MSC rolls out new faster internet and social media packages

MSC Cruises has worked with business communications provider Marlink to develop new faster, more reliable and cost-effective internet and social media packages for guests.

Now live onboard MSC Preziosa and MSC Divina, the high bandwidth internet packages are available via the Marlink Sealink Cloud and will be rolled out across all 12 MSC ships over the coming months. The packages will also be available on the line’s next-generation ships that are currently under construction, including MSC Meraviglia and MSC Seaside.

“We are constantly seeking new ways to innovate and enhance the guest experience aboard what is already the most modern fleet at sea,” said Gianni Onorato, MSC’s CEO. “We know that staying connected while on holiday is increasingly more important to our guests hence we are rolling out state-of-the-art technology to allow them to stay connected whether they are looking to share experiences and memorable moments, stay in touch with friends and family, need to stay on top of work e-mails or simply catch up with daily news.”

Aimed at those who want to be connected 24/7 to social media, the Social Package allows guests to post pictures and chat with friends via popular social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Snapchat, WeChat and Pinterest. Prices start from €3.90 per day or €14.90 for a seven-day cruise.

The Surfer Package is designed for moderate internet users who want to read news, sports scores and catch up on e-mails. It also includes access to social media platforms as per the Social Package. Prices start from €9.90 per day or €29.90 for a seven-day itinerary.

Meanwhile, the Streamer Package has been created for heavy internet users who need access either for work or for personal use and enables full internet and social media access, including audio and video. Prices from €19.90 per day or €59.90 for a full seven-day voyage.

Guests will be able to select their package prior to embarkation and will be easy to upgrade or top up.

A guide to social media advertising

Social Media By Carrie Finley-Bajak
Finding leads online, either by ranking in organic search results or from social media interactions, can yield results. However, it is often necessary to supplement marketing efforts by deploying social media ad campaigns to remain competitive.

The quest to stay relevant online takes effort. One way to keep a pulse on trends is to explore advertising options available on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

Getting started: plan, buy, optimize

Social media ad campaigns don’t require long-term contracts, enabling travel professionals to stop ads at any time. Most channels will offer an option to pay for clicks or impressions.

Prior to spending money on paid or targeted advertising campaigns, make sure to have a keyword strategy. In general, try to stick with a list of three to five keywords to remain consistent. Search on Google for “keyword generator” to get ideas.

Buy targeted ads based on location, demographics and/or device type.

Optimize and analyze ad campaigns on a regular basis. Make sure to stay agile, making adjustments as necessary.

Social media ad channels

After a travel professional makes the decision to allocate time and resources to finding leads through paid advertisements, the next step is to figure out where to deploy ad campaigns.

• Facebook: According to Facebook, there are more than 1.4 billion people who use Facebook to connect with what matters to them, and more than 900 million visit every day. At the end of July, Facebook reported that ads brought in $3.8 billion in advertising revenue for the three-month reporting period that ended in July. As far as social networking sites go, Facebook is a great option for travel agents looking to get started with a social ad strategy. Ads can appear in news feed on a desktop, news feed on a mobile device and in the right column of Facebook on a desktop.

Facebook does a great job collecting information about people. Take advantage of this data and target ads according to location and interests.

With Facebook Ads, travel sellers can create targeted ads to reach different audiences while meeting business goals. Among the things you can do are: build ads that promote clicks to your website, create ads that increase video views, create offers for prospects to claim and increase attendance at a special event, product launch or cruise night.

To learn about Facebook Ads, visithttps://www.facebook.com/business/products/ads.

• Instagram: Although still in its infancy, Instagram recently opened up its ad platform to all companies in 30 countries.

The service is evolving, and the company recently announced it was launching more ad products to use on Instagram. One thing definitely worth trying on Instagram are carousel ads, which are a compelling way to tell a brand’s story.

Create and target advanced Instagram ads based on custom audiences, look-alike audiences, Facebook categories and partner categories. Facebook’s Ads Manager is the easiest way for small businesses to start running ads on Instagram.

To learn more about Instagram for business, visithttps://business.instagram.com/advertising.

• Twitter: Whether you’re looking for more followers or website traffic, Twitter ads might be a good option.

To make the most of Twitter ads, make sure to understand where potential leads spend their time on the service. For example, one way travel agents can generate leads is by using promoted tweets during travel-related Twitter chats. (For a list of weekly chats, visit www.travelogx.com/chat.) Another way is running ads on popular hashtags.

