Although you know me as Wandermom and I usually post about family travel, a little technology and sometimes a parenting topic, today I’m going to write as my other personality which is Michelle Duffy, Project Manager at Virtuoso. This week, Virtuoso’s annual conference, Travel Mart, is in full swing in Las Vegas.
As a travel writer and travel blogger, Virtuoso asked me to participate in the conference to provide help and instruction to their Members who are interested in learning more about social media. Time is limited at Travel Mart and many of the attendees already had full schedules before Virtuoso decided to invite me to the conference, so I know that there are many people who have wanted to talk to me but haven’t – and probably won’t – have the opportunity. I thought it might be helpful for attendees who I haven’t been able to work with if I wrote up some examples of the conversations I’ve been having with the Travel Agents and Travel Suppliers over the past couple of days.
I want to sign up on Twitter
This is the opening statement to many of the conversations I’ve had. However, rather than going directly to showing the person Twitter (or Facebook) and jumping straight in to signing him or her up for the service, I take a few moments to discuss the reasons why the person I’m speaking to is interested in signing up. Many of these people are small business owners or independent contractors and are comfortable with the complicated travel booking systems they’ve been using for years, but are intimidated by the incessant flow of messages on Twitter. “I’m not sure where I’ll find the time to be on Twitter.” is something I have heard frequently also. I hope the example below helps demystify getting started with at least one social media tool.
Example 1: Introducing An Experienced Agent To Twitter
This is the most frequent type of assistance I’ve been providing. Let’s use Ann as a name for an example travel agent. Ann’s been working in the business for over 20 years, has traveled frequently and has a long client list. She wants to try out these new tools but she’s not sure where to start and what the benefit will be to her business.
Twitter is a useful tool for an agent like this giving a new way for communicating with existing clients, marketing her agency by participating in the Twitter universe (more on that in a sec) and possibly finding new clients. We create a new account on Twitter for the agent, I walk her through how to configure the account settings (password, profile, page design, etc) by navigating the menu on the Twitter home page. I then show Ann how to find and download TweetDeck which I think is a fantastic tool for managing Twitter conversations – something which is very difficult to do using the plain Twitter interface. We talk about setting up Tweetdeck groups so that Ann, after she’s connected to existing clients on Twitter, can make sure that she doesn’t miss any of their tweets. I show Ann how to use the Find People tool to Find People On Other Networks, a quick way to see if any of her existing contacts are already on Twitter.
Agents who are new to Twitter seem a little confused when they log on initially since the page displayed on this first login is an empty screen – not what they’re expected from this much-touted communication tool. This is where we talk about ways of participating in Twitter including posting links to travel-related news and articles, re-tweeting interesting tweets and reaching out to help and inform. But first Ann needs to be following someone so that she starts seeing tweets! We use Twitter’s Find People utility to search for people who Ann might be interested in following. We use Twitter Search to search on a simple phrase like ‘travel’ to find other twitter users who are interested in or tweet about travel. We check out websites like WeFollow and Wanderlisting.com to find even more twitterers. Finally we look at VirtuosoSocMedia’s followers to find other Virtuoso Members and Suppliers who Ann might find useful to follow on Twitter.
Example 2: Helping A Virtuoso Supplier Sign Up For Twitter
Some of the people who’ve dropped by the Tech Cafe to talk about social media and getting started with social media are travel Suppliers: tour, cruise or hotel companies. We walk through a very similar process as with an Agent, but the intent of having a Twitter account is different. The Suppliers I’ve worked with are interested in using Twitter to communicate with Virtuoso Member Agents to share information with those agencies and be available for help and support if necessary. In this case, we use Twitter Search to find those agencies.
Many suppliers already have websites packed with lots of information for travel agents to find out about the tours and other services provided by the company. We made sure to include a link to this website on the Supplier’s Twitter Profile Page.
I spent some time working with Linda, an agent who already has a blog, showing her how to leverage social media tools to broaden her blog readership and I also heard a very funny story from the folks at Rex Travel about how their forays into the world of social media earlier this year caused some hilarious side-effects. Check in tomorrow for a post on these topics.