LONDON—The chaos that reigned in the huge queues outside the Social Travel Market seminars at London’s World Travel Market is perhaps the greatest testament to the growing interest in social media use in the world of travel.
Hoteliers, travel writers, tours operators and marketers, many of whom occupied floor space or standing room only in the expanded panel hall Wednesday afternoon, were all keen to learn about the “perfect travel tweet”—how to best make the use of 140 characters in promoting their hotels and companies.
What to tweet and when
Mark Frary, co-founder of the Social Travel Market, explored “social media scientist” Dan Zarrella’s research into what tweets might be most effective.
Co-founder of the Social Travel Market
Including a link was one of the best ways to get your tweet noticed and retweeted. “The common thought is that link should go right at the end, but Dan Zarella has found that the link is best placed around 25% through the tweet—very close to the beginning,” Frary said.
Zarella’s research also found the best time of the week to tweet is Friday and the best time of day for retweets is 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
The language used is very important to help get people to share tweets. The top 10 “RTable” words are: “you,” “twitter,” “please,” “retweet,” “post,” “blog,” “social,” “free,” “media” and “help.”
“From a travel point of view, you need to bear in mind who your audience is,” said panelist Iain Martin, travel writer and blogger. “If you are a company or a destination, there is a very different approach towards tweeting. Content is the most important element of it. And you need to try to find a balance between letting people know you are nice people and selling. If you’re selling the whole time, people are going to turn off and not be very interested.
“But there’s a time for selling, and you need to time that carefully,” he added.
Using the whole 140 characters is a mistake because the person doing the retweeting will likely have to edit it down, Martin said.
“ Writing a tweet is the ultimate piece of editing,” he said. “Less is definitely more.”
Martin, who blogs on behalf of clients including ski agent Skipedia, continued, “When I am representing different clients, I always try to be personable about it—using the first person singularly or plural: ‘I’ve seen this,’ or, ‘We’ve seen this.’ In sales, people buy from people they like. You might just think you’re some corporate ID with your hotel or tour operator, but people want to know that you’re a person they can share things with.”
Think human and interesting
Matthew Christensen, social media manager for On the Go Tours, said the “human side” was much more important than the corporate.
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“It’s helpful to think of a tweet almost like headline writing, with a link that’s going to attract the people you want to attract,” he said.
“I think Twitter has changed the way a lot of the way traditional media operates. If you’re going to be tweeting, you should really be keeping an eye on current events and how that they apply with the people you are communicating with. Funny tweets and human tweets are also very important,” Christensen added.
For On the Go Tours, he uses HootSuite, an application that allows him to keep track of several different Twitter profiles at once.
“It will also cut down on characters and find out how many people have clicked on this,” Christensen said, adding he conducts additional analysis with Google analytics.
But tracking clickthroughs doesn’t always equate to more sales, he said. “For us, in the social media aspect of marketing, the most important thing is user-generated content. This is going to lead to more sales.”
Being generous with tweets was an underlying theme during the panel. “It makes sense to credit someone you’re retweeting as essentially you’re creating a relationship within the travel market,” Martin said. “Potentially down the line they might retweet you back. Tagging within your tweets (i.e. the @ symbol and then someone’s name) if you’re sending a tweet and it’s pertinent to a particular partner in the industry or to alert a journalist is something you can also do from time to time.”
Top tips for tweets
The Twitter feed of U.K. tourist board Visit Britain is now the No. 1 tourist board on Twitter and the second highest travel company in the world, according to Klout Score with 45,000 followers and a tweet reach of approximately 1 million a day.
Pleasance Coddington, Visit Britain’s online and social media content manager, thinks carefully about whether her tweets will add value.
“The golden rules are: Before you start thinking about where you should put a link in my tweet, how many hash tags I should put in, you need to firstly think about your followers. Am I adding something to their day—travel information, a destination guide, some insightful statistics? But it could also be that you just make them smile. Make sure you’re giving your followers something.”
(From left) Visit Britain’s Pleasance Coddington, One the Go Tours’ Matthew Christensen, and travel blogger Iain Martin shared tips on how to write the perfect tweet during the Social Travel Market.
She described having actively gone out to mimic the best tweeters as much as possible. Other things that have worked well for Visit Britain in getting more followers and therefore generating brand awareness are lists, top 10, top five, or “anything with a number in it will get a retweet and pick up more followers.”
Visual references are also key, Coddington said.
“There is not enough photo sharing on Twitter. Some of our Visit Britain super blog photos get up to 10,000 views … People need something that will pull the eye into the tweet. If I really want people to click on a link, I will put an arrow in there. It’s very simple but it really works … Get involved with hash tag conversations but don’t use too many. Personally, I would recommend not more than two hash tags in a tweet.
“Success on Twitter and in social media is about making a reciprocal relationship,” she added. “Don’t get caught up on whether you’re following a lot more than people are following you.”
To repeat or not to repeat
Panelists were unanimous that tweets should be repeated.
“Often repeat tweets because the volume of tweets that people have to get through can get so far,” Martin said. “Maybe slightly adjust it. There are a number of applications where you can schedule tweets such as HootSuite or Tweet Deck.”
Regarding frequency of tweets, it depends on the audience, he added. One of his clients automates 20 to 30 tweets a day, though Martin said he worries that might turn off followers.
“Not everyone is watching or online at the moment you’re tweeting. If it is a really compelling message, then repeat it,” Coddington said.
As to whether one person or a team of persons should be responsible for tweeting and retweeting throughout the day, Christensen said the issue is irrelevant. The important thing is to have a code or strategy that dictates strategy no matter who is in charge.
“There is room to have a large number of staff in the organisation to tweet for you if they are taught how to contribute valuable interesting content for followers, especially if they are based around the world,” Martin added. “There are some companies who organise their own staff to tweet via their personal profiles and give an on-the-ground view.”