THE BLOG
09/09/2014 05:08 pm ET Updated Nov 08, 2014

The Key Is in the Journey: The ROI on Social Media

What is the ROI of sharing your travel journey on your social channels for all parties involved? And what does it take to distribute quality content to all your networks?

It really should be simple. Social media is really straightforward if you have the time and passion. Passion demands extreme dedication and takes a full-time commitment to learn. But hey... it's never be hard work if you're having so much fun doing it, right? Don't be shy to share your best images, because if they are fabulous photos, people will want to see more. Measure your engagement and comments to decide how much or how little to contribute.

It takes stakeholders. The last stop on my most recent trip in Europe was Dusseldorf, Germany. I chose this city because of an article in the Huffington Post. Dusseldorf was listed as #5 on the Mercer Quality of Living Survey. I've also admired travel images of the area from people I follow on Instagram. So, thanks to social media, I was inspired to discover another part of our world.

I met with the social media team at the Breidenbacher Hof, a five-star Capella Hotel. Their primary questions were how I grew my following and how I stay on top of it. I love the fact they wanted to understand the American social-media sphere. Their German management team embraces social media with enthusiasm--an essential criterion. I was sold on their dedication with the super-fast, hotel-wide WiFi connections offered for free.

What's the secret sauce? People are always fascinated by two things: The large number of followers I have and my listing on Forbes. They want to know the ingredients for my recipe of success. Ingredients include: Commitment; a lot of time, passion, persistence and drive; and being relentless. Be extremely particular with the images and captions that you choose to share. It's a lengthy road you're starting down, so think long term. Don't expect immediate results from your hard work--it took me years. Try to remember that it is about your audience, and not about you or your selfie.

When a social media program is started in a business or corporation, management should understand that it is a full-time job and not just a hobby. Social media, if used correctly, is a unique child with exceptional and significant power to secure global social connections.

On my trip through Germany, I also met Roman von der Wiesche from Dusseldorf Marketing & Tourism (DMT). He understands how international social media can be a powerful tool that connects travel writers with the rest of the world. "In America, bloggers from China and Russia sometimes have more influence than the traditional media," says Roman. He makes sure to tap into international demographics as much as possible, inviting Chinese bloggers to Dusseldorf earlier this year, for instance, and connecting with a group from the USA who visited Düsseldorf for Carnival. "Even though most people in Germany mainly focus on Facebook and do not use Twitter," says Roman, "I still encourage them to use it." He is an advocate of Twitter to those who have not embraced the popular American medium.

Ask yourself about your long-term goals in social media marketing. Why are you just using Facebook? Broaden your community and your social media reach. Make sure you take advantage of all channels that fit your market niche and your target demographic. Each channel has different users and a different audience.

Return on Investment (ROI). I posted and shared my experiences on a Viking River Cruise from Moscow to St. Petersburg, and ten days in Germany. One of my Facebook followers informed me that, based on following my unforgettable adventure online, his mother booked a Viking River Cruise.

Most people see ROI as immediate sales. For me, ROI is the connections I made with the beautiful people I met on this unforgettable trip through Russia and Germany. Earn your audience loyalty and the ROI will come naturally through the love of what you share. My passion is travel--what passion would you share with your followers?

Through all the social channels, the beautiful richness of our world can be shared. Our social pages can be finger-painted with the colors, cultures and experiences of what we truly love. Then... let the audience decide what they want to explore.