If you have been paying attention to marketing trends in the past decade or so, then you are well aware of the power of social media. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Tik Tok, SnapChat—these and other influential platforms are heavy hitters in the engagement arena. That is what makes it such an exciting time to be in business. It means that every enterprise, no matter how big or small, and no matter their method of commerce, can reach an audience. Sounds lofty, right? But actually, it’s not. To do social media marketing effectively—whether you’re a multinational hotel chain with tens of thousands of employees, or you’re an independent family farm with just you and your livestock—all it takes is a little know-how and a good degree of consistency.
This is especially true of the blog. It was one of the first social media platforms to become popular for marketing, yet to this day it remains one of the most misunderstood (and thus one of the most underutilized) platforms. Happily, you don’t need to have a marketing degree to successfully manage your own blog, you just need to know a few basic principles about what a blog is, and why it matters. Here in Central Counties, many of our businesses and attractions are sitting in the midst of their shoulder season. You’re not alone if you’re scratching your head right now, thinking, “Why on earth does my blog matter when I’ve got nothing going on?” Well, trust us: it does. Your blog is an important marketing strategy in your peak season, and it is just as important—perhaps even more so—in your shoulder season. Here’s why.
Back to basics: What is your blog really for?
A blog is a misunderstood marketing vehicle. The prevailing fallacy is that you post a sales pitch on your blog (Visit Our Event; Discount on Candles; Packages on Sale Now), viewers see it, and they are persuaded to buy. The assertion is that you should be able to track your lead conversion from article post through to sale. But when it comes to social media marketing, this is simply not true. It’s old school. It’s marketing metrics for a bygone era (with all due respect to Don Draper and his fellow Mad Men advertising execs of the 1960s, of course).
So, if the reason for maintaining a blog isn’t to sell, then what is it? Believe it or not, your blog is about (drumroll please) … loyalty! You see, consumers are too savvy nowadays. They don’t want to be pitched to. They want instead to invest their time and energy in your business, your event, your attraction—because they’ve chosen to. They don’t want to be told they should do something or buy something. They want to decide on their own.
What a blog does is it invites your readers to invest in you emotionally. That is the first step, and it is the most important, especially if you are in the tourism industry. Someone reading your blog is being given the opportunity to get to know you and what you do, which then encourages them to become excited about you and what you do. This may lead to a sale right away, but it probably won’t. Over time, though, as you continue to nurture that online relationship with your reader, you’re encouraging that reader to become loyal to you not just for one visit, but for an annual visit. And to become an ambassador for you by telling their friends how awesome you are. And by following you on your other social media platforms and sharing your images, posts, tweets, and anything else you may put out there in the vast chasm that is social media. Now that is one awesome return on a minimal investment!
The best frame of mind to approach your blog with is the 80/20 rule. This means that 80% of what you post should not be a direct pitch. Only 20% should be about the tickets that are on sale to your festival, the limited availability you have for your exclusive dinner package, your new lineup of artisan workshops. Here is what the other 80% of your blog should focus on.
The other 80%, loyalty, and your shoulder season
As we’ve established, year-round, your blog is about loyalty. It is about inviting viewers into your world without asking them to buy anything. In your shoulder season, when your focus and energy is not in high demand for the actual running of your business, this is the perfect time to remind your customers and visitors that you’re still here. It’s a great time to allow them to get to know you, to love you, to invest emotionally in you so that when you’re roaring at full capacity with activities left right and centre, they’re more likely to show up and support you.
Take, for example, the rural family farm. What could you possibly have to write about in your shoulder season, you wonder? Lots! You could write a winter day in the life of a farmer. You could profile one (or several) of your animals. You could update your blog readers on what you and your family are up to currently, what your plans are for the coming season, your favourite recipe ideas, your epic recipe failures, or even your favourite memory from your last peak season. Are you an outdoor adventure attraction shut down for the winter? How about tapping your employees to write about their favourite memory? Or profile your employees (with their permission, of course) to give your readers a sense of community. Talk about where your business was when you started and how far it’s come over the years. Do you have any amusing anecdotes to share from seasons past? Write about that, too!
There is lots to blog about if you treat your blog readers like they’re old friends just waiting to be made. They might be longer posts, or they might be short and to the point. Whatever they are, get creative. Get personal. Just get writing. After all, this is what loyalty is about. It’s what visitors to your blog want, and it is why they will step up and support you when you’re back in the swing of your busy season.
Helpful hint: We completely understand that, in your peak months, it’s hard to dedicate time to keeping your blog updated. This is why your shoulder season is doubly important: You have the time right now to write a bunch of advance posts. Outline, draft and polish them in your down time so that you have a cache of them ready to be posted later.
Work on your business
When it comes to being active on social media, your shoulder season is important even if you don’t have much going on. Chuck Thibeault, our Executive Director here at CCT, always says, “You need to work on your business, not just at your business.” Having a robust blog with lots of stories about who you are that aren’t focused on direct selling—that’s a way to work on your business. It’s an effective one, because that’s how you’re going to build up an engaged audience that cares about your business.
Because in the end, your loyal, engaged audience is the reason why you will be busy working at your business in your peak season when they all come out to visit you, buy from you, stay overnight with you, and experience you.
Story by Katherine Ryalen