Sometimes when I'm chatting with a marina manager and we get on the topic of marketing, there's a sense of shame: I should be doing more, I don't know what I'm doing, I don't have enough time. You know what I don't spend my day doing? Running a marina. Running a marina is a full-time job, just like marketing 600 of them is, so you can let any shame you may be harboring go.
That said, if I did decide to try my hand running a marina in all my spare sittin'-around time, there are some practices that veteran marina managers would view as Decidedly Bad: not addressing dock maintenance issues, ignoring reservation requests, leaving the bathrooms filthy. So here is a list of bare minimum tips for social media for a non-marketer, from a non-marina manager.
Social media sites give you a lot of free tools to work with, and there are definitely some easy wins out there to help you grow your business. Check out our post on how to manage social media if you only have 5 minutes a day and give those tips a try once you're done here.
The Top 7 (Easy to Fix!) Things Marinas Get Wrong About Social Media
1) Not having a Facebook business page
Boaters checking into your business location on Facebook is not the same thing as them checking in with a business page. If you're someone who shuns social media because it's a pain to deal with or "just one more thing," consider what a pain it is to find out days after the fact that someone has written a scathing post or review to a location page, or that someone had inquired about reserving and because you couldn't be bothered, you lost out on a chunk of change.
Creating your business page gives you more control over your online presence. While it may mean five minutes of your day is spent responding to inquiries or complaints, the alternative is not hearing those inquiries or complaints until it's too late.
2) Not engaging
If you're not already a fan of engaging with boaters/followers on social media, keep in mind that every time you reply or like a comment on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, more people see the post. Engaging with your followers/commenters also gives you a leg up just in the sense that – similarly to all your other marina management duties – you're able to diligently listen in to dock chatter, graciously thank boaters for positive feedback, and remedy small complaints before they become big ones.
3) How hard is it to take new photos??
You have seasonal boaters who love your marina and transient guests who like being as prepared as possible, which includes familiarizing themselves with docking, amenities, rules, and friendly faces before they get there. You have a free, awesome app (ahem) that wants to promote you to thousands of boaters. So when you only provide grainy photos, old photos, or just one photo, it leaves all of us scratching our heads.
Go out on the dock, take a photo with your iPhone, and boom. You're a photographer. Pay for a pro if you have the budget, but for the marinas that don't – and I'm guessing that's most of you – if you have a smartphone that's newer than, say, 2013, you're probably a-ok as far as photo quality. If you want to try your hand at editing on the fly, grab SnapSeed, one of my favorite mobile editing tools.
4) Not having an Instagram page
It's free, it's easy, it gives you insights about your customers, and helps you build rapport with the people who love your location. It also helps you get photos of your marina from the boater perspective!
5) Hooking up your social feeds to post to each other
We'll give you this: your heart's in the right place. But if you hooked up your social media accounts to "talk" to each other, i.e., all Facebook posts also automatically post to Twitter and Instagram posts automatically post to Facebook and Twitter, you may be shooting yourself in the foot. These are different audiences, run by completely different companies; Facebook and Twitter don't play nicely together. Heck, Facebook owns Instagram and they still don't always play nicely together.
Take an honest look at how the posts you send to Twitter from Facebook look in your Twitter timeline. No photo, the text cuts off, and more importantly: you'll likely notice zero favorites or retweets. Twitter users do not like these posts. They're ugly, harder to read, less colorful and usually indicate you might have to click through a couple pages to actually get to the information being shared. If you can't spend 60 seconds to repurpose (copy+paste) your content to Twitter, don't do anything at all. No one is clicking those links you send from Facebook so you might as well save your energy.
If you've hooked up your Instagram to push your posts to Facebook keep two things in mind: 1) Formatting does not carry over, so if you've tagged someone on Instagram or added a bunch of hashtags, you need to edit the Facebook post to re-tag them and delete the hashtags. 2) Facebook's algorithm favors variety of post type, so along with your Instagram photos be sure to mix in link posts, video posts, etc.
6) Using social media purely for self-promotion
It may seem counter-intuitive, but: if you only post your own URL over and over, Facebook catches on and won't show it to your followers as often, if at all. Facebook's revenue-generating algorithm aside, it makes sense: Facebook shows your posts to people when it thinks they'll like it, and if you've shared that URL previously and your followers are bored with it, you'll see diminishing returns. If it shows it to people and they don't spend time looking at it, don't click your link, or don't comment/react, Facebook shows it to even fewer people. So spice it up. Some ideas on what else to share: local events, local news about your waterway or environment, a local group fundraiser, photos of dock upgrades or dock dogs.
7) Promoting an event on social media with a text-heavy flier
Facebook will throttle any reach on an image or link post if the image includes text. They've learned from users that people don't like seeing text-heavy images, and even went so far at one point to ban any ad that used more than 20% text overlay in an image. Now, it's proceed at your own risk with paid advertising, and the same goes for organic (non-boosted) posts – but better to steer clear. Rather than a flier, your best bet is to create an event within Facebook with one great image from your handy smartphone, or create a blog post on your website that includes the image so that it will appear when you share the link on Facebook.
Sidenote: You may be asking yourself why Dockwa doesn't follow our own advice on this one. Because we work with hundreds of marinas, our followers are from across the country. Folks in Seattle don't want to know about a Dockwa Happy Hour in Miami. So for our events we focus on social media posts, but events make perfect sense for one location to reach boaters nearby.
Bonus Don't: Tagging everyone and their mothers in your Facebook or Instagram posts
Not 24 hours after I published this blog post did I see this Don't in action. A few things to remember when you're tagging someone in your post: when you tag someone on an Instagram photo, it appears on their business profile; if the photo isn't of that brand, ask yourself, why would they want that appearing on their profile? And once businesses start untagging themselves, the algorithm sees your post as potential spam and shows it to fewer people. If you want a business to see your post, you can draw attention to it in other ways: comment in the post tagging one brand at a time with original (read: unspammy) thoughts on why you think they'd be interested in seeing your photo or hearing what you have to say.
Same goes for Facebook. Perhaps even more so: if you tag a business hoping their social media person will share your post with their followers, but in your post you tag two businesses that are in competition with each other, there's a bigger chance neither of them will share the post, which would mean giving even the smallest amount of real estate on their Facebook page to a competitor.
For more helpful info, keep cruising the Dockwa Marina Blog and check out our Marina Resources page.