SEARCH SWEET SPOT: Beyond Google’s Mothership

A look at travel distribution online in SEARCH – Beyond Google. Part-One of a Two-Part series.

 

Over the past 5-years, online travel booking revenue has grown by more than 73%, with 57% of all travel reservations now made online. (eMarketer; 2014)

Travel marketers know that a large portion of their digital advertising budgets should be focused on driving targeted traffic to the website, and that organic search and paid search advertising campaigns in Google are a critical part of hotel distribution in today’s connected world.

During this time Google has become the MOTHERSHIP of search engines.  Consumer use of search has skyrocketed with no signs of slowing down, even with time spent online becoming increasingly divided by time spent on social networks, news platforms, gaming and streaming of media, as well as search.  Having said that, Google Adwords is an extremely smart advertising platform that has set the standard in the digital industry, and absolutely offers marketers the tools, the reach, targeting options, and the conversion data to prove it.

The current state of search for Travel  

Over the past decade, the travel sector specifically has become heavily reliant on search, and all signs point to more to come. Device targeting and other smart optimization tools will continue to bring advertisers closer to the point of consumer conversion.

 

” The challenge in our reliance on Google search as a key distribution channel for travel is that Google Adwords is becoming increasingly expensive, with other large travel category advertisers such as OTA’s, brands and meta-search sites driving up the cost-per-click and overall cost of paid search. “

 

To add to this, Google is still adjusting how organic and paid search displays with ongoing changes to where locally optimized businesses are placed.

This is getting extremely complex when we look at travel search in Google, with changes happening continually in how results are displayed.

I am sure all travel marketers would agree, it has become more expensive to play the search game year over year, which is also reducing its efficiency in providing targeted reach, and converted sales – at a reasonable cost-per-conversion for advertisers.

The travel as a sector is heavily reliant on search, more so than in other industries including retail, automotive or consumer packaged goods. OTA’s, Hotel brands, Airlines, Meta Search engines, and other travel aggregators and intermediaries continue to dominate the paid search and content networks.

With increased costs associated with search, it will be difficult for smaller advertisers to continue to up the ante to compete for the consumer click.

In the past, only those located in markets like major city centers and popular destinations had to deal with high CPC’s, and usually the cost-per-acquisition of paid search compared with other advertising channels still made it an extremely effective sales channel.

Now with increased advertisers, specifically in Google’s paid search ad platform, search will likely become as expensive as television was in the past and perhaps more of a place for brand marketing and awareness campaigns.

This leaves travel marketers at a place once again of needing to shift digital dollars to a channels that have both the reach and engagement of the consumer – and that provide a healthy cost-per-acquisition.

Can travel advertisers afford not to look at other digital marketing channels?

Google Search will likely continue to be populated by larger travel category advertisers including major hotel brands and hotel groups, OTA’s, Airlines and other travel intermediaries such as meta-search engines like Trivago and even Tripadvisor.

Google Adwords will continue to offer extremely localized campaign options with more of a mobile focus for advertisers to target consumers closer to the point of conversion, but both CPC’s and cost to manage such complex marketing campaigns will continue to demand investment.

 

SearchSweetSpot_article_aliciawhalen_ideahatching.comThe digital distribution of travel is about to shift again. Considerations beyond the mothership.

Travel marketer’s will need to be smarter with digital marketing planning and use smart data and analytics now more than ever. Annual digital media planning must include consideration and testing of other online advertising platforms to ensure hoteliers remain in control of their online sales channels as the travel buying process continues to become more and more fragmented across multiple devices and platforms.

Where should marketers be looking to spend digital marketing dollars?  My recommendation is to plan ahead and test the waters.

Diversify your digital Adspend. Test and measure.

As search advertising continues to increase in cost, travel marketers should consider shifting online budgets to allow for testing of other digital distribution channels.

The sacrifice of a less mass audience reach may result in a more targeted consumer – at a lower cost-per-conversion. There are many of these marketing channels to explore.

Smart marketers will ensure that analytics are in place with key performance metrics and goal tracking, and then consider testing the waters more aggressively with some other highly effective digital marketing channels such as:

  • Local Search (Google Places and Business pages Optimization): with deep segmentation based on device, geo targeting and call and link extensions.
  • Yahoo/Bing Network Search: Approximately 1/3 of all search in US and Canada is delivered by Yahoo Bing. CPC’s are much lower, and audience is highly targeted for the travel industry. (more to follow in part-two of this series)
  • Social Media: Content and resources to support with some adspend allocated will ensure that brand reputation is strong. Social media is not as likely to lead to a direct conversion (yet), but plays an important role in the consumer buying process. It is critical for marketers to manage CRM and the ever-important travel review.
  • Tripadvisor Business listings provide for direct to property contact links (phone, website, deals pages) and special offers to drive direct, noncommissioned bookings.
  • DMO’s – Destination Marketing Organizations need to play an active role in being the travel guide and destination expert via social media marketing and strong website assets pointing travelers to stakeholders to convert. Stakeholder partnerships, combined digital media buys on behalf of the destination, content partnerships and optimized business/property listings to drive referral traffic to hotels are a must.

Specifically, Hoteliers can expect that the OTA’s, hotel brands, major airlines and other major travel category advertisers will continue to increase their investment in search.

Moving forward, small to medium sized hotels and travel advertisers can leverage this.  Hotels and other travel suppliers will need to be well positioned within each channel (Expedia, booking.com, kayak, Tripadvisor, etc.) – and then let the larger advertisers do the heavy lifting on digital channels such as:

  • Google search and display, content and video (YouTube) ad networks
  • Bing/Yahoo Ad network and content sites
  • MetaSearch Engines (Kayak)
  • Tripadvisor destination pages, display advertising, PPC
  • Online travel advertisers such as Expedia, booking.com
  • Brand marketing programs offered within major hotel chains such as Starwood and Marriott

Overall, travel marketers should be focusing on deeper optimization of ad campaigns across all platforms to keep spending as targeted as possible, and cost per conversions low.

