….5 things learned by necessity not choice

In the fall of 2008 the phrase “Social Media Marketing for Dummies” pertained to me on two different levels:

A. I was a Social Media Marketing Dummy in the truest sense because I had CHOSEN to ignore social media marketing up until then and while I had it on my list to check out for months, I really hadn’t done it. Dumb move! As the economy started to slide and as the non-profit (chamber of commerce) that I work for started to lose members and sponsorships for our events, suddenly my marketing budget for advertising was zero. Our destination had to make the choice to carry our members and step up and make up the lost sponsorship dollars with our discretionary dollars which equated to my advertising budget.

    B. I was a dummy regarding how social media works, how to start a social media campaign and how to leverage social media. I hadn’t a clue about any of it.

But suddenly, I didn’t have a choice. I had to dive in head first
since that was my ONLY choice for marketing in 2009.

I spent the rest of the fall of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009 totally immersing myself in the world of social media marketing. This week commemorates my destination’s first attempt at a social media campaign and wow, have we come a long way and an even bigger WOW as to how it has worked for us!

So for those either starting out, or still on the fence about social media, here is a short list of 5 things (there are many more but these start the list) that I have learned in this first year:

1. Really do jump in. I can’t tell you how many times I read that in the fall of ’08 and thought no, I really need to research more and do it right. No, the reality is is that you need to jump in and get going because of point #2.

   2. Social media marketing takes a lot of time, especially in the beginning. I lost 6 months of building connections due to my fear of jumping in and doing something wrong. Start your social media program and learn as you go. While social media saves your marketing budget dollars, it does take up a ton of your time as you read, read, read some more and spend time learning from those who are successful in the field. But the payoff is tremendous as you will read in point #3.

3. Build your first “campaign” around something you do that is successful. If the truth be known, I did this quite by accident. Our first big attempt was in conjunction with our film festival. We set up a hashtag, encouraged those who were on Twitter to tweet and include the hashtag, started a Facebook “Group” page for the festival and for the week leading up to the festival, during the festival and for 3 weeks after the festival, our first social media campaign took flight and instead of the event being just for those in attendance, we had people from all over the world commenting on our festival and the festival lived on for those 3 weeks after the event. It was successful, event marketing via social media is fantastic. Suddenly I did not feel like such a social media dummy.

  4. Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are lifesavers. Once I discovered these two programs for tracking, scheduling and following conversations my social media life became a lot easier. Again though, I was a real dummy – I didn’t start using these applications until the middle of last summer. I was so caught up marketing and trying to figure out what to do next that I kept putting these two things on the back burner because I thought I would have to “learn” them and they would take a lot more time. Wrong! They are totally easy and are huge timesavers.

5. It would sure be nice to have an integrated marketing program with social media, print advertising and some component of TV and radio. But that won’t happen for me in 2010. I can only imagine the impact we could make it we were able to do it all! But, in the meantime, I have no problem putting my faith and my time and effort into social media. It paid off big time for us and once you get started and put your time wholeheartedly into it, it will pay off for you too.

The first blog post I ever wrote tells the story of last year’s success with social media. It tells how in 2009 our destination generated more bed tax (which equates to more overnight stays) with no print advertising, only social media marketing. You can read that blog post here – The Big Social Media Payoff, this is like winning the lottery! 

There isn’t a week that goes by that someone makes a rather snide comment to me about being a “Twitter Queen” or a “Facebook Girl.” But you know, I just smile when I hear those things and think “who’s the dummy now?”