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By: Sandy Saburn, CTIE[/caption]Everyone knows that in today’s marketplace social media and a website are important marketing tools for your travel business. But ask what they are supposed to do, and most people come up with the wrong answer. They look at travel marketing as linear and it isn’t. You don’t post something and then get bookings for that thing – or at least something else. Sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way. It works that way with products, but travel isn’t a product like buying a frying pan or a suitcase or shoes.And please know I am specifically talking about travel advisors or consultants here. Not booking agents who focus on deals and want to offer the cheapest price. That is a model that online travel agencies (OTAs) have perfected and you should leave it to them. Instead, you should focus on service, value, and sharing your knowledge – not the cheapest price. It doesn’t matter what you call yourself (travel agent, travel advisor, travel consultant, travel curator), what matters is the story you are sharing about yourself in the marketplace. And what really matters most is that you are communicating what matters to your ideal client (and you have to know who that is first).Now that we are on the same page, let’s talk about what does work and what the purpose of each of these platforms is supposed to be.Your social media platforms do multiple things: they engage your current followers with a hope of turning them into customers, they attract new followers/prospects, and they remind your current clients of what you do. In all of those cases it means that your social media posts need to be engaging, unique, and shareable. And they need to focus on YOU and what YOU do. It is fine to supplement your social media feed with posts that can also be seen on other agents’ accounts, but the majority should be about you. Specifically, it should be about what YOU can do for your clients.What really works is engaging content that isn’t completely random, but focuses on what you do for clients. Post about the types of trips you are planning for clients. Tell stories and talk about the value you bring in an educational way.And the goal of all this social media posting? To get people on your email list. It isn’t about getting followers. You cannot market effectively to people without getting them on your email list. Email is the single most important marketing tool you have. And you can’t email people via Facebook.How do convert social media followers to your email list? The easiest process is to use your social media to drive them to your website to sign up for a free IFO (irresistible free offer). Create a document that is going to be engaging to your ideal client. Your website should have a pop-up that encourages them to sign up for this free item and is delivered automatically (through an auto-responder system). Once they do that you can send them engaging marketing that will dramatically increase the likelihood they will book with you.While they are on your website you should have engaging content that keeps them there – and that does not deal! It should be great content that relates to you and your brand. It should demonstrate what YOU have to offer. I am amazed at how many travel agent websites are full of boring “corporate speak” that is so generic and blah. We work in travel for goodness sake! No room for blah here!Take a look at your website today and see how much of it is infused with your personality. Is your picture even on there (it should be!)? Is your name even on there?I think somewhere along the line people thought that a website should make you look bigger and more corporate than you really are, and putting your name or picture makes you look like a small business. That’s OK! Small businesses are cool again! And it makes your site more personal. People want to do business with people they know, like and trust. Being anonymous or mysterious hurts your ability to build that relationship.I encourage you to go visit both your social media accounts (look at posts for the past 2 months) and your website with a new eye. How “warm” is it? How much does it “feel” like you? How many times did you post deals vs. posting insights or information? And once a client gets to your website can they easily sign up for your email list? And when they do, what do they get?Having all these tools in place is where you see sustainable, long-term success in travel. It doesn’t come from posting one-off deals. It comes from building a reputation from delivering consistent engaging content. The good news is that if you aren’t doing these things now you can change!