CONCLUDING SOUNDBITES:

Search marketing is important but will continue to increase in cost.
  1. According to eMarketer, 128 million people, or 63% of Internet users, will research travel online on their computer or through their mobile device this year. Of those, 83%, or 106 million people, will actually book travel
  2. Travel advertisers should consider advertising on other search channels: Consider placing some adspend towards Yahoo/Bing Search. According to YahooBing (and comscore), its search platform serves 1/3 of search to those not using the mothership (Google) and reaches 34% of the overall Mobile Search Market . This is key as consumers continue to increase time spent on mobile devices over desktop.
  3. Marketers need to continue to focus on analytics and campaign performance analysis with marketing, sales and revenue departments working together to ensure search drives rate as well as direct consumer acquisition, with a focus on price transparency in all places online.

Part two of this article will explore other digital advertising tactics that can provide deep customer targeting and access to travel consumers online and who are close to the point of sale.  Until then, time to review the budget for 2015 and allow for some budget to test the waters – outside of the mothership.

 

ABOUT:

Alicia Whalen is a digital + social media marketing strategist, author and speaker specializing in the travel and tourism industry. Alicia has spent over a decade driving successful digital marketing campaigns and educating tourism professionals about how to embrace digital and social media.  An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.

Connect with Alicia on TwitterLinkedIn or at her blog www.ideahatching.com 

 

 

Additional article references:

1. searchengineland: Bing Ads vs. adwords

2. Financial Post: Google or Bing Ads for SMB’s

3. searchenginewatch.com: Search Engine Market Share

4. Experian.com: Online Trends in Canada

SEARCH SWEET SPOT: Beyond Google's Mothership

A look at travel distribution online in SEARCH – Beyond Google. Part-One of a Two-Part series.

 

Over the past 5-years, online travel booking revenue has grown by more than 73%, with 57% of all travel reservations now made online. (eMarketer; 2014)

Travel marketers know that a large portion of their digital advertising budgets should be focused on driving targeted traffic to the website, and that organic search and paid search advertising campaigns in Google are a critical part of hotel distribution in today’s connected world.

During this time Google has become the MOTHERSHIP of search engines.  Consumer use of search has skyrocketed with no signs of slowing down, even with time spent online becoming increasingly divided by time spent on social networks, news platforms, gaming and streaming of media, as well as search.  Having said that, Google Adwords is an extremely smart advertising platform that has set the standard in the digital industry, and absolutely offers marketers the tools, the reach, targeting options, and the conversion data to prove it.

The current state of search for Travel  

Over the past decade, the travel sector specifically has become heavily reliant on search, and all signs point to more to come. Device targeting and other smart optimization tools will continue to bring advertisers closer to the point of consumer conversion.

 

” The challenge in our reliance on Google search as a key distribution channel for travel is that Google Adwords is becoming increasingly expensive, with other large travel category advertisers such as OTA’s, brands and meta-search sites driving up the cost-per-click and overall cost of paid search. “

 

To add to this, Google is still adjusting how organic and paid search displays with ongoing changes to where locally optimized businesses are placed.

This is getting extremely complex when we look at travel search in Google, with changes happening continually in how results are displayed.

I am sure all travel marketers would agree, it has become more expensive to play the search game year over year, which is also reducing its efficiency in providing targeted reach, and converted sales – at a reasonable cost-per-conversion for advertisers.

The travel as a sector is heavily reliant on search, more so than in other industries including retail, automotive or consumer packaged goods. OTA’s, Hotel brands, Airlines, Meta Search engines, and other travel aggregators and intermediaries continue to dominate the paid search and content networks.

With increased costs associated with search, it will be difficult for smaller advertisers to continue to up the ante to compete for the consumer click.

In the past, only those located in markets like major city centers and popular destinations had to deal with high CPC’s, and usually the cost-per-acquisition of paid search compared with other advertising channels still made it an extremely effective sales channel.

Now with increased advertisers, specifically in Google’s paid search ad platform, search will likely become as expensive as television was in the past and perhaps more of a place for brand marketing and awareness campaigns.

This leaves travel marketers at a place once again of needing to shift digital dollars to a channels that have both the reach and engagement of the consumer – and that provide a healthy cost-per-acquisition.

Can travel advertisers afford not to look at other digital marketing channels?

Google Search will likely continue to be populated by larger travel category advertisers including major hotel brands and hotel groups, OTA’s, Airlines and other travel intermediaries such as meta-search engines like Trivago and even Tripadvisor.

Google Adwords will continue to offer extremely localized campaign options with more of a mobile focus for advertisers to target consumers closer to the point of conversion, but both CPC’s and cost to manage such complex marketing campaigns will continue to demand investment.

 

SearchSweetSpot_article_aliciawhalen_ideahatching.comThe digital distribution of travel is about to shift again. Considerations beyond the mothership.

Travel marketer’s will need to be smarter with digital marketing planning and use smart data and analytics now more than ever. Annual digital media planning must include consideration and testing of other online advertising platforms to ensure hoteliers remain in control of their online sales channels as the travel buying process continues to become more and more fragmented across multiple devices and platforms.

Where should marketers be looking to spend digital marketing dollars?  My recommendation is to plan ahead and test the waters.

Diversify your digital Adspend. Test and measure.

As search advertising continues to increase in cost, travel marketers should consider shifting online budgets to allow for testing of other digital distribution channels.

The sacrifice of a less mass audience reach may result in a more targeted consumer – at a lower cost-per-conversion. There are many of these marketing channels to explore.

Smart marketers will ensure that analytics are in place with key performance metrics and goal tracking, and then consider testing the waters more aggressively with some other highly effective digital marketing channels such as:

  • Local Search (Google Places and Business pages Optimization): with deep segmentation based on device, geo targeting and call and link extensions.
  • Yahoo/Bing Network Search: Approximately 1/3 of all search in US and Canada is delivered by Yahoo Bing. CPC’s are much lower, and audience is highly targeted for the travel industry. (more to follow in part-two of this series)
  • Social Media: Content and resources to support with some adspend allocated will ensure that brand reputation is strong. Social media is not as likely to lead to a direct conversion (yet), but plays an important role in the consumer buying process. It is critical for marketers to manage CRM and the ever-important travel review.
  • Tripadvisor Business listings provide for direct to property contact links (phone, website, deals pages) and special offers to drive direct, noncommissioned bookings.
  • DMO’s – Destination Marketing Organizations need to play an active role in being the travel guide and destination expert via social media marketing and strong website assets pointing travelers to stakeholders to convert. Stakeholder partnerships, combined digital media buys on behalf of the destination, content partnerships and optimized business/property listings to drive referral traffic to hotels are a must.

