Blue Mountains tour operator SALLY BRAY writes very honestly about her experiences as a small business operator who personally engages with social media …
Aussie Farmstay and Bush Adventures is a boutique tour company running tours from Sydney to the Blue Mountains and into the Aussie bush west of the Mountains.
Established in 2007, the business was understandably at first slow to attract the international visitors it caters for , since it is difficult to market directly overseas as a startup, and in the travel industry tour companies need a reputation to be represented by overseas agents.
After a slow first few years the company slowly gained traction in its market. The experiences offered on tours, farmstays, caves tours, wine tasting, horse riding, Blue Mountains attractions, wildlife parks and general sightseeing in the bush were popular with clients and the tours were ranked highly by those who travelled.
But the challenge was to spread the word further and faster to increase the customer base to a sustainable level.
As the owner operator of Aussie Farmstay and Bush Adventures I was keen to try anything that could increase the number of customers I attract and the number of tours I run.
Everyone was talking about Social Media, so I took the plunge. The first site I joined was LinkedIn. LinkedIn – a professional networking site – supposedly gives individuals in related fields the opportunity to connect, and pursue business together. I know people who swear by its benefits, especially those in Human Resources and anyone looking for a job. But personally I have found LinkedIn to be fairly useless for connecting with the kinds of professionals who could be of benefit to me (eg travel agents or wholesalers who are selling tour product.)
Then I tried Facebook and set up fan page for the business. I struggled to attract fans (apart from all my friends) so I paid for ads.
Facebook Ads are very focussed. You can choose the gender, age and interests of those you want to see your ad and you can choose to pay as little or as much as you want.
From the ads I attracted 1000s of fans and I routinely get more fans who find me organically (I stopped paying for the ads a long time ago) and every post I make attracts lots of Likes.
So has Facebook been worthwhile?
I’m still deciding. I know I have had one booking from a client who found me directly on Facebook. But I don’t know if my page has influenced any other client’s decisions or been seen favourably by anyone who may have been seeking to do business with me. I don’t spend a lot of time on the page, with one good photographic post per day at the most, so I don’t feel I’ve wasted a lot of time and energy, but the jury is still out on whether it’s all worth it.
Then there’s twitter. Personally I don’t know why people bother with Twitter, but they do and they’re possibly people I can market to, so I tweet at least once a day and follow people so they’ll follow me back.
I have over 16,000 followers, and I’ve had interest in my tours generated from the site. I do not know if I have had any bookings. Thankfully the whole twitter process doesn’t take a lot of my time, because if it did I’d give up.
And most recently I have made a Pinterest site. I am yet to be convinced that it has any value. I haven’t seen any yet, but as with the other sites, I’ll keep chipping away at it, as long as it doesn’t take up my valuable time.
Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest all generate hits on my websites, but I don’t know if any of those hits have led to sales. The three social media icons look good on my websites and a changing scroll of posts, tweets and images helps my websites to look fresh and up to date. So I’ll persevere with all three and see where they take me.
Unless I start having so many tours to run that I have no time for social media.
Aussie Farmstay Websites:
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