February 27, 2020 Blog

When I ask people, “Is social media harmful to your business?” Most of them look at me like I’ve lost my mind. Social media is amazing! It’s how they reach clients and spread the word about their travel business. For many travel agents it is their entire marketing strategy.

Equally important, many of them consider it their lifeline to their tribe. It is how they connect with one other. That’s especially valuable in an industry where so many people are working from home.

And yet, I would bet that for many of you social media is actually harmful to your business. Allow me to explain.

It comes down to one little word: time. Many of you spend WAY too much time on social media and Facebook in particular. Social media is a tool and should be managed like any other tool. You should spend as much time on it as is necessary to get the job done. Sure, there is the fun and social side to it too, but if you spend hours a day scrolling through posts, you have a problem.

I am willing to bet that many of you don’t have any idea how much time you actually spend on these sites. You probably keep your favorite site accessible all day, because that tab on your browser is probably always open. For many of you that go-to social media site is Facebook. According to Statista, Facebook accounted for 50.68% of social media visits by Americans in December 2019. Pinterest was second with 19.18%, Twitter was just behind at 19.03%, and Instagram came in a distant fourth with 8.8%. Every other platform received less than 1.5% of visits.

Regardless of what platform you are on, the bottom line is this: It is taking away valuable time and mental bandwidth from your business. You only have so many hours in a day and so much energy to devote to your business. It doesn’t make sense to devote so much of it to social media.

Here’s the really staggering part: Americans spend an average of 144 minutes each day on social media. That’s not internet time, that’s just on social media (source: Statista). That is nearly 2.5 hours. If you work an 8-hour day, that just took away more than 25% of your time. I realize that all of social media isn’t work based. You’ve got friends to keep up with, memes to see, and funny videos to watch! But 144 minutes is a lot of time. And that’s the average. Many people are spending a lot more time looking at and commenting on posts, updating their profile pictures, and all the things we do on these sites.

If you took one half or even one quarter of the time you spent surfing social media and instead put that into business-building activities, your business would be significantly better. But there is a reason that you are doing that.

So, why do you spend so much time on social media? Here are my thoughts on what might be behind it:

You are procrastinating. We all do it. Sometimes you have a project that is daunting, massive, or just plain boring, and you just need to step away. Right now this moment, there are probably millions of Americans scrolling on Facebook because they are avoiding preparing their financial records to take to their accountant to have their taxes filed. We all procrastinate and it’s not always a bad thing. It can mean that you just aren’t mentally ready to tackle that task. But when social media becomes a substitute for what you need to get done, that’s when it becomes a problem.

You are validated by responding to other people’s posts. Some people literally get a dopamine hit from commenting on people’s posts. It’s the same thing an addict gets from drug use. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: a lot of the travel agents who are commenting and advising others about what to do, aren’t that successful. Really. Yet they are full of advice for everyone else because they don’t have anything else to do. They are looking for validation by advising others instead of building their own businesses.

You just aren’t sure what else to do. This is the most dangerous thing for a business owner. If you are a travel agent who doesn’t yet have enough clients to occupy your time, you are probably just distracting yourself from that fact by being on social media. Many travel agents justify their time online by saying social media is a great way to connect with clients. And it is, but do you know how that actually works? If you don’t have a marketing plan for your business and clear goals of what you can get from that time on social media, you need to fix that ASAP.

You are feeling lonely. If you are working at home and the colleagues you connect with are in distant locations, it’s natural to feel lonely. Working at home is often working in isolation. Here’s a novel idea: set up a time to talk to colleagues on the phone. The telephone is the original social media platform! Do you have an accountability partner for your business? Having another travel entrepreneur you connect with on a regular basis to talk shop is super helpful.

Can social media be an effective tool for you as a travel agent? Absolutely! But it is just one tool in your toolbox. Here are some suggestions about how to maximize the time you devote to social media and minimize wasted time:

  1. Set goals for how each platform. What do you want to achieve with each of the sites you are on? You probably have multiple reasons ranging from business development to social interactions and connecting with your tribe. Just be aware of that so you achieve those goals and move on.
  2. Dedicate a specific amount of time to social media each day. You might even want to schedule time on your calendar in 15-minute blocks to check-in on social media. Set a timer on your phone and when that time is up, disconnect.
  3. Turn off notifications on your browser and phone. Those little pop-up windows not only hijack your attention, they create FOMO (fear of missing out) which leads a lot of people to spend too much time on social media. If you see a post two or three hours after someone makes it, that’s OK. If it is really earth-shattering news someone will send you a direct message.
  4. Make sure you have a marketing plan. This document is a critical resource to guide your business development activities. If you aren’t sure what to do to market your business, it can cause you to wander aimlessly through the various online communities looking for inspiration. And that can lead to grasping at straws.
  5. Find other ways to connect with people on social media. If you have business colleagues you love connecting with online, set up a time to chat with them in person, by phone, via FaceTime or Skype, or find other ways to have more meaningful connections.

The bottom line is this: you are probably diverting time that should be spent on other business activities to mindless scrolling on social media. Yes, it’s an important tool, but it isn’t the only tool. Nor is it the only thing worthy of your time and attention.

By Sandy Saburn