Specifically, Hoteliers can expect that the OTA’s, hotel brands, major airlines and other major travel category advertisers will continue to increase their investment in search.

Moving forward, small to medium sized hotels and travel advertisers can leverage this.  Hotels and other travel suppliers will need to be well positioned within each channel (Expedia, booking.com, kayak, Tripadvisor, etc.) – and then let the larger advertisers do the heavy lifting on digital channels such as:

  • Google search and display, content and video (YouTube) ad networks
  • Bing/Yahoo Ad network and content sites
  • MetaSearch Engines (Kayak)
  • Tripadvisor destination pages, display advertising, PPC
  • Online travel advertisers such as Expedia, booking.com
  • Brand marketing programs offered within major hotel chains such as Starwood and Marriott

Overall, travel marketers should be focusing on deeper optimization of ad campaigns across all platforms to keep spending as targeted as possible, and cost per conversions low.

CONCLUDING SOUNDBITES:

Search marketing is important but will continue to increase in cost.
  1. According to eMarketer, 128 million people, or 63% of Internet users, will research travel online on their computer or through their mobile device this year. Of those, 83%, or 106 million people, will actually book travel
  2. Travel advertisers should consider advertising on other search channels: Consider placing some adspend towards Yahoo/Bing Search. According to YahooBing (and comscore), its search platform serves 1/3 of search to those not using the mothership (Google) and reaches 34% of the overall Mobile Search Market . This is key as consumers continue to increase time spent on mobile devices over desktop.
  3. Marketers need to continue to focus on analytics and campaign performance analysis with marketing, sales and revenue departments working together to ensure search drives rate as well as direct consumer acquisition, with a focus on price transparency in all places online.

Part two of this article will explore other digital advertising tactics that can provide deep customer targeting and access to travel consumers online and who are close to the point of sale.  Until then, time to review the budget for 2015 and allow for some budget to test the waters – outside of the mothership.

 

ABOUT:

Alicia Whalen is a digital + social media marketing strategist, author and speaker specializing in the travel and tourism industry. Alicia has spent over a decade driving successful digital marketing campaigns and educating tourism professionals about how to embrace digital and social media.  An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.

Connect with Alicia on TwitterLinkedIn or at her blog www.ideahatching.com 

 

 

Additional article references:

1. searchengineland: Bing Ads vs. adwords

2. Financial Post: Google or Bing Ads for SMB’s

3. searchenginewatch.com: Search Engine Market Share

4. Experian.com: Online Trends in Canada

The key to success in digital marketing = Happiness

I posted a version of this article originally on my Blog in 2011.  I am excited to share that the LinkedIn Pulse Publishing platform is certainly worth the investment of time and commitment to good content.  I am thrilled and humbled by the feedback I have received from this article both on LinkedIn and Twitter.  I look forward to ongoing contributions.  The response is inspiring!

 

LinkedInPulse_AliciaWhalen_SocialSellingWorks

 

 

This is a fast paced digital world we live in and we as marketers are always looking for new ways to get customers to buy.

Why is this relevant now in the age of an exploding digital media landscape where consumers are living online and across multiple devices like never before?

 

Perhaps we need bring marketing and advertising back to basics and take a queue from our favourite MadMen Ad exec. Don Draper says: 

“ Advertising is based on one thing:  Happiness. “

 

Bring digital marketing back to the basics.  There is content coming at us fast and furious – whether in search engines, on social networks and news portals.  We are witnessing a digital media convergence where more and more media is available online across multiple platforms, and to add to that we are accessing digital content across multiple devices. How do we really make consumers happy now?  Is it still as simple as delivering on a promise and providing a product or service that makes your customers Happy?

I think so!  Now, how do we engage with consumers who are changing their online user behavior as quickly as Facebook changes its profile layouts?  We are marketers are constantly second-guessing where we are allocating our marketing dollars, seemingly because of the following fears:

 

FEAR of missing the next big thing.

RESOURCES – both financial and human.

CONFUSION about what tactics to focus on as the online world shifts again – and again – and again.

 

My advice? Bring it Back to Basics:

  1. Know Your Customer (this will make them Happy)
  • Check your website analytics for top referral traffic and keywords used to find your website, then continue to build on the content that is attracting and engaging your customers to ultimately buy from you.
  • Use a social media monitoring tools like Hootsuite or Sprout Social or free tools like Google Alerts, Facebook insights, Twitter analytics or others to “listen” to your customers and understand how to make them Happy.
  • Allocate time and resources to understand changes in how your target audiences are researching and transacting online.  Read and educate yourself about digital marketing tactics that work to make customers happy.  I know a few things that work.  Price transparency and the delivery of a brand promise.  Pretty back to basics right?
  • Most importantly, if you’re taking the time to ‘listen’ to your customer’s online– be sure you act on that information. Simply monitoring the conversation without adjusting your strategy, or communicating with your brand ambassadors will not help you understand how your consumer wants to receive your messages now and in the future.
  1. Keep Your Eye on the Prize. Understand Your Objectives
  • What are your objectives in your digital marketing campaigns?  Are you looking to increase sales? To build a new audience? Launch a new brand? Increase brand engagement?  It will make both you and your customer happy if your advertising is delivering the right message, at the right time, to the right consumer.  Win win win = Happy!
  • With all of the new tactics available to marketers today, it is more important than ever to set specific and measurable objectives for campaigns. This makes me nostalgic for the Mad Men days really.  This whole marketing thing has become a little bit mind numbing.
  1. Stick With What Works.
  • If you have already developed an active Twitter following and you’re seeing ROI (in sales and or website traffic etc) keep going!
  • Continue to build on what works to make your customers happy. Build a team of Tweeters to help in building and engaging your audience further or in providing CRM – think about what would take a successful campaign to the next level.
  • If Google AdWords campaigns worked well last year to drive targeted traffic during need times, or to sell specific packages or products – build on it and do it again with a new twist, or put some dollars towards other search channels such as the Yahoo/ BING network that might provide a smaller reach but more conversions.  Don’t be afraid to test new channels.  Consumers are spending a great deal of time online, therefore advertising budgets need to adjust.
  1. Search is still king.  Your customers are Happy when they find what they are looking for.
  • Focus on making sure you have a strong web presence across all online channels that help to guide your consumers to transact.
  • Ensure you have taken care of the basics like search engine optimization, good creative and content, Google Places optimization, a good mobile version of your website etc. and then you can focus on other channels to build your traffic.
  1. Integrate. Integrate. Integrate.
  • Make sure you integrate your campaigns online and offline.
  • Your brand’s digital footprint should have a consistent tone, creative brand message, and should always drive your target consumers to transact. This is key and is sure to make them Happy.  Ensure that all your brand web assets are navigating customers to act.
  1. Test + Measure and then Adjust.  This makes stakeholders Happy.
  • Measure performance in analytics and benchmark against past campaigns to continue to improve advertising efficiency. Make sure you have defined KPI’s in place such as increases in unique website visitors, increases in time on site and of course –  sales.
  • Did you launch a new Blog that has increased traffic to the website by 20%? How do you grow it from here or how do you encourage more transactions on the website as a result of the Blog traffic? Test, measure and adjust.
  • Have your efforts on LinkedIn increased leads to your sales department?
  • What can you do to ensure you grow these successful marketing channels?
  • Do the tactics outlined in your Marketing Plan work to build on what you have already started?