There are three kinds of Twitter Ads. 1) Promoted tweets (with or without an image or video) are messages like an announcement of an upcoming product release, a sale or an event you’re hosting; 2) A promoted account is an ad that invites targeted Twitter users to follow your brand; and 3) Promoted trends are leverage time-, context- and event-sensitive trends promoted by Twitter’s advertising partners. These paid, promoted trends appear at the top of the trending topics list on Twitter and are clearly marked as “promoted.”

Like most platforms, Twitter enables you to target your ads based on location, gender, languages, interests and devices.

To learn more about Twitter ads for business, visit https://biz.twitter.com/ad-products.

• Pinterest: Ads on Pinterest consist of “promoted pins,” which refer to content that will appear in search results. As with other pay-for-click models, a travel professional will only pay for promoted pins when a viewer clicks on or otherwise engages with an ad. There is no minimum cost to run an ad campaign. Instead, it varies based on targeting audience and bid amount.

Pinterest wants promoted pins to be among some of the best pins members see on the social network. According to Pinterest, ads should contain “beautiful, actionable and interesting” content. Before getting started, make sure to review Pinterest’sadvertising principles and rules.

In May, Pinterest offered a new motion-based mobile ad format called cinematic pins, which are a nice way to enhance storytelling for a brand.

To learn more about advertising on Pinterest, visit https://ads.pinterest.com.

• LinkedIn: For B2B networking and to access affinity groups, advertising on LinkedIn can raise brand awareness, build relationships and drive quality leads.

LinkedIn Ads enable travel advisers to create and place ads on prominent pages on LinkedIn.com. Target which LinkedIn members view ads by selecting a target audience according to job title, job function, industry, geography, age, gender, company name, company size or LinkedIn group. Advertising costs are controlled by setting a budget (paying only for clicks or impressions). LinkedIn ad formats include text and image ads, video ads or text-only ads.

To learn more about advertising on LinkedIn, visit www.linkedin.com/advertising.

Best practice tips

  • Set your advertising goals first. Create both daily and lifetime budgets for your campaigns. Ask suppliers for co-op money to help offset the costs associated with running ad campaigns.
  • Understand the types of actions available from social ads. Are you looking for an increase in reach, followers, engagement or website traffic?
  • Choose targeting keywords that make sense for ads while adhering to an agency’s brand standards and travel niche.
  • Use A/B testing to see what ads perform best. A good rule of thumb for independent contractors is to use variations of popular posts from individual accounts to reduce costs associated with market testing.
  • Analyze data to determine what time of day consumers are engaging with ads, then target leads when they are most active online.
  • Don’t be shy. Interact and engage with leads who respond to ads.
  • Think global, but deploy local. Take advantage of ZIP code-targeted ads to promote travel products to niche communities.

Avoiding common social media mistakes

By Carrie Finley-Bajak

Carrie Finley-BajakAre common mistakes keeping you from social media marketing success? While word-of-mouth and email marketing are effective ways to reach your target audience, most travel agents agree that social media can also yield results.

When it comes to attracting attention on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr or LinkedIn, competition is fierce. Avoiding common mistakes can result in more brand exposure and leads.

Here are some social media mistakes to avoid, plus a few quick-fix tips:

1) Irrelevant or cumbersome user names and handles. It might seem fundamental, but social media user names, handles and personal URLs need to be user-friendly. Make sure the name reflects branding, is easy to read and is short.

Even expert social media users have challenges with handles. For example, Jean Newman Glock, consultant at JNG Worldwide and Signature Travel Network, admits that one of her biggest social media mistakes was creating a long Twitter handle. Jean learned the hard way about the importance of choosing handles carefully.

“My first and ongoing mistake is obvious: creating a user name with too many characters,” said Jean, whose Twitter handle is @JeanNewmanGlock. “What was I thinking? I only figured this out after setting up the same name across all social media platforms.”

Although Jean has done a good job branding herself online, she said long user names can pose a character-limit problem, especially for people who want to repost her Twitter updates.

Tips:

  • Before selecting a user name, investigate character limitations across all social media channels.
  • Pick short social media user names and handles to make it easy for customers to mention your brand.
  • Be willing to change your user name if necessary. Facebook page administrators can change their page’s user name once. To learn how to customize the Web address for your profile or your page, visit www.facebook.com/username.

