When most hear the word LinkedIn, they usually think of job-hunting or networking, not generating customer leads and sales. The result is that LinkedIn is often overlooked in marketing initiatives that are not business to business focused. This is especially true in the travel industry as it is instinctual for companies, such as tour operators or hoteliers who deal directly with customers, to assume that there is no need to build a presence on a site that is not consumer facing.

Ironically, Hubspot, a leader in online marketing, recently announced that LinkedIn is more effective at generating sales leads than Facebook or Twitter by 227%. What travel businesses do not realize is that the site has many features that lie beyond merely making professional connections and employment opportunities. Although LinkedIn users are indeed professionals, remember these connections are either travelers themselves or trade connections that can be the gateway to new business opportunities (travel bloggers and writers, outbound tour operators, travel agents, wholesalers, etc.).

LinkedIn offers two features that can easily gain the attention and trust of these strategic connections and turn them into sales leads: Answers and LinkedIn Groups. These LinkedIn features function like two social media tools that are probably already part of your social media marketing strategy: Facebook groups and travel and review sites.

So forget all your preconceptions about LinkedIn and learn how these tools can help you:

  1. Tap into and monitor your online community
  2. Build brand recognition
  3. Gain traveler and trade partner trust

LinkedIn Groups

What is the benefit of LinkedIn groups? They allow you connect with like-minded trade professionals related to your travel niche, who are either consumers themselves or gateways to consumers. Type in the word “travel” and search for the groups that pop up and you get 8,331 results! These cover everything from groups dedicated to travel bloggers (most holding over 1,000 members) to group dedicated purely to specific types of tourism like cultural heritage or adventure travel. Much like you would join a Facebook group to monitor what is happening in your travel niche or destination; you should do the same by joining a LinkedIn group. Join the conversation in these groups and get noticed as an industry thought leader.

LinkedIn Answers

The LinkedIn Answer section can be the ultimate method of showcasing your industry expertise! Much like how you would post on a travel review site such as Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum, Answers are a great way to demonstrate authority on a given travel industry topic and gain the trust of your online community.

Note the following topic for example: “Corporate Travel Spending – Airfares, Hotels, Car Rentals in India…?” This is the perfect time for any hotelier, travel agent or tour operator to showcase their expertise by objectively providing reviews and advice about other travel tropics and products.

Remember, BE OBJECTIVE! Rather than directly advertise your products or services, demonstrate that you know your market. This will cause whoever reads your response to remember your brand, respect your opinion and eventually prompt them to refer to your site in order to gain increased insight. Once you establish authority, you will gain trade partner or traveler trust. Being top of mind will encourage these potential leads to scope out your website.

This article has been reposted with permission from www.solimarinternational.com/resources-page/blog/itemlist/tag/Social%20Media%20Marketing?start=20

Posted by Jordi Pera

Jordi Pera is an economist passionate about tourism, strategy, marketing, sustainability, business modelling and open innovation. He has international experience in marketing, intelligence research, strategy planning, business model innovation and lecturing, having developed most of his career in the tourism industry. Jordi is keen on tackling innovation and strategy challenges that require imagination, entail thoughtful analysis and are to be solved with creative solutions.

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