Keep it simple – stick to the digital marketing tactics that will help you achieve your objectives and don’t worry about all the noise.

It can get overwhelming to look at all that is available to us today. If you execute marketing programs efficiently, with the proper focus on measurement of ROI, which is very do-able in the age of digital media, you may have the confidence and extra resources to be able to adjust and try new things.  This will make you a Happy marketer!

To take a lesson from Mad Man, Don Draper – Budget + target demographic + medium = time for a scotch.  

Just make them Happy!

 

ABOUT:

Alicia Whalen is a digital + social media marketing strategist, author and speaker specializing in the travel and tourism industry. Alicia has spent over a decade driving successful digital marketing campaigns and educating tourism professionals about how to embrace digital and social media. She is the co-founder of www.acoupleofchicks.com and the digital marketing conference for tourism www.onlinerevealed.com  An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.  Connect with Alicia on TwitterLinkedIn or at www.ideahatching.com 

 

Strategic. Streamlined. Sexy : Keys to Success in Social Media

Planning a Social Media Strategy is about as straight forward as asking a toddler to “sit still for a minute”.  So what is a Marketing Director, Community Manager, accidental social media poster by default to do?

Social Media has morphed many skill-sets together and may be managed by a variety of different people or positions within an organization. Ideally an outside agency or consultant with experience in developing and executing multi-platform social communities and campaigns should be brought in to set up a social strategy, define key metrics for performance, and to train internal teams to manage moving forward.

Having said that, if time and resources are not available – stick with the three S’s in managing successful social media communities and campaigns – and make sure to integrate your social media with your overall marketing efforts, and you will see results and ROI.

 

Strategic, Streamlined and Sexy:

1. Strategic

Strong brands in social media have a strategy, the right resources, and a plan.  Start with what channels you need to build a presence on based on your target audiences.

Define social media goals.  Don’t jump in on every social media channel until you are doing one really well.  Maybe you have a killer Facebook business page, but you are lacking new fans, engagement or clicks back to a conversion.

Perhaps you have not had the time or resources in moving ahead with LinkedIn for your Sales team, but you know the networking tool could really make the sales process easier.  Build it into your plan and have a solid strategy to ensure that any time and money spent will see an ROI in some way or another.

Write a plan for each social channel you are already using or think your brand needs to have a presence on, and identify what needs to be improved and why.

If you spend time posting and building a community on Twitter and you can’t define a few good reasons why.

That question of ROI will always rear its ugly head.  Key performance metrics can be as simple as driving target referral traffic back to a website, or networking with customers and learning about the competitor.

Define what you (or your competitors) are doing well, how could it be improved, and how you will benchmark the performance or ROI.  Then map out what resources are in place to manage the community, the goals for each community, and how you will measure it.  

Think traffic to a website, increased engagement metrics, increases in content shares and viral distribution of your brand content.

 

 “Planning a social media strategy is as straight forward as asking a toddler to sit still for a minute.”

2. Streamlined

No one marketing campaign has ever worked in isolation.  At the same time, each of your social communities will be different in the way you deliver content, respond and engage with your followers and brand champions, and in the amount of time and resources you devote to it.

Be smart and streamlined with your messages.  If you are looking to run a contest on Facebook – ensure you plan it out properly, and ensure all roads lead to a point of conversion.  Conversion may be more “likers” or traffic to your website, but ensure that your target audience follows a path to enter the contest and complete an action that you had intend them to complete.

Be streamlined in your efforts overall.  Avoid trying too many tactics on too many social channels.  Stick with what’s working and make sure you manage your resources to be able to build your social brand over the long term.

 

“You have to stand out, shout out, and be proud of your brand on the social web!” 

3. Sexy

Yes I said sexy.  Digital media allows us to think outside the box.  Try some unique and creative tactics and have fun with it!  If you are going to dedicate time and resources to develop a presence on social communities – you better use them to their fullest potential!

Learn to listen and respond instead of pushing out messages to your target audiences. The social web is the place to show the personality of your brand and really engage your consumers – not to announce a 20% off special.

There are many other MUST DO’s in building out your brand social media strategy, but if you keep these points in mind, focus on good design and content, and at the very least commit to allocating resources to get in the game – you will be ready for all of those RT’s, LIKES, Diggs, G+’s, Shares, Comments and Views.

 

ABOUT:

Alicia Whalen is a Digital + Social Media Marketing Professional and recovering Entrepreneur, who has spent over a decade helping professionals understand how to embrace digital and social media. An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.

Connect with Alicia on TwitterLinkedIn or at www.ideahatching.com

LinkedIn and Social Selling: Not your momma’s job board

As a recovering entrepreneur and student of social media, I am keenly aware that LinkedIn is not something that any professional should ignore.  LinkedIn is a powerful social selling platform and builder of Brand YOU.

Whether you are selling yourself to a perspective employer, or ensuring that your network of colleagues and customers are close by at all times.

