What is Facebook and how can it help my tourism business?
Launched in February 2004 as a network for university students, the social media phenomenon which is Facebook has been described as the fourth wave in computer networking platforms following the establishment of mainframe computers in the 1970s, the beginning of PCs in the 1980s and the introduction of the Internet in the 1990s.
Facebook statistics reveal that as of September 2018, Facebook had 2.27 billion monthly active users and over half of these people (1.49 billion, actually) access the site daily making it the most popular social network.
What are the benefits to my business?
There are a number of benefits for using Facebook, both at the personal and business level:
- It provides your business with a web presence on a platform where there is a large potential audience in an instant, at no cost
- It is super easy to use (as user-friendly as an iPhone!)
- It is very quick to set up
From the point of view of small business operators in the tourism industry, the main benefit of Facebook is in the more focused (and business-oriented) Facebook Pages. The advantage of this account is the ability to connect with some of the many people now using the Internet to search for information on holiday destinations.
A well-structured, informative Facebook Page representing your tourism business can be a cost-effective and efficient way of putting your company’s name before potential customers. Importantly, as well as providing quality information and updates, it will also allow you to respond to queries quickly and with ease.
In a few words, how does Facebook work?
Facebook users can create their personal profile, add and follow friends, share links, find local events, as well as publish images and videos. The central updating facility in Facebook is its newsfeed, which continually updates posts from friends, subscriptions and Pages which then can be sorted as top stories or (temporarily) as most recent.
Private messages (those not shown in the public news feed) are also combined in this versatile social networking platform. Messenger is, in fact, available as its own separate mobile app, can be used within the Facebook.com website or via its own domain.
Facebook is ever-evolving. In 2016 the Facebook Marketplace feature was launched. The Marketplace was created as a way to easily facilitate the local sales of second-hand items (think Gumtree) which was already taking place in area-based Facebook groups named things like, “Buy, Swap and Sell Furniture in Sydney”.
Facebook also allows businesses to create a business Facebook Page (referred to as a Facebook Page or Page) and do similar things to the personal profile, but at a business level. The diagram below offers a simple comparison:
How to set up my personal profile?
A Facebook Page can be opened through either a personal (individual) profile or a business account. Facebook now allows access to its Pages through a business account if the account holder doesn’t already have a Facebook personal profile and wishes to use it purely for administering business Pages and ad campaigns. However, restrictions do apply and business accounts have less functionality than a personal account. It is strongly advised that you set up a personal account even if you only use it to manage your page and not connect with other users.
- Go to Facebook’s homepage www.facebook.com
- Fill in the requested details at the right-hand side of the page using your personal details (not business details) and click “Sign Up”
- Follow the prompts to fill out your Facebook profile (including adding a profile image, personal details and finding friends who already have a Facebook account through your email address)
- You’re there! Now go ahead and connect with people, update your status and start sharing images, links and videos with people who have accepted you as a Facebook friend. Note: these connections are personal ones. Read below for how to set up a Page and connections for your business.
A Facebook Page is page (business profile) on Facebook that allows your business to share content, advice and engage wtih its audience. It is an excellent way for a small tourism-related business to engage with their target market. If visitors are interested in your business they will tend to “Like” your Page by clicking on the “Like” button and like, comment on and/or share the content you are presenting on your page.
The key to an effective Page is to:
- Create and/or share relevant and engaging content
- Interact with your readers promptly, answering questions and providing information if sought
As social media engages the customer in a two way conversation, the style usually most effective for a Facebook Page is quick, concise updates provided in a relaxed, conversational (even witty) tone.
Adventure Whitsunday https://www.facebook.com/big4adventurewhitsunday is an example of a popular and effective Facebook Page that uses these techniques.
The layout of Facebook Pages, known as Timeline, is filled with interactive features to help you publish more engaging content about your brand.
How do I set up my Facebook Page?
