By Babs Harrison

The power to tell a compelling marketing story is in the palm of our hands.


Your cellphone.

And it just keeps getting better from there.

This week I spent one and one-half days in downtown Phoenix at a traveling Facebook training for small businesses called Community Boost – it's scheduled to visit 50 cities by the end of 2018. Find out when it's coming to your town and go,

I'll tell that to GMs, DoSMs, PR managers, not just staff with digital in their job titles. That's because a big message from the Facebook training is that the power to communicate our stories – via Facebook, also Instagram, and of course the teachings apply to non Facebook platforms such as Snapchat and Twitter – is a power we all can own.

This is exciting stuff. Know that I remain a believer in the power – and reach – of traditional media but the numbers make it plain that social media have matured and, importantly, reach across generations. This is documented in a Pew research report that found two-thirds of US adults say they are Facebook users and 75% of them use it daily.

Every day.

But Pew found that roughly 75% of us also use YouTube.

35% of adults identify as Instagram users.

41% of women use Pinterest.

Where the numbers get dramatically important is in daily use. Yes, Facebook dominates (74% of us use it daily). But among Snapchat users 63% are there daily. 60% are with Instagram. 45% with YouTube. We spend two hours and 15 minutes daily on social media.

The users are there. That's undeniable.

Also undeniable is the content they like.

Think videos. Facebook videos get 135% more organic reach than do photos.

On Twitter, Tweets with static images get shared 150% more than do text only Tweets.

And what can you easily create with the phone in your hand? Videos and photos.

Fascinating: research shows that 78% of social media access is via mobile devices.

And what is travel but a visual experience – meaning it is absolutely perfect for the social media era.

Every hotel and spa marketer needs to be thinking – hard and creatively – about how to harness the power of social media.

Here are three tips from me (mainly borrowed from Facebook – do take that seminar!):

  • Start a Facebook group for fans of your hotel and/or spa. Make it lively. Post informative, post fun content daily. Encourage people to interact with each other. Make it a true community.
  • Use Facebook, Instagram, etc to tell compelling stories. The power of visual storytelling on social media is immense. Use it. Don't post: "15% off craft beers at happy hour today!" Show a craft beer being poured, revel in the bubbles, make it all fun.
  • Read all you can about visual storytelling – it's a new medium, centered around the small cellphone screen, but it is winning immense numbers of eyeballs. Keep working at it. You'll get better.

And did we mention the need to promote interaction with your posts? We'll say it again because what is so exciting about social media is how often viewers comment on posts and, even more exciting, how often they share the posts they especially like.

Word of advice: when a potential Facebook story you are working on resembles one of your ads…delete it and start anew. Mistake one on Facebook and Instagram is too heavy self promotion. Remember this: social media isn't about you. It's about your audience. Create content that lets them star – for instance, by sharing it with friends.

When the content looks like a static ad – mountain in background, a flint of sun, a sun tanned back – stop. Delete. Start again. Think creatively.

Should you explore advertising on social media? Absolutely. Go where the eyeballs are. And often the very best advertising buy is paying to "boost" a post on Facebook by putting it before the right audience, and Facebook tools let a marketer quickly narrow distribution to the ideal audience.

Keep experimenting, that's key. Social media are our brave new world but, for marketers in the travel sector, it is an era of wonder, beauty, and wholly new keys to unlock success.