LinkedInforSalesLinkedIn is the rolodex, filing system and fax machine of our time.

LinkedIn 101: The Basics

Although an update to your LinkedIn profile may still lead to a flutter of water cooler gossip, and an emergency HR meeting to find your replacement – it has become a necessary social platform for any business professional, graduating student or anyone who will ever have a career of any kind. Period.

If you are still ignoring those invites to connect, I invite you to turn your privacy settings on, grab a coffee, and take a look at the new LinkedIn. This is not your mamma’s job board.

A few tips before you start posting those congratulations on promotions and skill endorsements:

  1. Don’t blind post. When updating your profile, you can opt out of alerting your network to changes. This is advisable if you are not looking for a new career, but simply updating your profile to ensure your experience and skills are up to date.
  1. Update your profile. Your profile will get indexed in search engines, and people are looking. Use keywords that reflect your skills, post links to other social media channels including Twitter and YouTube and if you have a blog, start posting your content as a LinkedIn contributor.  Ask your colleagues for recommendations and give some back in return. Recommendations are key.
  1. Join groups and share content. Don’t share any and all content. This is not Facebook.  Be careful and purposeful about whom you endorse, content you share, and comments you make in groups. LinkedIn has become an excellent community platform to share good content, and to learn and engage with other professionals.  I recommend a minimalist approach.  Check in daily and don’t obsess. 
  1. Mind your manners. Random connections are not cool. I don’t accept connection requests from people I don’t know, or are not related to my profession – unless of course they write me a nice note to let me know why they are connecting. I guess you could call adding non-relevant connections the new “cold call.”
  1. Add some personality. Also add relevant skills and experience to match your professional profile, but keep in mind – this is not a resume. Ok so sometimes it can act like one.  Use an online resume builder like Do You Buzz to build your CV – then make that available to your network if you are job searching.

 

Beyond the obvious. Using LinkedIn for Sales and Marketing:   Warning – this is LinkedIn 2.0

If you really want to turbo charge your professional profile, LinkedIn has powered up the platform with the following tools and tricks:

  1. Know your audience. Don’t just know who looking at your profile, but understand why. With LinkedIn analytics, you can see what actions lead to increased activity and profile views. Actions such as endorsements, shared content, and comments can lead to more visibility for brand YOU.
  1. Dig Deep.  A new LinkedIn tool allows for a database download for sales and marketing professionals to use as a relationship management tool. Downloadable data includes first-degree connections, comments, endorsements and shares.

According to this article LinkedIn added this tool as a way for users to manage privacy.  Ironic.

  1. Use your network to open the door: Newly launched, the LinkedIn Sales Navigator promises to be a sales prospecting tool like we have never seen before. I believe them.

According to Techcrunch, the new tool will open the door to “social selling,” (queue the hot new buzz word) which consists of:

“Establishing a presence on social networks, finding the right people, engaging with those people, and building trust.”

Then of course comes the cold (ish) call. Perhaps then it is more of a warm and fuzzy “how are the kids” kind of call instead? Ok I’ll bite.

Note that this is a paid for “Premium” tool outside of what LinkedIn currently offers its users for free.  There are other paid LinkedIn Premium tools that include; Job Seaker Premium, and LinkedIn Premium Business Plus.  I have not paid for these premium services and used them and therefore cannot offer commentary – yet.

LinkedIn has become THE Career Network.

Beyond the obvious, LinkedIn is a connector, content distributer, door opener, and brand-YOU builder.  In a business world where YOU are our own currency, invest some time in making sure you are making the most out of your experience, connections and knowledge.

 

Alicia Whalen is a digital and social media marketing professional and recovering Entrepreneur, who has spent over a decade helping brands and people understand how to embrace digital and social media in all facets of business. An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.

Connect with Alicia on Twitter, LinkedIn or here at www.ideahatching.com 

Time for change. A Couple of Chicks™ make a strategic shift

After almost a decade of navigating the brave new world of digital media, we have come to a time to shift – yet again.  This time the shift will be the end of an era and the start of something new for A Couple of Chicks.

When Patricia Brusha, my partner and “the other chick” and I embarked on this adventure in 2005, we saw that the Internet was starting to shift consumer buying behaviour, and that businesses would need to modify sales and marketing strategies in order to survive.  Naysayers would ask how we could ever succeed with a business name like “A Couple of Chicks,” while others opened the door and took a chance on a small firm that claimed they could make marketing online non-intimidating and even fun!

We have come a long way since 2005 when SEO and Paid Search (PPC) marketing dominated the conversation.  Increased access to high speed WIFI, portable devices, consumer adaption of social media channels, the reviousphere, Mobile, big data and analytics, not to mention the evolution of Search, which has become large, complex, and multi-layered – all of which have made marketing online costly and complicated.

These innovations, trends and technologies have impacted how we reach our customers both in building a brand, increasing brand awareness, and converting a sale.  The digital convergence has also impacted all other facets of business from HR to CRM.

Today, you are not a business if you are not a digital business.

The shift has been fast.  With emerging platforms and changing consumer buying behaviour, we have all had to pivot quickly and continually adapt our marketing tactics, while still illustrating ROI to CEO’s and stakeholders.  And we are not finished yet.

There are many that are late to the game. Industries that have trailed behind in adapting to digital as a means to gain market share, build brand awareness and sell products and services, even though today omnichannel marketing in a necessity.

Consumers are looking for convenience, choice, value, and efficiency over their purchasing because digital channels have made that possible.  They are also connected all of the time, across multiple devices, and expect to have an easy buying experience within an converged online and offline path to purchase.

It all comes down to understanding the medium, and adapting to the needs of the evolving digitally connected consumer.

What’s next for A Couple of Chicks?

We are not finished yet! We have chosen to go back to our roots, taking a step back from offering digital marketing services, and back to providing strategic consulting around integration of new technologies, and digital brand development and marketing.

We will continue our work with clients, but will shift away from agency services to offer broader consultation in incorporating multi-platform digital technologies and media tactics across all channels and business units.

We are both looking forward to the new challenges and opportunities that are ahead. What a ride!  Stay tuned… you never know where we might turn up next!

