Billings, MT (PressExposure) December 08, 2009 -- Ciclismo Classico ([http://www.ciclismoclassico.com/]), an active bicycle vacations company, recently lent its year-long expertise in using Facebook as a marketing tool to a colleague, Austin-Lehman Adventures (http://www.austinlehman.com/) who was brand-new to the concept. Facebook is all the latest buzz in this heavily personal and experiential sector of the travel industry and more than Twitter, blogs and other social media tools, it is being leveraged successfully to gain expanded brand awareness, a fan following, sizzle and excitement, compelling story telling and what everyoneâs looking forâ¦ trip bookings.
Dan Austin, co-founder and director of Austin-Lehman Adventures, reports that within a week on Facebook their fan following grew by over 300 percent.
Following is a Q& A with Dan Austin and Lauren Hefferon, founder and director of Ciclismo Classico. (As of this writing, ALA was just three weeks into using Facebook and Ciclismo Classico had been using it for a year). Both companies welcome queries from the media who are pursuing stories on Facebook and social marketing for small businesses. To contact Dan Austin please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; to contact Ciclismoâs Lauren Hefferon please email her at email@example.com.
Q: How are you applying and using Facebook?
Austin: Daily weâre posting pictures from old, new and groundbreaking exploratory trips. Guides are posting pictures and asking âwho knows where this is?â We are sharing breaking news, like our new fleet of bikes. Our growing community is sharing trip experiences, asking questions and telling their own unique stories.
Hefferon: When I was a tour guide I was always with guests, getting to know them and directly experiencing them as individuals. But that ended when I became bound more to my office. The people magic was gone for me and I missed it. With the advent of Facebook I am now seeing pictures of their families, getting to know their interests, seeing their ups and downs. I am getting to know them as people, rather than just as database "prospects" or "alumni". I am also getting direct feedback from them. If I post something about an adventure I just had, one of my alumni might chime in and share in that experience. The sharing is real, authentic and live. On our Facebook Fan Page I try to post items that not only have to do with Ciclismo but have to do with our customersâ general love for travel, bicycling, culture and personal development. I am developing a keener understanding to what our guests like and donât like by how they respond to my posts. I am letting them guide me to experiences that turn them on!
Q: What results have you gotten?
Austin: In just the first week of our Facebook campaign we tripled our fan base therefore boosting our brand awareness. We are seeing five to six percent growth in followers each day and close to 300 percent in the last week alone.
Facebook allows us one more way to listen to and interact with our guests. Itâs not so much a marketing tool as it is a communication tool. I keep coming back to the fact that conventional websites are one-dimensional; with Facebook itâs all three-dimensional. The point is to build a community of guides, guests and staff who are all talking up the experience and opportunities. We see the exchanges and excitement growing along with the number of fans we now have. Itâs really viral and quite impressive.
Hefferon: We have seen spikes in our website visits due to spikes in our fan count. We know that there are multiple drivers in inspiring people to book a trip. At Ciclismo we believe in the high touch approach and Facebook fits perfectly into this strategy. We know it takes time and effort on our part but if you want to succeed in todayâs marketplace you have to spend time to get to know your customers better!
My attachment and interest in Facebook reminds me of how I started my business. While I love Italy and cycling, it is the sharing with people that gets me excited! In the early days I not only knew my customer's "face" (because I had been on a tour with them) I also got to know what made them tick through personal visits, talking on the phone and sharing pictures. Facebook feels very much like that experience. It is simple, basic and the direct feedback allows me to shift and build my relationship with each customer in a very customized way. With direct mail campaigns and ads, the owner looses touch with the customer experience which is paramount to growing a service business that is all about that experience.
Q: How are you building followers/fans?
Austin: The fastest way we have been able to gain new fans is via our trip leaders and guide community. They are reaching out and sharing personal stories on Facebook and then inviting past, current and prospective guests to share their own experiences, photos, questions and suggestions with them. Guests love being able to vicariously travel and go adventuring through the posts from our guides, and then share (or brag) about their own personal exploits.
Hefferon: The best way to build fans and followers is to invite people one by one to share our Facebook fan page with their friends. I think this is the most authentic, caring way to do this.
Q: Can you provide any case studies or examples of people who have benefited one way or another from exchanges and info seen on your Facebook pages?
Austin: We are seeing fans creating exchanges between one another and a guide. Itâs amazing to now see complete strangers planning future trips together for next season.
Hefferon: We always try to ask questions on almost every post. We try to get the readers interacting. One interesting example was a post I did about Truffle Hunting Dog Laura that is on our Piedmont tour. We had about 15 responses from people who loved that dog and wanted to share their own experiences. This post launched a whole discourse about truffles and dogs, a wonderfully interactive bit of storytelling shared with a large fan base bringing the power of the testimonial to new heights. We used the theme in a recent press release. I also discovered that this experience was a magical one for our guests and that it should be highlighted in corresponding promotional materials.
Visit the Facebook Pages for Austin-Lehman Adventures and Ciclismo Classico and join the fun! And be sure to contact Dan or Lauren for more details on their Facebook experience.
Austin-Lehman Adventures: http://www.facebook.com/AustinLehmanAdventures Ciclismo Classico: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ciclismo-Classico/47442513274
Austin-Lehman Adventures, with a 35-year legacy dating back to 1974, provides âover the topâ adventure vacations on four continents. ALA has built a stellar reputation on small group active travel, limited to 12 guests (18 on family departures), exceptional dining, distinctive accommodations and all-inclusive rates and services. ALA focuses solely on destinations in North, Central and South America, Europe and southern Africa. Founders Dan Austin and Paul Lehman believe the best way to enjoy the natural beauty, culture and history of a place is to experience it as a local; close-up, at oneâs own pace far off the usual tourist track.
In addition to its scheduled group departures, ALA also offers customized trip planning for families, solo travelers and adults-only. To back up its strong commitment to the highest levels of guest service, ALA offers all its travelers a money back guarantee, a rarity among adventure travel companies.
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For more information and photos on Austin-Lehman Adventures or for owner interviews please contact:
Dave Wiggins / 303-554-8821 / firstname.lastname@example.org