For this edition of the Social Media Spotlight, PMC is proud to introduceBus2alps! Bus2alps is the largest tour operator for primarily American students studying abroad in Europe. They have recently expanded to bringing students from the US to Europe on short trips. Bus2alps operates award-winning weekend and weeklong group trips to all of Europe’s major destinations. We had the opportunity to speak to Michael LaPorta, the US Operations Manager of Bus2alps, and here’s what he had to say about their social media marketing strategy…
What value, if any, has social media provided for your business?
M: Social media has been the second largest and most successful form of marketing for Bus2alps, shortly following street teaming the students who are currently in their abroad cities. In the last year, the gap between these two has shrunk considerably as we extend our marketing reach beyond the confines of our cities with an office.
Which social media platform works best for your business? Why?
M: Facebook by far has been the most effective. Facebook has provided us with the most seamless and effective way to connect with students who will be heading abroad prior to their trip, and an even better way for us to remain connected for the duration of their stay in Europe. Through Facebook we are able to not only have our fan page, but set up Facebook groups for each study abroad city. Facebook groups help us to create a discussion forum for incoming students to bounce travel ideas and ask our experienced staff for tips and advice on what to do while abroad. Beyond that, there are student created Facebook groups which have given us an outlet to reach the group leaders (group admins) about our tours for them to spread to the rest of their abroad program.
How has social media impacted your business in terms of marketing and sales?
M: Prior to 2009, we used social media but not to its full potential. We were on Facebook, we had the groups, but still relied heavily on in-person sales. In 2009, we began leveraging our fan page, blog, and Twitter in a much broader sense to raise awareness and reel in more sales. Though social media isn’t the only reason for our success, we have gone from a company, who in 2008 took about 2,500 guests on trips, to a company on pace to take 17,000 in 2012.
Do you have any advice for companies who are on the fence about social media?
M: Jump over the fence. Seriously though, keep in mind that just because everyone’s doing it doesn’t mean that you have to do it the same way. Too often I see companies go crazy and make a page for every social media outlet without ever considering the benefit of using Google+ for reaching your market, or how to integrate your message across each platform. Creating everything is not the solution. You need to dedicate ample time to each entity to properly engage and retain your followers. If you do not have the time, or the know how to manage all at once, start small, focus on one or two entities, or better yet find someone else who can dedicate all of their time to managing your social sites. The only thing worse than not utilizing social media is having too much and not being able to maintain it.
Is there any social media strategy that you would like to improve or do differently?
M: There is still a social media learner curve that Bus2alps is undergoing. We have just recently hired a large enough staff to focus and maintain all of our social media entities. This has given us the opportunity to really improve our blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and our overall reach. That being said, there always will be plenty of room for growth with newer platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, which help drive large numbers of followers to our page through various contests and events.
Michael definitely has a wonderful understanding of the importance of social media marketing for businesses that target college students. He brings up a good point that having too many social media sites that are unable to be maintained can reflect poorly on a brand. It’s extremely necessary to utilize the sites that your target audience is using in order to engage them properly. For more information on Bus2alps,visit their website today!