Getting to grips with LinkedIn can offer agents the chance to make valuable contacts and even grow their business
LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for travel agents, helping them to network, demonstrate expertise and even grow their business.
But it’s important to note the nature of LinkedIn is different to those of other social media platforms such as Facebook. “We have a number of members who use LinkedIn for selling, but instead of posting offers, they use it as an inbound marketing platform,” explains Ross East, head of marketing at The Travel Network Group. “It can also be used to build a relationship with a non-conflicting brand that reflects your business values.”
Here we look at some of the ways LinkedIn can boost your business.
LinkedIn is a great tool for connecting with people in the industry, says Stefan Schmidt, a part-time personal travel consultant at Hays Travel Leigh, who uses the platform to keep in touch with current contacts as well as nurturing new relationships.
He believes meeting someone face-to-face, then sending a LinkedIn request later that day, keeps you fresh in their mind. “I met a representative of a tourism board at an event in Manchester earlier this year,” he explains. “We connected on LinkedIn on the same day, and I mentioned we would be open to learn more about the destination he represented, which led to an invitation to an event where we [could] strengthen that new relationship.”
Travel counsellor Dave Bishop has found LinkedIn useful for reaching out to people he hasn’t met but who he wants to connect with. “I find that people are often more open to a polite request to connect because you have mutual connections – it’s more relaxed than a cold call.”
Bishop has also found it to be fundamental for winning new business after making that initial connection. “I begin by sending a personal message – simply saying hello, not trying to sell anything – then if they respond we begin a dialogue,” he says.
This approach has helped him diversify his clientele by branching out into the corporate market. “I’ve won three corporate clients purely through LinkedIn, which make up about 25% of my overall business. I now offer travel policy improvements to a large recruitment firm, a risk management company and a marketing and design agency.”
LinkedIn has also helped Bishop bring in almost £250,000 in referral business. He explains: “One of my best referral partners is a previous colleague who now works for an African tour operator based in the US. When she gets an enquiry for anywhere apart from Africa, I get the chance to quote – my largest booking ever at Travel Counsellors came via this route, and the relationship developed on LinkedIn.
“Going forward, I see LinkedIn as one of the major catalysts to push my business to the next level,” he adds.
Agencies looking to use LinkedIn as a recruitment tool can benefit from the free platform it provides to upload a job vacancy and then share it through other social media accounts, says TTNG’s East.
“It is perfect for searching for prospective employees in your area with the skills and expertise levels you require. This is why it should be one of the first places small businesses use for recruitment purposes.”
When writing posts on LinkedIn, ensure the content is relevant to your network, and that it showcases you as an expert, says Waseem Haq, director of digital and innovation at Travel Counsellors.
“Many of our travel counsellors create inspirational content relevant to their professional networks. [For example, some] shine a spotlight on how to travel more sustainably, positioning themselves as thought leaders in the field and showcasing their personal expertise.”
Bishop has found that posting before 7am and then again at 4.30pm is a good way to reach people, who are checking their phones on their way to and from work.
Posts that convey positive, uplifting and relevant content usually get the most engagement. “This can be new product launches, positive news about a destination, or something about the service [you] offer,” adds Schmidt.
Rather than posting offers on LinkedIn, consider using a softer selling approach. Posts about current news, for example, can be used as a hook to talk about your product.
Schmidt explains: “We shared a TTG article about Jet2.com adding 300,000 seats in Glasgow this summer to raise awareness and share the news with our industry connections. We, of course, mentioned that anyone wanting to take advantage of this increased capacity can book their holiday with us.”
Finally, the platform acts well as a tool to promote your brand and the travel experiences you can offer, says Bishop. “The content doesn’t [need to] have a price tag attached, as you want connections to buy into you.”
Danielle de Nervaux, senior marketing manager at Advantage, offers her advice:
Post regularly: Post twice a week when you first start using LinkedIn – focus on updates about your business and profiles of your staff including testimonials about what it’s like to work at your agency.
Use hashtags: These help readers to find you when reading and searching through content.
Get tagging: Tag individuals or companies you mention in your posts. They will get a notification and have the opportunity to share your posts, which will widen your reach and improve engagement.
Numbers game: Ensure all your employees have their own profiles. Use these to showcase your image as a good place to work.
Shout about CSR: If you have policies around diversity, equal opportunities and CSR, ensure they are featured on your profile for prospective jobseekers to see.
Respond quickly: Keep your job postings up to date and reply to everyone who contacts you through your business page. Remember, it’s about customer service here too.