Listen up! Chinese ear model for acupuncture training (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Listen up! Chinese ear model for acupuncture training (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

One of the most powerful uses of social media is for visitor and guest customer service – acting as a digital concierge.

It’s the same thing that you’ve always done in Visitor Centers and at hotel front desks, but now you can give advice and share enticing stories that reach around the world, in a public way that can catch the attention of many more prospective visitors.

In order to be able to step in and help people effectively, however, you have to know how to listen online.

Listen Online & Ensure Your Network Has Your Back

At a minimum, listening online means setting up social media notifications on a dashboard or via email that will tell you when you’ve been tagged (mentioned by your social account name) on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.

When you are tagged, that is someone “talking” to you. It is expected that you’ll pick up the “social media telephone” and answer when it rings.

To stretch that a bit further, you also need to know when things are happening or about to happen in your area or hotel, even when you aren’t tagged.

To help with that, make sure that your fans, partners, members, and other online champions in your network have their ears to the ground along with you, and that they know that it is important to tell you when someone of particular interest is visiting.

Example of How to Listen: Oklahoma Tourism Says Howdy

Here is an example of individuals (our co-founders Becky and Sheila) who discovered that an old friend of theirs – author, blogger, and speaker C.C. Chapman – was heading out on a family road trip across the U.S. that would take him through many states.

C.C. is an avid photographer with a significant social media following, and he loves to travel.

This was an opportunity for tourism and hospitality folks along his route to say hello and be helpful, but they had to be listening. It’s great to set up press trips, fam tours and such, but don’t miss someone influential who is already coming to or through your area. Take advantage of such opportunities!

Oklahoma’s state tourism organization sets a fine example here….

First, C.C. asks his friends on social media for some ideas; pretty standard today, right?

Twitter screenshot CC Chapman asks 140 travel advice for road trip

So, what’s there to do around here? Screenshot from Twitter.

So, initially, this was just friends chatting on Twitter.

But, in another tweet, Becky tagged Oklahoma tourism’s Twitter account, @TravelOK, because it’s her home state. She is part of their network of fans and online champions, and she knew that they’d like to know that this guy was passing through.

They responded quickly with helpful suggestions (and not three days later when it’s too late, something we see rather too often.)

The detailed visitor information is already available on their website, so they sent C.C. directly to it, using links which help them track the various sources of click-throughs to that page.

Twitter screenshot Oklahoma state tourism ideas for CC Chapman road trip

How to be a helpful, responsive tourism professional and digital concierge. Screenshot from Twitter.

Like any time-pressed visitor, C.C. wasn’t going to be able to try out all the ideas sent his way, but there may be future trips, and now when someone says to him, “Hey, you’ve been on a road trip through there, and we’re going on a similar trip, so what do you recommend?” he can refer friends to the information that @TravelOK provided.

And he did make it to one of Becky’s suggested stops….

Twitter screenshot CC Chapman stops at Route 66 museum Oklahoma

Social media ROI? Here you go. From a tweet to walking through the door. Screenshot from Twitter.

Need some help learning how to listen and respond like a pro on social media?

That’s the subject of part of our online course in social media for tourism: Lesson 1 – How to Listen.

We’re happy to help you with this or any other social media education that you need, so drop us a line!


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Commenting area

  1. Fantastic tips Sheila. I’m still surprised by destinations who invite me to visit, know when I am at their property and still don’t respond to my social media outreach efforts. I can check their twitter feed, Instagram and Facebook pages and see that they are churning out one-way communications. They simply can’t be bothered to pick up the “social media telephone.” Hello? Is anyone home?

    • Thanks, Nancy, it’s all part of an education process.

      Many DMOs honestly don’t realize how rude (or out of touch) it appears when they don’t ever respond to a tag. They would never dream of ignoring someone at the Visitor Center or hotel front desk, nor would they ignore the phone ringing at the office. They are learning that when someone takes the time to tag them on social media, it’s part of their job to respond.

      Others will say they “don’t have time” to respond, but most smaller DMOs are not tagged all that often, and the big ones should certainly be staffed to respond. Either way, they can also use a smartphone to answer quick questions, say thank you, etc. while out and about.

  2. Love this article. Thanks for posting, Sheila!

    As a former tourism pro & forever tourism lover, I pay close attention to those who get it right like Oklahoma Tourism. In fact, that’s how I choose where I travel to next — by paying close attention to those who do get it. It’s why I traveled to Savannah last December and it’s why I’m going to Seattle this month.


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