Why You Need To Build Your DMO’s Social Sales Force

Why DOMs Need Social Agents to Drive Visitation

What Is A Social Sales Force?

Simply put, a social sales force is comprised of motivated, unpaid ambassadors and influencers — what we at Converse Digital call Social Agents.

Social Agents introduce you to prospective visitors online through Facebook posts, Instagram pics and Twitter taunts telling everyone how much fun they’re having. And they don’t stop there…upon returning home, properly enticed Social Agents become a powerful Day-After-Marketing campaign for your DMO’s destination.

Why Do DMOs Need Social Agents?

Because organic word-of-mouth scales in a way that paid advertising never can. With paid advertising, it’s linear — the more folks you reach the more money you spend.

But with organic word-of-mouth, there is no scaling cost. It costs as much to get that first Social Agent recommendation as the 10,000’th.

It’s also the one thing Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will never throttle. Sure, they’ll limit how many of your destination’s followers see one of your own posts (unless you pay the ad piper) but they’d never throttle a consumer’s post, lest they anger said consumer and start down the pathway of becoming the next MySpace.

Social Agent posts are the last bastion of protected, sharable speech on revenue hungry social platforms. And if you can learn how to create and leverage Social Agents the ROI is mind-boggling.

What is The ROI of Social Agents?

A 2012 TripAdvisor research study revealed 76% of consumers shared vacation experiences on social networks.

Now, let’s just look at Facebook since it’s the behemoth of the social world.

Pew’s statistics reveal the median number of friends a Facebook user has is 200. They show the average as 338, but since I like to use conservative numbers when making a point, let’s stick with the median number.

And, because I reside in lovely (and currently wet) New Orleans, let’s use their 2015 visitor counts as the beginning of our projected ROI analysis.

In 2014 9.78 million people visited New Orleans. So, if we apply TripAdvisor’s (76% share) number, we get 7,432,800 Social Agents for the city of New Orleans. Now these 7.4MM Social Agents could potentially influence 1,486,560,000 potential visitors.

But that’s a bit of a stretch because not every person is going to influence every one of their friends. So the question is, what percentage of Facebook users claim that their future travel plans are influenced by the vacation content their friends are currently sharing.

There are a couple of different stats here:

  • 52% of travelers were so influenced by social media that they changed their original travel plans (Sprout Social)
  • 52% of travelers use social media to plan a trip (Eye for Travel)
  • 52% of Facebook users say their friends’ photos inspire their travel plans (Webbed Feet)
  • 36% of online travelers visit social networking sites to influence destination selection (World Travel Market London)
  • 33% US travelers reference social media as a main source of travel ideas and inspiration (MMGY Global)

So, let’s be kind of conservative here and average the averages. Which means, for argument purposes we’ll agree that 45% of social media users (Facebook users) are influenced by the vacation photos/posts of their friends.

If we apply that percentage to our 1.48 billion prospective visitors number above, we get 668,952,000 prospective visitors possibly influenced by our 7.4MM New Orleans Social Agents.

Now that’s a lot of folks… but again, not all of them are going to really convert and come to New Orleans.

But just for giggles, let’s say that 1% of them do — that’s 6,689,520 visitors that come to New Orleans because of the online social activity of the 7.4MM New Orleans Social Agents.

And what would that 6.7MM visitors be worth to the city of New Orleans? According to the 2015 New Orleans Area Visitor Profile study — $1,011 each or $6,763,104,720 for the whole lot of them. Now that will fix a lot of streets and potholes!

What is The REAL ROI of Social Agents?

Well, in this case it certainly isn’t going to be $6.8 billion. Mainly, because I don’t think New Orleans has enough hotel rooms to house an additional 6.7MM visitors a year. So to get the REAL ROI, we’d need to do additional math to set the realistic impact of an effective Social Agent program.

And that’s beyond the bounds of this post and it’s not the point. The point is, with 76% of your visitors sharing content on their social streams, there is an absolutely HUGE Virtualism opportunity here. Any DMO that isn’t thinking about Social Agents and proactively on a journey to inspire those Social Agents to share and influence their friends, is leaving a lot of money on the table.

How Much Should DMOs Invest in Social Agent Marketing?

The number will vary by DMO. But my firm, Converse Digital, could certainly work with you to figure out the right investment level and if help craft and manage a Social Agent program for you.

Or we could just help you factor the investment, design it and then get out of the way. Of course, we’d be available should you have a question or need some help.

Either way… if you’re interested in that kind of help because like me, you loathe leaving easy money on the table… just drop me a line and we’ll chat.

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