 

About A Couple of Chicks™Digital Marketing:

Award-winning digital marketing agency A Couple of Chicks™ announces a new direction for co-founders and digital media experts Patricia Brusha and Alicia Whalen. The firm, which has executed digital and social media marketing campaigns for hundreds of clients since 2005, has announced a move towards providing strategic management consulting for companies looking to grow and better integrate technology solutions, digital, social and mobile media assets into all facets of business. 

Innovators in their space, A Couple of Chicks™ began in 2005 as a two-person start-up, and grew to a 15-person full-service digital marketing agency by 2008, offering online solutions, services and training for the travel and tourism industry.  Co-founders Patricia Brusha and Alicia Whalen will continue working with clients, and will continue to deliver keynote presentations, workshops and webinars around social and digital media and marketing.

Press Release: August 27, 2014

A Couple of Chicks Digital Marketing announces strategic shift

Lessons in "LIVE" social media marketing and retail

I had the great opportunity to work on the Social Media launch of the new Outlet Collection at NiagaraIt was an adventure in live event social media management and marketing with many lessons learned.

The new outlet collection is situated at the center of the Niagara region in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and was developed by Ivanhoé Cambridge, a Canadian-based global property owner, manager, developer and investor, focusing on high-quality urban shopping centres. The new Outlet Collection at Niagara is the flagship in the collection of future planned developments, and a shiny new attraction for the Niagara region.

Launching such a brand in social media channels Twitter, Facebook and Instagram was a labor of love for myself, and the on-property team, retailers and excited fans who made it such a success.

Lessons learned in social media for retail:
1. Choose the right Social Media communities to focus on and do it well:

We launched @OCNiagara on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

2. Have a strategy – then prepare to abandon it:

Social media became the central point of integration for all of the grand opening events and media. A plan for hashtags and content was created and then it happened – viral word-of-mouth and buzz took over.
3. On the ground LIVE social media was key to leveraging all of the buzz surrounding a new mall and tourist attraction:

On-site content curation (the photos of retailers, new stores, shoppers and and ongoing monitoring and response times were critical in quickly building the communities and tracking what content was engaging – and it was fast!

#Selfies posted to Instagram and Twitter were most engaging, and had the most viral reach.  Of course any image of a cute child or pet always wins in social.

4. Don’t forget about Foursquare:

Those who shop use Foursquare and Instagram religiously it seems, followed closely by Twitter and then Facebook.

5. Followers and Fans like special deals just for them:

They like to be on the “inside” with special access to specials and promotions. Contests and giveaways worked, especially contest for gift cards awarded to fans and followers on site during the grand opening weekend.

 

6. Have a good solution for managing and reporting:

We used Sprout Social to manage and report on Facebook and Twitter.

The days around the grand opening of the Outlet Collection at Niagara were critical in launching a successful social media presence.  Key to this was leveraging the online and offline buzz, responding to accolades and criticism, and learning what content was resonating with the audiences on each social media platform (as well as re-sharing #selfies and giving prizes for posting them).
7. #Hashtags are cool. Don’t post on Instagram or Twitter without at least one (or 5) good Hashtags – just trust me.

From what I saw, there still a large gap in the integration of the offline shopping experience with the very engaged socially connected shoppers who are tweeting, posting, liking and sharing their experiences – and ultimately spreading the word and driving foot traffic.

A huge opportunity for retailers to embrace Social Media as consumer and retail shopping behavior will continue to converge with digital and social media.

And so it was that Niagara’s newest tourist attraction opened and blasted into the social media sphere with gusto and enthusiasm, and I found a way to combine two of my favorite things!

#Shopping + #Socialmedia @OCniagara = #Heaven 4 @acoupleofchicks

For more adventures in Social Media follow Alicia Whalen and A Couple of Chicks™ Digital Tourism Marketing on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Lessons in “LIVE” social media marketing and retail

I had the great opportunity to work on the Social Media launch of the new Outlet Collection at NiagaraIt was an adventure in live event social media management and marketing with many lessons learned.

The new outlet collection is situated at the center of the Niagara region in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and was developed by Ivanhoé Cambridge, a Canadian-based global property owner, manager, developer and investor, focusing on high-quality urban shopping centres. The new Outlet Collection at Niagara is the flagship in the collection of future planned developments, and a shiny new attraction for the Niagara region.

Launching such a brand in social media channels Twitter, Facebook and Instagram was a labor of love for myself, and the on-property team, retailers and excited fans who made it such a success.

Lessons learned in social media for retail:
1. Choose the right Social Media communities to focus on and do it well:

We launched @OCNiagara on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

2. Have a strategy – then prepare to abandon it:

Social media became the central point of integration for all of the grand opening events and media. A plan for hashtags and content was created and then it happened – viral word-of-mouth and buzz took over.
3. On the ground LIVE social media was key to leveraging all of the buzz surrounding a new mall and tourist attraction:

On-site content curation (the photos of retailers, new stores, shoppers and and ongoing monitoring and response times were critical in quickly building the communities and tracking what content was engaging – and it was fast!

#Selfies posted to Instagram and Twitter were most engaging, and had the most viral reach.  Of course any image of a cute child or pet always wins in social.

4. Don’t forget about Foursquare:

Those who shop use Foursquare and Instagram religiously it seems, followed closely by Twitter and then Facebook.

5. Followers and Fans like special deals just for them:

They like to be on the “inside” with special access to specials and promotions. Contests and giveaways worked, especially contest for gift cards awarded to fans and followers on site during the grand opening weekend.

 

6. Have a good solution for managing and reporting:

We used Sprout Social to manage and report on Facebook and Twitter.

The days around the grand opening of the Outlet Collection at Niagara were critical in launching a successful social media presence.  Key to this was leveraging the online and offline buzz, responding to accolades and criticism, and learning what content was resonating with the audiences on each social media platform (as well as re-sharing #selfies and giving prizes for posting them).
7. #Hashtags are cool. Don’t post on Instagram or Twitter without at least one (or 5) good Hashtags – just trust me.

From what I saw, there still a large gap in the integration of the offline shopping experience with the very engaged socially connected shoppers who are tweeting, posting, liking and sharing their experiences – and ultimately spreading the word and driving foot traffic.

A huge opportunity for retailers to embrace Social Media as consumer and retail shopping behavior will continue to converge with digital and social media.

