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By Rene Looper, Founder and Managing Director of Tuminds Social Media

There is not a day that goes by without a mention of Facebook or Twitter in the news and it's almost impossible to ignore this "new" way of digital communication. But why ignore it? Has your business embraced the many opportunities social media can offer?

We've seen many tourism and hospitality businesses over the years ignoring this new media whilst their competitors have been "on the ball" and build valuable online relationships with their online (potential) customers. Social media is not something new. People have always shared their personal experiences, good or bad, with their family friends and colleagues which we class as "Word of Mouth" marketing and for many businesses this is the best form of marketing. Social media marketing is making use of this very valuable recommendation tool and actually multiply this word of mouth marketing to "Word of Mouse" marketing.

Is your business ready for this, actively engaged and have you thought about a social media strategy for 2014?

If the answer is no, I would suggest you take some time out of your busy schedule to think about how to manage social media this year. Social media has arrived and is here to stay, it will not go away. In fact, it will become more important to businesses to get involved. A recent McKinsley study states that businesses that are embracing social media are more profitable than businesses that are not involved.

Social media in hospitality is a perfect fit. Both are all about people... Social media says more about the personality, knowledge and expertise of a business than a static web site. Customers like to see the people behind the business; people buy from people is a simple yet important sales principle.

We also know that social media can be a big time waster and it is, for a lot of businesses, not quite clear what the Return on Investment (ROI) of social media is. For this reason we always recommend businesses to have a social media strategy in place. This sounds "grand" but it is basically answering four simple questions:

  • What would you like to achieve by using social media?
  • Which social media platforms will be used to achieve this?
  • Who is going to do it?
  • How are you going to measure social media success?

The last one is very important and often overlooked. How can we measure social media success? What has it contributed to our sales, PR, customer care etc. Many businesses are using Google Analytics to measure social media success and we also advise to use Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to manage and measure social media success.

As a social media business we are developing our own social media measurement tool which enables business owners to track how digital media has impacted not only the hits to the website but also how it impacts sales. This tool is being developed in partnership with Robert Gordon University as a direct result of us talking to the Interface team who made us aware of the opportunities of working together with Universities all over the country to develop a new commercial viable product. This enabled us to work with academics and students on a project that has not only got great potential but it is also great fun and enables us to grow as a business. And that is what we all want to do this year I suppose.

Wishing you all a fantastic social, healthy and successful year and don't get left behind or waste time by not implementing a social media strategy!

Tuminds social media next workshop on implementing a Social Media Strategy will be held on Wednesday the 5th of February at Fort George, near Inverness