2) Posting about topics not related to your business. Unlike using social media for personal accounts, travel agents need to stay disciplined to comment on, share or post only content that is relevant to their business. Posting actionable content that is relevant to your audience is an art. The best way to make sure you are on target is to rely on social listening to determine what your customers want while staying true to your brand.

Your social media goal should be to maintain a steady stream of posts that reflect your branding, as President Obama has done.
Your social media goal should be to maintain a steady stream of posts that reflect your branding, as President Obama has done.

A common mistake that dilutes brand messaging is posting updates that are not related to your business. Jean mentioned that when she started on Twitter and Instagram she “shared everything, on any topic.” But the expertise she has to share is about travel, not politics, etc. Jean now “keeps a laser focus on travel and tourism with a few family, personal shares to keep it grounded.”

Tips:

  • Your goal should be to post regular social media updates to help keep you top of mind. Maintain a steady stream of travel-related posts that reflect your branding. Mix up your messaging with a combination of text, images, infographics and videos.
  • Try combining a quote with an image to generate visually appealing graphics. UsePicMonkey for a quick way to generate shareable graphics.
  • Utilize Facebook’s Milestone feature to celebrate events. To add a Milestone to your Facebook page, click Offer, Event + at the top of your page’s Timeline.
  • Expand your technology toolkit and experiment with Haiku Deck, a presentation program that offers access to free images that can be used to tell your brand’s story in a unique way.

3) Failing to use marketing materials provided by suppliers. Travel agents who do not take advantage of marketing materials available to them from suppliers, tourism boards and public relations firms are making a big mistake.

Let’s face it, unless you have marketing budgets for large ad buys to reach your target audience, social media updates will have to be delivered manually. On Facebook, that means attempting to get engagement from your friends while fighting for coveted newsfeed positioning.

Tips:

  • In order to save time recreating marketing messages, use supplier content. Use existing marketing materials from suppliers to help showcase expertise. Use images and text from collateral materials to entice your prospects and leads. Most suppliers have large repositories of marketing materials available for agents to use for promotion.
  • Ask your sales reps to show you where you can find the supplier’s press/media assets online. Don’t be shy about sharing posts from your preferred providers on social media; just add your own take to personalize messaging.
  • Use Twitter lists and Facebook Interests for quick access to information posted by your favorite suppliers. Most likely new offers, products, services, and news will be streamed on their social media accounts, which you can repurpose.

4) Failing to use social media monitoring and management tools. Insights from data can positively impact your business by helping you create content strategies that will deliver your message to the right people. Active monitoring of social media channels by using tracking programs can help you streamline efforts while saving valuable time and resources.

The following free programs are worth exploring to gain insight and to fine tune your strategy:

  • Facebook administrators can access the Facebook Insights dashboard to review analytics data to track growth and to learn about what resonates with followers.
  • Check out Twitalyzer to access metrics for Twitter accounts.
  • Use PeerIndex to help determine online authority and brand advocates.
  • Manage, collaborate and monitor multiple social media channels with Hootsuite.

5) Failing to put the social in social media. If social media streams are not capturing the audience’s attention, make sure you are not just broadcasting information about deals. Over broadcasting links to deals and offers is one sure way to get unfollowed or cited as a spammer. Instead, build relationships with your audience and provide value to ongoing conversations. Put the social into social media and watch engagement levels rise.

Remember to follow up on leads. Keep in mind too, that some people might be watching, reading, listening or interested in what you have to say online but prefer to call you instead.

Tips:

  • The way to get people to engage is to ask open-ended questions and feel free to like, share or leave comments for strengthening relationships with your existing fan base.
  • Poll your clients on Facebook to see what is important to them. Get the input from the community to determine what interests the group, and then create a content strategy from the results.
  • Use analytics to determine where engagement spikes occur, and craft social media posts around pertinent topics. Make an content calendar to keep track of seasonal topics that are relevant to your fans and followers.
  • Use Topsy to search and analyze your competition to see what type of content is getting the most play; then use this data to craft your own personalized posts.
  • Go back to the basics. Create new ways to present popular topics such as travel tips, packing lists and expertise about your travel niche.
  • Using screencasting software, make videos that explain a hotel, destination, cruise ship, port or unique experience.

Social media marketing can have a positive effect on your business. When executing your strategy, make sure to avoid common mistakes to take your business to the next level.