Following Along Socially: A Strategy For Actually Getting Something Out Of It

We see it all the time. Follow Me while I travel, work, play, eat or engage in some activity of interest.  On a host of social platforms we’re invited along for the ride. If that’s a friend of ours or a valued source, we’re in.  But following along socially and getting something out of that effort are actually two entirely different animals.  It’s a world we know well here and visit frequently but have never really explained the strategy behind our social efforts. Today we take a step back to look at the notion of following along socially from a different perspective and perhaps begin a conversation about what really matters in our great big social world.  First, we take a look at how one online cruise travel information source goes about it.

Following Along SociallyDoug Parker is the creator and host of CruiseRadio, an online source that delivers radio-style podcasts, along with interviews, news, industry insights, interactive listener Q&As, and more all about the world of cruise travel. In addition to the CruiseRadio website, Parker posts on a variety of social platforms as well, much like we do here. Posting on Twitter, @CruiseRadio sailed with Holland America Line to Alaska inviting listeners and online friends to follow along.   Over the course of the 7-night voyage, we did just that and came away with a good feel for that experience was like.  Taking a look back at how Doug went about sharing his experience brings a short list of best practices we look for when choosing who to follow.

Frequent Posting, Wherever That Might Be
There is frequent and there is annoying. Frequent posting can tell a story with few or no words. Annoying is too much information.  Not so important: which social platform used.  If specifically writing for the benefit of friends on Facebook, posting on Twitter might simply be a waste of time or vice versa. In the case of following Doug on his trip, Twitter was a good fit.  Had he invited us along then did not post much, the trust and confidence factor would go right down the drain.  A palatable number of posts each day made keeping up with what was going on during the cruise easy and easy is good.

Following Along Socially

Include Photos To Help Tell The Story, Accomplish The Goal
After the sailing was over, I asked Doug what the object of his effort was.  What was he trying to accomplish?  No hesitation there, a clear plan was in place. “Photos that paint a picture with what I’m experiencing,” he said which makes a lot of sense really.  The old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” still holds true and especially important on social platforms where the length of messages is limited.

Look Around And Show The Whole Picture, Frequently
Doug posted a variety of photos that added up to a daily account of his adventure.  “The idea behind the daily sea blogs is to bring the reader along for the ride,” said Parker, very much aware that in the wilderness of Alaska, finding an internet connection can be a challenge.  To work with that variable and still accomplish a daily post in detail, each day’s account was posted the next day as a summary. When there was  a signal to be had, posting he did, one event along the way at a time.

Announce It And Remind Us
This is easy for Twitter users.  Pin that first tweet inviting all to come along to the top of your feed.   The first day he was on Holland America Line’s  Nieuw Amsterdam, an introduction post went up and stayed there throughout the sailing.  It’s a practice Doug has made a habit of at the start of every trip.  “For the people that follow me, if they stumble across a hashtag I use and go to my profile, it’s the first thing they see,” says Parker and it seems to work.

Following Along Socially

“From what I can tell, it does help, some of my tweets get a couple dozen likes or RTs. ”  Nice, but not the object of the game. “It shows that people are following my brand and feed. Not just noise on Twitter,” he adds, focusing on a larger picture, “it shows that people actually care.”

Have A Plan But Be Flexible
In Alaska, that’s a required skill when being in the wilderness means not connecting.  That was a lesson I learned rather quickly sailing with Princess Cruises for a #FollowMeAtSea Twitter trip in 2010.  Bloggers along for the ride in the early days of social interaction used any social platform that we could connect with.  Fast forward to now and there are more ways to share more of our journey than ever before.  Some work better than others.  

Details Are Important Too
While we did get a good feel for what it is like to travel by following the @CruiseRadio Twitter feed, details not possible on that platform came in posts on the CruiseRadio blog  In Doug’s case, the live event was featured on his website.

Following Along Socially

A Strategy For Following Along Socially

Just like Doug Parker had a flexible plan for virtually taking us along for the ride, so should we for following along and getting the most out of it.  To gain the most out of following along, focusing on a few simple points can add up to a winning strategy.

What Is The Goal?
Are you following along just to support a friend or do you have a specific goal.  In this example, someone who has an Alaska cruise booked or is considering booking one can gain a great amount of insight by following along.  If it’s a friend at McDonald’s posting a photo of their cheeseburger, that might be interesting but will probably not result in a call to action or differentiate McDonald’s over another hamburger restaurant we might be considering.

Don’t Get Too Hung Up On Followers, Likes And The Entire Concept Of Viral
Choosing someone to follow based on numbers is about the worst reason in the world to do so.  Some of the very best sources I follow have few followers and could care less about likes or if they make a video that becomes popular to the point of an officially viral effort. The plain and simple truth: social numbers, like any other, can be manipulated.  Content, therefore is king in the online social world.

Follow Along As It Happens Or Go Back To Review
Doug did a good job of providing photos that told the story via Twitter and posting daily logs of his experience on his website.  I followed along every day and promoted his effort to my friends socially as well.  But I could have drawn a great amount of information by visiting his website at the conclusion of the trip too, reading the entire story all at once.  The photos below came from Doug’s Twitter feed and provide good documentation of what he actually experienced.

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Photos- Doug Parker

Regardless of how we get there, for our purposes here , following along socially as it happens, going back to review or both can have value.  Like how aligning with like minded sources brings a familiar voice to what we see online, a strategy for actually getting something out of following along online is a must.