Social Media Survival Tips for Travel PR

As the date of a press trip approaches, itineraries are flying around, details are being finalized and media kits are assembled and distributed. Amid all of this, I’ve noticed over two and a half years of travel writing, there is no social media “kit” provided at the beginning of a trip … and it wouldn’t be hard to do. Look at the top of any itinerary: you see property and agency contact information. How hard would it be to include a Twitter account, too?

Hey, travel PR folks: in addition to thinking about the coverage you hope to secure in a magazine or on a blog after the trip has run its course, think about the incremental gains you could realize during the trip itself – especially for a group trip.

When you’re planning your next press trip, consider the following social media essentials:

1. Twitter accounts: make sure your media guests know the property’s official Twitter account, as well as those of key employees who are active on the microblogging platform. Referencing these accounts in their tweets will help you accumulate followers. Also, you should be monitoring your media guests and retweeting them to extend the value of their 140-character coverage.

2. Hashtags: Again, this is ideal for big press trips, though it can also work with solos. Come up with a few hashtags to recommend to your media guests to use when they are tweeting. This will make it easier to monitor results and help you aggregate each person’s contribution into a greater whole. You get bonus points if you coordinate with complementary agencies (parent companies, CVBs, local businesses, etc.). For example, a resort in California could talk to the state’s visitor’s bureau about whether to use #california or something tied to its branding (and I’m making this up for now), such as #visitcali2010 (hypothetical).

3. Facebook fan pages: These can be great sources of information and photos, so let your media guests know about them before they hit the road on a press trip. Also, if they wind up “liking” your page, you effectively get social media coverage before the trip even begins. Also, you never know when a pleasant surprise may occur. When I was at Curtain Bluff last summer, I became a fan of the resort’s Facebook page one evening from my room – in fact, I became the resort’s 200th fan. There wasn’t a whole lot of cause for celebration, but it did provide the opportunity for the resort to run an interesting tweet and Facebook status update.

4. Flickr accounts: I will be the first to tell you that sourcing photos is a colossal pain in the ass. I hate to do it. I also happen to be a terrible photographer. So, when I visit a destination, there’s a chance I’m going to need some of the “official” pictures to round out my story. Make it easy for me: set up a Flickr account, and select the “Creative Commons” option so I don’t need to ask for permission before using them. Then, include the Flickr account in your social media kit prior to the trip.

5. YouTube accounts: See Flickr, above.

While Flickr and YouTube may seem more useful following the trip, they can provide materials for quickie personal blog posts. This may not be as exciting as the main coverage you’re looking forward to, but a lot of travel writers (unlike me) have fairly substantial and well-trafficked personal travel blogs.

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