objectives

What is the blog intended to deliver? Are you aiming to increase sales, broaden your sphere of influence, and establish yourself as a subject matter expert? The objectives for your blog are clearly going to be different dependent on your circumstances, but the wise blogger will consider and document them before the blog is launched.

2. Who is your intended audience?

My favourite subject matter – target market! Who do you intend to read your blog posts? Current customers, new sales leads? Whilst ‘anyone/everyone’ might be a tempting answer, you need to identify and research your ‘bull’s-eye’ target market. Without knowing this you won’t be able to craft an effective blog.

3. Add value

In a time poor society with lots of media competing for attention you need to offer your audience a compelling reason to read your blog rather than another. Are you sharing knowledge, insight or opinion? Are you demystifying an area that people find confusing? You have to give something to your readers for them to want to read and return. Pick a theme or subject matter area you know about and stick to it.

4. Attention grabbing headlines win!

Your headline needs to be short, snappy and convey the value that your blog post will offer. You only have a few words to draw the reader in so make them count. There’s plenty of specialist advice out there in the blogosphere on this matter alone.

5. Keep it short

Accepted wisdom is that c500 words is the right length for any blog. Less than that and you are not really sharing any depth into the subject, more than that and you risk losing your reader before the end. Copywriting is a skill that takes time to develop, so write your blog in Word first, adapt and perfect it, before publishing it to the world.

Underpinning all of the above should be your blog’s plan. By this I mean you should establish before you publish a) the subject areas that you can blog on, all based around your central theme, and b) how frequently you intend to blog. Without a clearly thought out plan you risk running out of ideas quickly, potentially panicking and posting content of little or no value. The frequency is also key; as a deserted blog is as bad as a prolific blogger that no-one has time to keep up with. How much time and how many ideas for blog posts do you have? By documenting your blog plan before you start you’ll retain focus and offer value to your intended target market.

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Filed under Blogging, Social media