Obama has 5 million support Friends on Facebook - it helps him get his message out and stay in contact. Spurred on by his successful use of social media, more and more businesses are using, or wondering how to use Facebook and similar social sites.
In December 2008, AXSES began a project to use and evaluate the technology and the network. In the first week of this exercise, Kathy-Lynn Ward became a fan of Jennifer Figge, who is attempting to be the first woman to swim the Atlantic, from Africa to Barbados. Jennifer's manager contacted us through Facebook and AXSES put him in contact with the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA). The BTA launched a similar Facebook project shortly after.
So we have to say it has value from a business perspective for tourism. It's hard to get to grips on just how to optimize it in a positive and socially acceptable way.
But we are beginning to see that the network and the technology can be a significant resource. The key is to shift thinking from a marketing perspective to one of helping and sharing. It's a good shift, and one that many companies are practicing without being on the Social Net.
Here is how it works: You sign up and then go about inviting Friends, who invite Friends, who invite more Friends to become your Friend. The Friends can become advocates and clients. Start using it, but be warned, it is addictive!
The first thing to learn is that if you want to be successful, don't choose your friends - just accept all that apply, that way it will grow. I don't do that well - I like my privacy, so I am careful who I approve.
Next, learn to create pages to describe, in pictures and words, your company and/or some of your products. Post it to your profile so it is visible to all that check to see who you are.
At AXSES, we created pages for the Barbados Tourism Encyclopedia (BTE) (http://Barbados.org),
http://BookingsBarbados.com, http://BookingsStLucia.com and http://BarbadosBoardwalk.com as a photo gallery, to name a few.
I say we did this, meaning that our people did. Facebook is personal, so a real person, not a company, is expected to create a Facebook account. They may then add pages, photo galleries, groups and make comments which can be sent to others. Facebook pages can be about companies and products. In fact, we made the mistake of setting up a profile for the BTE page and, in fact, there are advantages (more detailes to follow). It seems many companies also made this mistake! But for visibility on access, a page is superior; a profile is private and will not be picked up by SEO, whereas pages may.
Facebook groups may be formed to discuss topics of interest and share news and happenings. They are a good way to network and keep up to date and in contact. It's similar in a way to the thing they call a Wall, where all can post messages to be read by others who look at your Wall. Sort of like graffiti. Groups are more focused and you can create multiple topics. In the St. Lucia group, there are discussions going on about Amy Winehoue, as well as the new St. Lucia Marketing strategy. Unlike Pages groups, they are not open to the public; they are only accessible to Facebook people and you have to belong to the group to participate.
Margaux Daher, an AXSES Associate from St. Lucia, has taken the lead in creating links and sharing insights on the St. Lucia page and the St. Lucia group we created. Her friends have joined the group and now others are joining. It's not generating business but it is away to communicate and share.
Kathy-Lynn, always thinking of our hotel and travel clients, established RSS feeds which grab Holiday Specials off our bookings services and display them on the respective Facebook pages. Anyone who looks at the page can see a Special on offer.
Facebook's pages, photos, videos, events, invitations, discussion boards, Walls and messaging, as well as Flash and numerous applications, give us a very rich platform for a travel dialogue and e-commerce. It has potential for hotels and tourism operators.
We have already deployed arcRes Booking Engine on Facebook. Our next step is to integrate clients information on Facebook, to link in our travel network with special applications built on our travel platform.
4 million people use http://Barbados.org each year. If they choose to become a Friend or Fan of our Facebook page for Barbados, they will see all the Barbados.org posts, news and specials, all in one place. It will give us a useful way to communicate with travelers in a social way, on their terms, and with not in-your-face advertising.
Our next step will be to investigate how best to help hotels use social networks (more later).
According to eMarketer research, Social network users made up 41.2% of the US Internet population in 2008. 60% of Internet users are consumers of all user-generated content.
eMarketer estimates that 115 million people use the social media.
By 2013, the total number is expected to be over 154 million.
It's growing because its easy to use, appears to be more credible and it's free!
see Jason Falls on FacebookBrand Page Best Practices/
The Rush to Social Networks