Yesterday, I participated in a Facebook event that was so effective and enjoyable that I thought I should share the details, as I think more organizations can benefit from hosting these types of events.
It was a 3-hour group chat, via Facebook's comments feature, with Prince Edward Island (PEI) representatives and tourists. I've participated in chats with organizations before, but this one was different as it offered a range of expert opinions and had a real conversational and personal style.
The organization organizing the event was PEI Tourism, but there were other host organizations from across PEI, such as tour operators, hotels, a heritage association, as well as locals in-the-know.
What I particularly liked about it was that it was a great big conversation about PEI with a bunch of different voices and perspectives. Many of the people writing had a genuine appreciation of PEI and an individual style that came through in their responses.
There is a ton of travel info available nowadays. I still love guidebooks and online resources are equally useful. If anything, there is often too much travel info available - but it's often generic in advice and bland in style. So attempting to get specific or non-mainstream information can be difficult.
This chat offered a chance to get the info I needed. I posted two questions and quickly got great answers. The responses included my name in their replies. This not only alerted me of the reply, but populated my Facebook feed with this.
It would be great if companies, regularly offered Q&A services. I understand this can be expensive to offer, so most companies don't even attempt this and instead rely on FAQ pages or a user base to field questions. These methods sometimes work, but I've seen lots of instances of questions posted that receive no replies, spam, flaming, or useless info. I noticed Tourism PEI always offers the ability to get answers online from a real staff member - but this is really rare nowadays.
But getting answers to my questions wasn't the only reason I thought the PEI Facebook chat was so effective. I also benefited from others' questions and answers and I enjoyed reading other people's fond memories of past PEI visits. This serendipitous discovery of info not only helped me learn more about my future travel destination but also get a sense of the personality and history of the island.
I also liked how the PEI hosts included links to further info or pictures. For example, PEI Museum and Heritage shared a link to their Flickr collection of scanned PEI postcards and asked if we ever received any. As a deltiologist I love looking at retro and kitsch postcards, and I went and checked my collection (some great old ones but so far no matches).
Finally, another useful element was the format of the chat. As it was online, I (or others) can read the chat and investigate further at any time (unlike other "chat" formats such as conferences or some Internet Relay Chats).
From a business perspective, there are numerous benefits to hosting this type of event.
First in terms of finances, such events can directly increase sales. For example, I received recommendations for restaurants that I will definitely be going to (instead of just cooking in our cottage rental). Indirectly, it helps foster a pleasant attitude to the brand, that will likely have future financial benefits.
In terms of promotion, by using Facebook the event uses Facebook's existing user base and social features that easily, and often automatically, extends the reach of such an event.
The conversational quality and earnest responses of this event were essential to this event not coming across as one big shill. This in turn makes the recommendations received more credible and (at least for me) more actionable.
I was really impressed with this event, not only for the serving my needs so well but for representing the ideal of what social media can achieve.