How should travel publishers use Facebook?

How should traditional travel publishers use Facebook?

With pretty much everyone in the whole wide world now on Facebook (well, you know what I mean) it's becoming a 'no brainer' for any company with customers to get itself a Facebook presence. Some travel companies are doing cool stuff too - just one example: Visit Wales has over 200,000 fans now and there is stacks going on on their page. [Disclosure: Visit Wales is a company I work with.] So now if the Visit Wales crew pose a question on their wall, they get loads of responses. Truly cool - more on this later.

What about publishers though?
I couldn't find a Daily Mail travel Facebook page - their main Facebook page for the whole paper has just over 9000 fans. The Times & Sunday Times has a combined Facebook page with 24,000 fans and, because of the paywall every time they post a link to one of their features on their Facebook wall unless you are a subscriber you can't read it anyway. There's another page which aggregates all their Twitter feeds which is an interesting idea (actually it's an app). The Sunday Times travel magazine Facebook page has 141 fans. There's actually quite a lot going on there - but it's not working that well with so few fans. Perhaps it's early days? The Telegraph travel team has a Facebook page with 7000 fans. Most of what is on here is an RSS feed synched with when new features are published on their website – although there is some interaction. But if you want to enter the Where in the World comp or leave a Travel Tip (both recent  wall posts) you have to click a link to the website – you can’t enter or leave responses on Facebook. (Well you can, but it doesn’t look like they count.)

Of all the major UK newspapers (well the ones worth reading) only The Guardian has really embraced Facebook - its recently launched app is a genuinely interesting experiment into trying to drive its content deep into Facebook conversations and discussions. Basically you stay within the Facebook environment to read the Guardian's content and when you read something it publishes an update on your Facebook wall telling people so.  That is very smart indeed. (You can control what you share and who with too. But, there is no travel content. I wonder why?

I could go on, but from an admittedly relatively cursory glance, few of the big traditional publishers seem to be really 'getting' Facebook. Compare this with Visit Wales? Why this huge difference? When you think about the huge reach and influence these publications have it doesn’t make sense.

It’s a two-way street
Maybe the problem here is publishers are stuck in publish mode? Facebook and the social web more generally are about interaction, discussion and conversation. Most Facebook pages for UK publishers are being used as just another channel for pumping out their own content. The fact that people can comment, discuss and do all kinds of other stuff like take part in polls or answer questions seems to have been completely forgotten or intentionally ignored. This tendency to push content out rather than listen and interact explains I think why many mainstream newspapers are having significantly more success with twitter which lends itself better to this ‘publish-only’ approach.

So, I wonder if publishers should even bother being on Facebook. If they aren’t making use of all the built-in sharing and discussing functionality, what’s the point?

What would you do if you were running a travel desk at a national newspaper? Would you use Facebook and if so, how?


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