During their recent RDO digital session at RDO7 Conference 2016 in London, John Beckley and Steve Clarke presented to conference attendees how to build an effective digital community, and explained why putting such a community at the heart of your business is an invaluable source for customer insight, engagement, advocacy, credibility and sales.

One of the most significant changes for the digital world during the last decade, has been the huge expansion in the use of social media as an increasingly vital means of communication and conversation. There are well established social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn that have been around for many years. Newer platforms like Periscope and Snapchat are being released on a yearly basis, each with their own standout features and massive user bases. While many channels have faded into obscurity, the overall trend since social media started has been a rapid and increasing rise in use which sees no signs of slowing.

A modern and highly functional websites, a well-written and regularly updated blog, and a sophisticated means of broadcasting content are all an important given for today’s brands. There is a limit though to how much credibility and reputation these can build, because rather than remaining loyal, the tech savvy consumer of today is happy to switch easily and often between brands. This is why for virtually every business, social media marketing should be viewed as a vital element of a successful marketing strategy. This is certainly the case for brands in the travel and timeshare industry.

Around the world there are now billions of people utilising platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to discover new information, interact with friends, family and other contacts, and share content such as blog posts, photos and videos. All of the major social media channels now also have apps which have further increased their use. Either through using Instagram, Snapchat or other social apps on their smartphones, or by logging onto their profiles via their computer, social media is now the primary method of brand discovery and awareness for many individuals. This advertising appears in the form of Tweets, Snaps, videos or other social media posts directly from a company, or alternatively from friends, families, celebrities or other influencers.

By using social media effectively to create your brand’s own digital community, you will be able to engage with more people, reach a wider audience, and create a conversation about your product. As this community grows and your social media channels gain new followers, it is vital that you learn to become a good listener. A great conversation does not just involve broadcasting information, but also listening and learning, in this case from your guests.

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” Dalai Lama

If you listen to what your guests are saying about your brand on social media, then you will learn what is working and where there is room for improvement. So not only can the community created on your brand social media profiles be used as a highly cost effective form of advertising, but also as excellent channels for feedback from guests staying at your timeshare resort. Unlike traditional forms of advertising such as TV, radio and print, this is one of the superb added benefits for your brand of having a strong social media presence and an engaged community. Your guests can also become your best advocates and therefore advertisers!

There are many important factors involved in building this strong, engaged community surrounding your brand online:

Consistency

You need to employ either an individual or a team who will oversee the various social media platforms that your brand has a presence on. They should then post content on a consistent, regular basis and interact with what your guests are saying in order to create a conversation and show that your brand is listening. Various other staff members should also be encouraged to help spread the brand online by sharing the content across different channels.

Engaging, share-worthy content

If you want your online community to become enthusiastic about your brand, you need to invest in creating quality content that your audience will both enjoy and want to share with their connections. This content can be in the form of text based blog posts, photos, videos or a combination of all of these, not to mention Tweets, Snaps and live broadcasts. The possibilities of great content are almost endless, so there is no excuse for being lazy or uncreative. For example sharing a Facebook or Instagram link directly to Twitter is unlikely to interest anyone. This will show that your brand is merely going through the motions and not really taking social media seriously. Instead create interesting content tailored to each platform.

Long term strategy

Your resort should not expect quick results, but instead view social media as a vital element in your long term marketing strategy. In this sense social media is the same as more traditional forms of advertising, in that you are unlikely to see massive immediate results. Instead, through consistency and quality you will be able to create a conversation about your timeshare resort, leading to more business that far outweighs any costs involved!

John Beckley  is a marketing and social media consultant who is currently contracted with his team to work with RDO to help RDO and its member resorts embrace digital transformation and engage people more effectively through social media. Prior to working with RDO, John spent four years as the digital marketing manager at Sands Beach Resort, Lanzarote, and 15 years running his own successful web design and online marketing company specialising in SEO and social media.

John also has over 20 years’ work experience in the timeshare industry, and is currently developing a personal branding course and job training for Resort Community Managers.

You can connect with John via Twitter – https://twitter.com/JohnBeckley and LinkedIn – https://es.linkedin.com/in/johnbeckley

Steve Clarke is a professional international speaker and serial entrepreneur. He is the author of the best-selling “How to thrive… not just survive” in which he spells out his formula for business success. Having spoken at a previous conference a few years ago and after recently recording a video series for RDO, Steve is back to share more of his great knowledge and expertise.

Steve has entertained, inspired and motivated audiences in more than 30 countries across 5 continents. Interesting, memorable and engaging, what Steve has to share on the subjects of sales, marketing and customer service help deliver transformational and lasting change.

Steve lives by his mantra:

“It’s your attitude that determines your altitude”

You can connect with Steve via Twitter – https://twitter.com/uksalesmentor and LinkedIn – https://uk.linkedin.com/in/uksalesmentor

If you would like to discuss anything with RDO regarding this blog post or other relevant topics, then simply add the hashtag #RDO7 or #RDOdigital to your tweet. Alternatively search #RDO7 or #RDOdigital on Twitter to see what else we’ve been discussing and you can easily get involved in the conversation.

The RDO7 conference 2016 was sponsored by CLC World Resorts & Hotels, Diamond Resorts International, Interval International and RCI at the Platinum level, and Dial An Exchange, Generator Systems and Shawbrook Bank at the Gold level. We thank them for their support.