I often write about how social media can help your voluntour organization attract new volunteers, but unfortunately the effect is relatively unquantifiable. It is difficult to discern what factors are inspiring volunteers to travel. Is it the company’s website, their twitter feed, word of mouth, or Facebook? Organizations struggle to keep up with all of the latest tools, convinced that they’re working… somehow. But, according to some, it’s not impossible to quantify the effect of social media on travel booking, it just requires a bit of a shift in the way we think about our measurements. It’s more about measuring activity and interest than it is about identifying a direct link between fans and customers. So, it would rather obviously follow that the more you can inspire engagement, the better. There are also some exciting new tools available for measuring engagement—from KLM’s Meet & Seat application to Trippy which allows users to solicit advice from friends about their travel plans.
In a past life, I was the Marketing Director for a web hosting company. I had an ad-hock background in online marketing from working on my own artistic projects, but I certainly wasn’t up-to-date on the latest tools and tricks. Of course, with the lightning fast pace of technology, being up-do-date is a constant challenge, but I was rather dismally behind the curve. Fortunately, my boss was happy to give me the time I needed to learn so I started reading everything I could find on Internet marketing best practices—from SEO and meta tags to social media and newsletters. By the end of my two years with the company, I was something of an expert on marketing strategy. I learned that all the frenetic updating and linking in the world can’t match a good person-to-person campaign. I think the online marketing experts would agree.
These days, an organization needs a fabulous website. It goes without saying: an attractive website communicates legitimacy, attention to detail, and professionalism. In the voluntourism industry, often a company’s website is the only impression that company makes. Many voluntourism companies don’t have physical offices. They don’t have a storefront. All of their business, from finding travelers to booking trips, is done online.
Here at Journeys for Good, we’re in the business of learning about the connections between volunteers and volunteer organizations. How do organizations find people who are willing to give their time, and their physical and emotional energy for a cause? How do people find the organizations that speak to their hearts? We are also interested in the business side of this equation: how does an aid organization get noticed? This week I was reading about a powerful international organization that manages to facilitate these connections spectacularly well: International Animal Rescue.
Social media is everywhere. It’s as ubiquitous today as, well… honestly, I can’t think of a single historical precedent for the massive, worldwide interconnectedness we enjoy on the Internet. It’s only natural to see the opportunity in such vast networks, but it’s also problematic. Social networks were designed for people to socialize, not for businesses to advertise. Yes, there have been many attempts at integrating advertising into social media platforms, but often they are met with scorn or aren’t terribly effective. But, voluntour companies are a different breed. For them, social media can be an incredibly powerful tool for outreach and education.