Building Community in the Travel Industry with Kate Van Bockern
As part of our Community Manager Appreciation Day celebration on Monday, we caught up with Kate Van Bockern of MMGY Global, an integrated marketing firm focused on the travel, hospitality and entertainment industries. Kate told us about how she landed in her current role, why she loves it so much, and her dream destination.
How did you wind up in community management in the travel and tourism industry?
I started my career as a travel agent and quickly learned that all of the biggest movers and shakers in the industry were on Twitter. Once I discovered Twitter chats, I found them to be so incredibly valuable for me to gain a vast amount of knowledge (and friends) in a short period of time.
I went on to work for a travel wholesaler where I ran the office’s Twitter and Facebook page, all the while finding myself drawn more and more into marketing. When I came across MMGY Global and began learning more about the company and its culture, I knew it was the place for me. Working in a job where I get to combine my love of travel with my interest in social has been incredibly rewarding.
What excites you most about travel and tourism community management?
I love engaging with audiences and giving our brands a voice. Everyone enjoys talking about travel, and being able to provide a way for fans to share what makes something special to them means that each day I’m surrounded by positivity. Of course, there are always a few complaints, but more often than not, we are getting people excited for their next trip or allowing them to reminisce about a special vacation.
What is the scope/focus of your role?
My day-to-day is rooted in channel management, with particular focus on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, as well as Instagram, Google+, and YouTube for 3 brands including The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. I create the content for the social channels, and engage with our audience.
One of my very favorite ways to connect with fans is through Twitter chats that are a great resource for building trust, confidence, and a relationship between the user and brand. I’m also involved in large-scale campaigns, and particularly enjoy when we get to work with influencers. Opening up our brands to a new audience and seeing them from a different perspective helps me reconnect with our brands.
You have built out an incredible Pinterest presence for The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, how are people using different channels to connect with your brands?
What I find most exciting about Pinterest is that you are able to connect people for so many reasons. If I only talk about the beach, that might isolate people looking for a cultural destination; people looking for shelling might not care about the shopping, etc. With Pinterest we are able to show them that no matter what their interests are, The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel is a perfect destination for them.
For engagement, nothing beats the old standbys of Facebook and Twitter. These platforms have consistently performed well with us, and this is where a majority of our time goes.
Are there any emerging channels that you are seeing working well in this space?
Instagram is a channel we are having a lot of fun with. We get to give a little mental vacation to our followers with each image we share, and I have to say that seeing a gorgeous sunset while sitting at my desk isn’t bad, either!
Something that we have found that builds engagement and loyalty with our followers is sharing their photos on our channels. Everyone wants to be recognized and appreciated, and we have some incredibly talented followers!
Is there a lot of travel required to understand the destinations you are promoting? (We hope so!)
I have not had the opportunity yet to visit my brands in person, but there are plans in the pipeline! In a way it works out because I get to view the brands as a new consumer would see it. I get a lot of my information from the guidebooks and the websites, which is where we are trying to drive traffic. Many of my teammates have been, so I lean on their opinions and advice.
What is one critical piece of advice you wish you had when you began in Community Management?
You are going to get asked what your job really is. If I had a nickel for every time I hear “Oh, so you play on Facebook all day?” You have to have a passion for it, and not just see this job as an excuse to be on your favorite websites all day, because that truly is just a fraction of what we do.
We are the voices for our brands, and we have to make sure everything we post is in alignment with that. We have to report, analyze, and explain because we often have to prove the value in investing in social. Be ready to justify and have the conviction to do so.
Do you have any good stories about a great social interaction?
Last year The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel launched a new songwriter festival, Island Hopper. We were able to engage and interact throughout the entire event, including live tweets and Instagram posts.
One of the best parts of the event was a contest for one lucky singer/songwriter to go and perform, which was chosen by votes on social. We hit the jackpot because the winner was not only talented, but also a great personality and shared some amazing content.
If money were no object, what’s your dream travel destination? What would you do when you got there?
So aside from the obvious “everywhere” answer, I have Bora Bora on my brain at the moment. Maybe it’s the Kansas City winter talking, but spending a few weeks (you did say money was no object!) in an overwater bungalow sounds pretty great right now.
Want to learn about other awesome community managers working behind the scenes to steal our hearts? Check out this cast of characters that keep some of our favorite brands social every day.