And so it was that Niagara’s newest tourist attraction opened and blasted into the social media sphere with gusto and enthusiasm, and I found a way to combine two of my favorite things!

#Shopping + #Socialmedia @OCniagara = #Heaven 4 @acoupleofchicks

For more adventures in Social Media follow Alicia Whalen and A Couple of Chicks™ Digital Tourism Marketing on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Online Revealed Digital Marketing Conference returns to Toronto for its 9th year

It is almost that time again!  Next week will mark our 9th Online Revealed Canada Digital Marketing Conference!

Since 2005, A Couple of Chicks™ have produced the Online Revealed Conference to ensure that the travel industry in Canada stays ahead of the digital trends. Much has changed in the world of digital marketing, but it is still all about distribution!

With tourism spending in Canada approaching $90 billion annually (according to the Conference Board of Canada), the impact on the economy is far-reaching.  Tourism marketers need to be ahead of the fast-paced digital curve to ensure Canadian destinations, hotels, attractions and other tourism related products and services are reaching digitally connected consumers.

The right content, at the right price, to the right consumer.

Now more than ever before, marketers need to be innovative, creative and strategic in their marketing and communications.  In producing the annual learning conference for those charged with digital and social media marketing in the tourism and hospitality industry, we have always maintained a focus on providing content that will ensure that the travel industry in Canada stays ahead of the digital curve.

My partner Patricia Brusha and I have, and will continue to push the envelope to ensure that the Online Revealed Conference brings NEW, innovative, cutting-edge digital, social and mobile marketing technologies and tactics, as well as real-world practical application learning’s to ensure our attendees have the tools needed to succeed online.

Again this year, we will be hearing from experts from Google, TripAdvisor, BING, and Travelzoo, as well as from from leading tourism marketing professionals from across the country who are succeeding in driving traffic and conversions online through social media marketing, mobile marketing, and other digital marketing strategies aimed at attracting travel consumers.

These are real stories of tourism marketers from destination marketing organizations, hotels, hotel brands, attractions and other suppliers who have made the digital shift and are sharing their successes.

This year’s Toronto 2014 #ORC2014 agenda is packed with 2-full days of digital marketing and social media workshops, case studies, networking opportunities, keynotes, as well as the Canadian eTourism awards showcasing excellence in digital and social media marketing for the Canadian travel and tourism industry, and the Destination Benchmarking study highlighting best in practice digital marketing tactics for marketing destinations, as well as key learnings from performance benchmarking of DMO web assets in Canada. 

>  Big Data and how to use it to increase marketing efficiency

>  Mobile technologies for consumers who are multi-device users

>  Social media community management, monitoring, measuring ROI and best practices

>  Game changing trends in Meta Search and what it means to travel

>  Measuring digital marketing success

These are only a few of the topics that will be addressed over the two-day event.  The value in attendance is unmatched within the travel and industry with over 30-expert speakers,18-digital marketing workshops, panel discussions, digital and social media marketing case studies, 3- Keynote Speakers, as well as various networking events to continue the conversation after the main program.

This year we will revive  the post-networking reception “after hours” ORC with the “Lay-Z-Boy Lounge with Peller Estates wine and Xbox” – always an Online Revealed highlight event!

Online Revealed Conference highlights include:

–  Game Changer student mentoring event (NEW) for the tourism and hospitality industry, with participation from Hilton Canada, IHG, Tripadvisor as well as students and faculty from various post-secondary graduate programs from Ryerson University, Humber College and more: April 7, 2014

–  Jon Montgomery, Gold Medal Olympian | Host, The Amazing Race Canada Opening keynote: April 8, 2014

–  Annual Canadian eTourism Awards celebrating excellence in digital tourism marketing in Canada: April 9, 2014 from 12:30-2:00 pm

–  Canadian DMO Benchmarking Study: Key learning’s from the 3rd annual Canadian Destination Benchmarking report program, benchmarking the online performance of destinations across Canada.  Key learning’s presented.

–  Special Event and Receptions hosted by Aloft Vaughn Mills, and A Couple of Chicks™ featuring a performance by pop group 4Count, managed by industry giant Nick Cannon and the La-Z-Boy Lounge with Peller Estates wine and Xbox: April 8, 2014

–  Digital and social media marketing workshops and case studies presented by Tripadvisor, BING/Microsoft, Google, Travelzoo, Expedia, Sojern, InterContinental Hotels Group and more.

–  Executive Conversation with Philip Wolf travel innovator and founder of the global travel research company and conference PhocusWright

Drew Patterson CEO & Co-Founder of CheckMate former founding team for travel giant KAYAK, and current CEO of Room 77, discussing the Mobile application that is revolutionizing mobile check-in: April 9, 2014 Closing address

There is still time to register!  We are welcoming back many ORC Alums, as well as new attendees from all across Canada. For conference registration and additional information about Online Revealed Canada and related events, visit www.onlinerevealed.com.  

We hope to see you at #ORC2014 next week!

 

 

2014 Canadian eTourism Digital Marketing Award Winners Announced

The 2014 Canadian eTourism Award Winners—including Nova Scotia Tourism Agency, TravelZoo, Newfoundland and Labrador, and more will once again be honoured as part of the annual Online Revealed Digital Marketing Conference for tourism stakeholders in Canada from April 7-9, 2014 in Toronto.

 

The current digitally connected world of consumers expects content to be delivered at the right time, to the right channel, at the right price. Consumers demand personalization and immediacy while also expecting advertising to be entertaining and engaging. It’s no wonder that driving consumers to buy has never been more challenging for marketers—especially in the travel industry.

The 5th annual awards, presented in association with the Online Revealed Conference April 7-9, 2014 in Toronto, will honor the Canadian travel brands that have successfully met the digital challenge, producing effective and creative digital and social media marketing campaigns for the contemporary online travel consumer.

The Awards are judged by a volunteer group of tourism marketing professionals, and led by the Canadian eTourism Council, a national forum of Canadian tourism marketing executives specializing in online communications.

With a mandate to collaborate and leverage emerging digital media channels in order to successfully promote Canada as a travel destination, the Canadian eTourism awards showcases some of the most successful digital marketing campaigns, websites, Mobile apps and social media marketing campaigns in the travel industry. The annual Online Revealed digital marketing conference for tourism has been home to the awards since its inception.