From your personal profile on Facebook (see above), go ahead and create your Facebook Page using these steps:
- Go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/create and select the most relevant type for your business (99 % of tourism businesses will use “Local business or place”)
- Fill in the requested details about your business, click on the box to accept conditions and create your Page
- On your new Page, upload your profile image (preferably your logo) and a cover image (a great picture that represents the business), fill out all of the fields in the Info page, create photo albums showcasing your business and its people, write your first status update and Like your Page. Make sure you go back and edit your Page details and assign a custom URL (also called a vanity URL) so people can find you at www.facebook.com/YourBusinessName as opposed to the standard lengthy Facebook URL. E.g. www.facebook.com/ThalaBeachLodge
- You now have a Facebook Page! Post engaging updates regularly and share your Page with past and future guests.
Also refer to this help page from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/business/overview.
Creating Facebook content
What type of content would appeal to people who have “liked” your Facebook Page? From a small tourism perspective, captivating content may include the following:
- images of local scenery
- advice on dates of local events of interest (such as festivals), sporting fixtures
- videos of local interest (such as a tour of local wineries)
- fact sheets
- updates relating to matters of historical interest
- open ended questions to create interaction of your Page (example below)
Links to news items and other status updates of interest can be added by simply typing or pasting the link into the status update bar, located at the top of the Page (see example below).
Promoting my Facebook Page
Social media thrives on interaction. The Page offers an excellent opportunity to interact with people who are considering using your product or service. As interaction works both ways, promoting it is about seeking “likes” (the button located at the top of your Page) which means getting people to take enough of an interest to follow your updates.
So, once you have set up your Page, how can you encourage people to like your Page? There are many ways you can do this, but the most important one is very simple:
Keep your Facebook Page updated!
Once you have mastered the first step of keeping your content updated you could for instance:
- Utilise other Facebook Groups or social networks (e.g. Twitter) to share relevant Facebook posts
- Ask friends for their support and invite them to Like your page
- Support other businesses in your destination by Liking their page and commenting on and sharing their posts…collaboration in destination marketing builds strength for the entire destination online
Each time you interact with your “likers” you increase your chances of this interaction showing up in their friends’ newsfeeds. Facebook uses a formula to decide whose news shows up in the feed however some actions such as questions, videos and pictures are more likely to show up since they require more interaction; Facebook previously confirmed this as part of a F8 presentation.
Facebook has developed a tutorial on how to succeed as a business on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/business/overview
Facebook Ads and Sponsored Posts
Facebook Ads are one way to increase your number of likers and therefore the visibility of your page. You can create Facebook Adverts or Sponsored Posts by visiting www.facebook.com/ads/create. When you visit that page, you will be guided through a three-step process for creating your adverts or Sponsored Posts.
Facebook Ads and Sponsored Stories have grown to become one of Facebook’s key product. There are lots of ways to configure your ads. This blog post will help you make the most out of your Facebook advertising budget: http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2014/01/30/facebook-advertising-tips
Facebook policy states that pages (sites) administered by a brand or organisation must comply with “Facebook Community Standards policy”. So it would seem that there is an obligation placed upon site administrators to engage in some degree of content moderation, to keep it within the bounds of Facebook’s Community Standards policy.
The Facebook Community Standards policy includes the requirement not to post any content that is “hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence”.
Moreover, the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) believes that a Facebook site of an advertiser is advertising and marketing communication. What that means in practical terms is that the content of a site needs to comply with the rules for advertising, as contained in the the Australian Association of National Advertiser’ (AANA) Code of Ethics.
What does it mean for businesses who have a Facebook Page?
Business owners are responsible for the content (including comment by others) on their Facebook Page. The owners of a Facebook Page must remove 3rd party posts that go against the Facebook Community Standards or risk being held responsible.
“They must ensure they understand what rules apply, and put systems in place to provide guidance to users, so they don’t become overburdened with the task of moderating comments to prevent a breach of the applicable law or codes” (Reference: David Simon, ADMA).