Simon's Blog - Life in a country castle
If 2009 goes down as anything other than a year most of us would probably like to forget, it’ll be the year I became wed savvy and 2010 should be the year it all comes together.
You see, tourism is now all about branding, image management and digital marketing. At a Yorkshire Tourism conference in April we were told that again and again and I felt terribly old fashioned holding on to the notion that included somewhere in that mix ought to be customer service.
Now you can follow us on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, read our search engine optimised website and look forward, with rapt anticipation to our latest ‘digital e-zine’.
But that is all new and just nine months ago things were very different.
Back at the conference I am feeling befuddled when the presentation moves on to how to reach our desired audience. Out of nowhere comes talk of social networking, Facebook profiles and fan pages, getting bloggers onside, twitter feeds and tweets. I do, in all fairness, already know about Facebook, although I am ashamed to say that the first time I actually looked at it was when Wendy’s 63 year old aunt (who’d already unsuccessfully tried to introduce us to Skype and video telephoning) showed me her profile. But twitter feeds? It sounds like something you put out for the birds in winter.
Luckily help is at hand. Our host, who has one of those faces which is not quite familiar enough to be recognisable even though he clearly believes he is fabulously famous, explains that we (he must mean all of us collectively, although I note he is a good fifteen years my senior) are internet immigrants meaning we grew up in a world before instant broadband access, WiFi, Google, Digg, Flickr & YouTube whereas younger adults and our children – the markets of the future – are internet natives. It’s an idea that speaks for itself, but still doesn’t explain the nature of twitter feeding.
I decide to do some research of my own. I start by asking one of our girls at the castle, who is at university and should surely know all about modern forms of communication, ‘are you twittering and can I have a look at your tweets?’
Well, what would you do as a twenty year old girl if your boss, who is technically old enough to be your father catches you late at night and asks to see your tweets?
‘I beg your pardon’ she says, backing away slowly but purposefully.
‘Twittering, what’s it all about?’
‘Umm, is Wendy around?’
No luck there then. It turns out she too has never heard of Twitter and once the true nature of my enquiry is explained her complaint of inappropriate behaviour is withdrawn. So, I look it up on Google which is, of course what I would have done first had I been an internet native.
Two days later, I’m twittering like mad to anyone who’ll listen and picking up followers like they’re going out of fashion. It’s social networking and I’ve also got myself a Facebook account. I haven’t felt so with it since I got an ipod for Christmas two years ago, but that feeling soon faded after I had to ask another younger person to help me download tunes and since she went off to university I haven’t added another song. It’s not because I can’t, it’s because it doesn’t come naturally.
Now, emboldened by my new hip status, I ask one of our even younger employees if she’d like to be my friend on Facebook. But the look I get in return leaves me in no doubt that I have failed to grasp the intricate etiquette that goes with social networking.
‘No way’, she says, ‘my mates would crucify me.’ This seems a little harsh but I feel grateful at least that she has sweetened the pill as her usual response would have been something more like ‘oh my God that would make me want to vom’.
So I am now the proud owner of a Facebook account with one friend on it (and I am his only friend on his too – make up your own mind if that makes us both less or more sad or maybe just ultra cool).
Happily Twitter appeals to a more eclectic bunch of nerds and on my Twitter account I am following 129 other twits and being followed by 30. I guess twitter or tweet heaven is when you are being followed by more twits than you are following so there’s something to aim for.
That’s all last Spring and since then things have evolved. Everything stepped up a gear after I attend a digital marketing exhibition in London in September.
My beffuddlement at the Yorkshire conference is nothing compared with how I feel as I hear about natural search, organic optimisation and viral email campaigns. I check to make sure I haven’t stumbled into a health food conference by mistake. Natural, organic, viral? What about probiotic? Are these all types of yoghurt?
As the day goes on I hear talk of ensuring the quality of your creative, return of investment, routes to market and just as I think I know what’s going on things turn athletic with mention of bounce rates and landing platforms.
Just as I’m about to give up, having finished off a Gogi berry and pomegranate smoothie with kangaroo dropping booster for stamina at the juice bar (exhibition centres have come a long way too) I spy an arrow pointing upstairs to ‘The Google University’. In one hour confusion turns to enlightenment as two guys tell us about pay-per-clicks, Google Adwords and how the whole thing works and I realise that marketing is still marketing. it’s based on common sense and anticipating how your customers are going to find you and trying to reach them before the competition does.
New words, new methods but same old strategy.
And customer service? well, of course, once you’ve got the customer hooked, you’ve still got to meet their expectations and that’s still the hardest bit which no amount of digital trickery will change.
Oh, and in case it’s important to you, the only thing more organic than our search engine optimisation is the yoghurt we serve at breakfast.