While destinations' social media tools have probably been at play for years now for end visitors (whether transient travelers or meeting and event attendees), far fewer destinations have been able to truly tap into social media's potential in the B2B world of destination sales.
There are three reasons why this cannot continue as it has, and it has everything to do with the growing market place that social media has become, what's happening there, and who needs to be present when it all goes down. Take a look:
1. Meeting planners are not exceptions to the social media rule.
A common explanation I hear from DMOs and why their sales teams are not active on social media or in their digital strategy execution is this: "The planners we want, our planners, aren't on social media." I took this as quite possible. It is possible that the segment of meeting planners you target do not use social media for work.
However, in last year's survey by PCMA Convene, we discovered that only 18.5% of meeting professionals do not use social media for any part of their work. So, with that, I'm actually very concerned that an industry of over 300 DMOs and their sales professionals are all going after the same 18.5% of meeting planners that aren't on social media.
An impressive 27.2% also actively engage with suppliers on social media, too. Notice this fraction is larger than the 18.5% that are not on social media. So another question is why wouldn't you want to cast a wider net?
It's Time: It's time to accept the fact that meeting professionals are using social media for work. To ignore this as a potential place to develop new business opportunities would mean you're actively cutting out 71.5% of the meeting planning community simply because they use LinkedIn or Twitter, and that doesn't make any sense.
2. Meeting planners want intelligence and advice.
So 71.5% of meeting professionals use social media for work. You're probably wondering, as I did, what exactly they're doing.
The top three activities are:
- Get news and updates for work (71.8%)
- Research for work (43.7%), and
- Get advice and recommendations for work (42.7%).
Delving into greater detail, here's what meeting planners ranked as topics that attract their attention on social media:
- Ways to save time and money (1.7)
- Inspiring details I can incorporate into my event (2.3)
- Unusual and creative services I can use (2.5)
- Resources that contribute to my professional development credit (3.5)
- Novel destinations I hadn't thought of (4.6)
These results underscore what social businesses say time and again. Social media isn't a soapbox on which you get on every day and say, "Pick me! I'm the best!" Shameless self-promotion is as unwelcome online as it is face to face, and by recognizing that social media is most effectively used as a tool for sharing, you'll be in a much better position to leverage it towards your success as a sales professional.
It's Time: It's time to take an active role in crafting the informaton that meeting planners want to receive. We found that it's not necessarily going to be news about your destination. They seemed to rank pretty low in comparison to resources that they can use and advice they can rely on, so keep your destination promotion within those contexts.
3. Meeting planners want to meet you... not a logo.
Nowadays, it's not enough to depend on your DMO's marketing and communications team to manage your company's social presence when it comes to engaging with meeting professionals.
About 76% of meeting professionals are comfortable maintaining a relationship through social media -- often used in combination with e-mail and telephone. But what's more important is that a whopping 78% of them want to connect with a person, whereas only 8% preferred connecting with a company profile.
Meeting professionals want to know who they're talking to. They want the one-on-one connection, and you should, too! Wouldn't you want a planner to know and recognize you, instead of a logo?
It's Time: It's time to own your online relationships. You wouldn't delegate your face-to-face exchanges, so why would you pass your online reputation, sales, and service opportunities off to someone else? If you're looking to get started, there are many avenues to explore and a few pitfalls to be aware of. Take time to understand and then take time to experiment. The biggest risk, however, is ignoring it completely.
The first step to social sales is just down the hall from you. Consult your marketing and communications department for advice and organizational guidelines. Do it before you miss the boat entirely.