But who wants to wait to be discovered by the media? With today's 24-7 connectivity, and every traveler armed with the equipment necessary to immediately share whatever it is they are experiencing right as they are experiencing it, the question is, what are you doing to enable your current clientele to share your secret with the world?
Let's think about it. The constant sharing of information via the social web has changed consumer behavior. Gone is the time where people held their "finds" close to the vest. It's now a badge of honor to find and share. Consumers feel legitimized when others acknowledge and affirm their experiences. Today's interconnected society allows everyone to be a trendsetter or a trendspotter or simply just participate in shaping the dialogue.
So how do you harness this phenomenon and empower your customers to tell your story? By providing them the chance to talk about you during all three phases of their interaction with you, and by rewarding them for doing so.
Phase 1: Discovery/Booking
As your prospective customer is getting to know you, make sure they are able to share what they find. Enable share tools on your site so that visitors can share content they've discovered there.
Once they've decided to book with you, make sure they can share their itineraries via email. And encourage them to invite people along for the trip virtually by giving them a space where they can set up a trip profile page and eventually share their trip content.
Phase 2: Travel
Remember the good old "Wish You Were Here" postcards? Let's be honest, we all know we didn't actually want "you" here -- we just wanted you to know we were there. Social media has amplified the postcard effect exponentially because of the response factor -- immediate gratification for the braggart in all of us. So encourage your customers to brag a little -- remind them to share pictures, tweet, as well as update their status on Facebook -- right now. And consider immediately rewarding them for doing so -- offer an upgrade, a free drink, or rewards points for telling your story to their networks.
Phase 3: Post Travel
Just because the trip is over doesn't mean the conversation is. In fact for most travelers the story-telling has just begun. Make sure you are monitoring the web, picking up on conversation about your brand and engaging with those who are having it.
These days, it's definitely not about keeping secrets. It's about letting your story be told and knowing that you will only be one of many voices telling it. Harness the power of your customers as your storytellers and embrace the fact that while you may not always create the dialogue, there is no reason why you shouldn't be participating in and propagating it to your fullest advantage.