“We continue to be amazed at digital media excellence and innovation coming from the travel industry in Canada.” said Carol Alderdice, Manager of Web Technologies, Tourism New Brunswick, and Canadian e-Tourism Awards Chair. “The eTourism awards give us the opportunity to recognize star performers and share best practices in marketing Canadian tourism.”

Council members include representatives from Travel Alberta, Travel British Columbia, Travel Manitoba, Tourism New Brunswick, Newfoundland Labrador, Nova Scotia Tourism, Travel Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Tourism Saskatchewan, and Tourism Yukon.

 Winners of the 2014 Canadian eTourism Awards Include:

  • Best Innovative Use of Technology = Tourism Tofino
  • Best Mobile App = TravelZoo
  • Best Online Campaign = Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism
  • Best Social Media Campaign = WestJet
  • Best User Generated Content = Nova Scotia Tourism Agency
  • Best Website = White Oaks Resort & Spa

 

Title sponsor BING along with eTourism award sponsors TrustYou, Miles Marketing Destinations and T4G will be presenting the awards at a luncheon April 9th as part of the annual Online Revealed Digital Marketing Conference, being held at the Hilton Toronto Airport hotel.

The Canadian eTourism Awards recognize the evolution and marketing power of the digital space, including social media and traditional consumer websites. Entries are eligible from all over the world, though they must market, sell, or portray Canadian destinations, products, attractions, or experiences.

For more information about the 2014 award winners, or to purchase tickets to the eTourism Awards luncheon or Online Revealed Conference registration visit www.onlinerevealed.com

About Online Revealed:

The Online Revealed digital tourism marketing conference provides travel and tourism professionals with unique and innovative online marketing education, with an agenda that includes educational workshops, keynotes and panel discussions, all driven by the industry, for the industry. The event, now in its 9th year is produced by leading digital marketing firm, A Couple of Chicks™. Online Revealed Canada is supported by industry partners from Bing, TripAdvisor, Travelzoo, Marriott Canada, IHG and the over 350 annual attendees from across Canada who attend each year.

Congratulations to the 2014 eTourism award winners!

There is still time to register for Online Revealed 2014 – April 7-9th at the Toronto Hilton Airport Hotel.

 

 

Facebook – You don’t know me like you think you do

Super Bowl is the only time anyone cares about Ads.  It seems like only yesterday I was scanning my Facebook newsfeed to keep in touch (stalk, creep, lurk…) with my Facebook friends.  Oh the early days of Social Media

Enter Facebook promoted stories and posts and other fancy ad products.  Oh yes my fine facebook friends, those posts showing Ellen’s face miracle secret (don’t pretend you didn’t see that one), and articles touting the benefits of the newest Dr. Oz trick to detoxing in 30 days are planted there for us to comment like and share.  Ok those were planted on my newsfeed just for me, but I digress.

Remember when a status update meant something?

Understandably Facebook needs to create revenue streams. According to a recent article in the Business Insider, Facebook does not have much to worry about there.  But perhaps ad products such as “sponsored stories” are just making an already cluttered newsfeed cluttered to the point of frustrating its users.

From an marketer’s perspective, this is equally frustrating.

When Faceboook was primarily an organic and viral community of chatter, it was fairly simple for a digital marketer to create a brand voice that could be part of a dialogue with users.  Within the last two years, Facebook’s algorithms have changed to try to service advertisers and generate revenue, while remaining relevant to users.

We are on to you Facebook.

Brands must now pay to be part of that dialogue through Facebook Ad products such as promoted pages, offer claims, and the list goes on.   These PAID opportunities are now necessary for advertisers to reach user newsfeeds – even if the user has already LIKED the brand.

Reaching Facebook users has now become a delicate balance of paid and organic content working together to keep Fans engaged. And so it should be!  Hopefully Facebook will continue to weed out the Ad products like sponsored stories that confuse and annoy us.  Scrolling endlessly through content that Facebook thinks is relevant to me is really starting to interrupt my attempts to quietly listen to my Friend’s mood swings, victories, struggles and Grammy award rants. #Madonnastillrocks

The only time we really want to see Ads is when we ask for them.  I am prepping a pot of Chili already for this weekends Super Bowl commercials…I mean game.

 

 

Facebook – You don't know me like you think you do

Super Bowl is the only time anyone cares about Ads.  It seems like only yesterday I was scanning my Facebook newsfeed to keep in touch (stalk, creep, lurk…) with my Facebook friends.  Oh the early days of Social Media

Enter Facebook promoted stories and posts and other fancy ad products.  Oh yes my fine facebook friends, those posts showing Ellen’s face miracle secret (don’t pretend you didn’t see that one), and articles touting the benefits of the newest Dr. Oz trick to detoxing in 30 days are planted there for us to comment like and share.  Ok those were planted on my newsfeed just for me, but I digress.

Remember when a status update meant something?

Understandably Facebook needs to create revenue streams. According to a recent article in the Business Insider, Facebook does not have much to worry about there.  But perhaps ad products such as “sponsored stories” are just making an already cluttered newsfeed cluttered to the point of frustrating its users.

From an marketer’s perspective, this is equally frustrating.

When Faceboook was primarily an organic and viral community of chatter, it was fairly simple for a digital marketer to create a brand voice that could be part of a dialogue with users.  Within the last two years, Facebook’s algorithms have changed to try to service advertisers and generate revenue, while remaining relevant to users.

We are on to you Facebook.

Brands must now pay to be part of that dialogue through Facebook Ad products such as promoted pages, offer claims, and the list goes on.   These PAID opportunities are now necessary for advertisers to reach user newsfeeds – even if the user has already LIKED the brand.

Reaching Facebook users has now become a delicate balance of paid and organic content working together to keep Fans engaged. And so it should be!  Hopefully Facebook will continue to weed out the Ad products like sponsored stories that confuse and annoy us.  Scrolling endlessly through content that Facebook thinks is relevant to me is really starting to interrupt my attempts to quietly listen to my Friend’s mood swings, victories, struggles and Grammy award rants. #Madonnastillrocks

The only time we really want to see Ads is when we ask for them.  I am prepping a pot of Chili already for this weekends Super Bowl commercials…I mean game.

 

 

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
alicia.whalen@gmail.com
905-401-2249

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