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.


  • 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.”


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.