Social media marketing guru Martin Stoll came to the Hilton on Thursday with a suitcase full of stories about what social media can do.
--Stoll posted a photo of himself at the Penny Ice Creamery to show he was getting great ice cream.
--There was a campaign to motivate people to travel in the spring, to which 59 percent of survey respondents said, "Yes, we did."
--A romance blogger sent to Fiji, who asked followers which swimsuit to pack and followed their advice, posted a photo of herself in the swimsuit on the beach to positive comments.
"Your vacation is only as good as the photos you post on Facebook," he said, getting appreciative chuckles from 80 people at a tourism summit organized by the Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors Council.
"In tourism, the platform doesn't matter," he added. "People want to brag about what they're doing, that won't change."
So how do you get your customers to brag about you?
The key is to provide a great customer experience, which Stoll said should not be difficult in Santa Cruz.
"Tell your guests to take a photo of the sunset tonight," he said.
Other tips: Borrow Amazon's strategy of connecting past customers with prospective customers to share their experiences. Pick a "top five" instead of "top 10" to make it easier for customers to decide. Provide "digital snacks," pretty pictures instead of big chunks of text, to view on iPhones for
people to fill snatches of time, like when they're waiting for the elevator. Keep messages short, 85 characters, not 140.
"Be entertaining," Stoll added, citing a contest at Lufthansa, where he used to work, that let people guess the sound of a city for a chance to win a discount travel voucher.
Asked how to handle negative comments, Stoll said, "Build relations before things go wrong. Know 50 people who will defend your brand ... A negative comment is not bad as long as there are enough other opinions about it."
The Visitors Council staff came wearing scarves adorned with tangerine and ocean blue starfish featured in the new Santa Cruz brand and logo, which took 18 months to create.
"I think you found another revenue opportunity," said Traci Ward of Visit California, the state tourism agency with a $50 million budget that plans to do more in digital advertising.
Currently Olympic medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings, formerly of Scotts Valley, is on the cover of the California visitors guide and scenes shot at the Mount Hermon Conference Center are in the "Playground California" commercial, which began airing in February to promote family vacations.
Richelle Noroyan of Santa Cruz said she saw a poster of surf icon Jack O'Neill in London, still up after a Visit California campaign from 2011.
To Bill Fernald of Mount Hermon, which is working on plans for a bike park, the program reinforced the importance of relationships. He recalled when a negative post was made, "all our friends came on to respond."
Annieglass owner Ann Morhauser has been posting photos on Facebook from her trip to retailers in Louisiana and her marketing director Violet Lieby Smith said the next step is to "use Facebook as a place to connect."
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