Building a Facebook Community

I was contacted by Jeroen Beelen earlier this month as he was looking for recommendations of tourism organizations that use Facebook well as a promotional tool. I gave him a few examples and tweeted the question to see if others had recommendations as well. Check out Jeroen’s entire list and blog post: Destination marketing and Facebook: the quest for solid ground.

The post talks about organizations that have a very small amount of Facebook fans and sometimes an even smaller amount of Facebook posts or updates. The possible reasons he lists are knowledge (or lack of), time and the bureaucracy behind a tourism organization. And I agree with Jeroen on this. Bureaucracy will always be an issue for some organizations. The best way to deal with this is to create a detailed strategy and stick to it. Time is another big issue. As the page grows, more time is needed to maintain it. But with experience, the process for managing a Facebook page can become more and more efficient. Now, in regards to knowledge…

facebook like button I’m sure some of you created Facebook pages for your organization around the same time that I did. There were no rules, hardly any blog posts or ‘best practices’ to follow, and most of us couldn’t figure out the difference between a page and a group. But we sat down and made ourselves learn it by experimenting. There’s no better way to gain social media experience and knowledge other than to fly by the seat of your pants. So how is that different today?

It seems like many organizations know they need to be on Facebook but they don’t know how to create their page. Or maybe they just don’t see the value in learning how to do it themselves. So they ask the local ‘expert’ or their social-savvy friends for help, hoping that those people will just do it for them. Sure that works but it’s not the best approach. Facebook now easily walks you through the steps in creating a page and there are numerous blogs available that also help. If it’s not already, Google should be your best friend.

Once the page is set up, many get stumped on what to write for posts, how to get more fans, how frequently to update the page and how to figure out the ROI for their bosses. There is no one way to manage a Facebook page. Organizations must experiment to figure out what works best for their page by setting goals and planning a strategy.

From my experience, especially with larger destinations, a definite shift occurs as the page grows between just promoting a destination to building a Facebook community. You might have a few hundred fans, most of which are excited about events or specific attractions, and then the page grows to several thousand fans and the events don’t excite them as much. They want to share why THEY love the destination. And most of them haven’t even been there recently nor plan to travel there in the near future. But somehow they’re attracted to the essence of the destination and it’s culture and heritage. The bigger picture.

Whether the page is large or small, Facebook fans don’t want traditional marketing thrown at them. Facebook is not the place for that. They don’t want to be told things. They want to SHARE. And this will only become more and more evident as the page grows.

Fans want to see photos that entice an “I love [this destination]” comment. They want to be asked questions about their favorite things to do or things to eat or things that they love to see when traveling there. They want to tell you how they met their (now) husband or wife while there. Or how their mother or father grew up there and the family traditions that they still celebrate because of this connection. They want to share photos of their recent trips. They want to tell you how beautiful the destination is in the spring. Or how they’re reminded of it each time they pull out Christmas decorations that were bought as souvenirs.

As you can see, it’s no longer about promoting events, attractions or deals. It’s about building a community. A social community that will share their love for the destination with family and friends. And Facebook is the perfect place to host this social sharing.

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