At Think! we believe marketing should be relevant and add value to people’s lives. We believe in tapping into the passions of niche audiences by offering remarkable experiences relevant to that niche.
When you tap into people’s passion, distance and money means a lot less. People will drive 5 hours to eat some cheeseballs if it means something to them.
We use this concept when we create marketing campaigns as well. For the Powder Highway contest, the price is very remarkable to people passionate about skiing and snowboarding
Steve Keenan, online travel editor from the London Sunday Times summarizes Valencia’s unique approach to a media/blogging fam
A few weeks ago the Valencia Tourism Region hosted a blog trip (#blogtripF1) and it could very well be the new standard for DMOs to model their traditional media trips or media fams after. I was fortunate enough to be invited on the trip.
Valencia Tourism invited a mix of traditional journalist, travel bloggers, social media travel, web technology and web design professionals. These people of all ages, with diverse skill-sets and interests where hosted on a four day event centred around Valencia and the Formula One Grand Prix.
It included all the hallmarks of a traditional media trip. Visits to the best restaurants, the top sights, attractions and accommodations. The trip included private guides and behind the scenes tours, all well organized as you can expect from any respectable DMO.
Making the media trip social
Valencia Tourism innovated the traditional trip by creating a place for these professionals to collaborate, discuss, debate and most of all develop new relationships. Social Media professionals are social by definition and unlike traditional journalists who are more driven by exclusivity, bloggers understand their individual success is strengthened by the success of their relationships and their network.
Taking advantage of educational opportunities
The place to kick-off the discussion was at a conference where attendees presented a topic related to their area of expertise (videos of presentations here). The event was attended by many local, national DMO’s and operators. A great way to get Tourism Valencia’s stakeholders access to the knowledge in the group.
Fostering the creation of networks
Over the next few days we got to know each other very well. There was enough time and opportunity to do so. We discussed and debated all topics digital travel professionals are interested in. And everything was tweeted in real time of course, creating a surge of Valencia exposure in real time, across many people’s personal and professional networks.
Creating remarkable experiences
Remarkable experiences turn into social objects, shared in social media. These are the things worth blogging, tweeting and Facebooking about. There were plenty in Valencia. Walking on top of a shark tank, eating the best Paella, incredibly photogenic modern architecture, random bars, more great food and of course the F1 race.
Remarkable experiences was also the subject of my presentation, summarized in this interview
Build in surprises
Exclusive access, or including things money can’t buy will generate even more conversations. The trip offered personalized surprises such as a visit to the F1 paddock, a ride down the track in the safety car and even a drive in a converted 3-seater Formula One car for some.
The tally so far? By the last count I’ve heard a while back a few dozen blog posts have been written, 61 YouTube videos created, 363 people tweeted 1,558 tweets reaching over 2 million people all around the world while articles in traditional media are being written.
But the real value is not just the immediate exposure but the fact that Valencia sits at the centre of a strong network of travel bloggers and tourism professionals including their expended networks. Valencia will always be top op mind when I connect with any of the new friends I’ve made.
Promoting by focussing on building networks and putting yourself in the middle of it. That’s the future. Valencia has re-invented itself over the last years with new tourism attractions, infrastructure and mega-events. They’re doing the same with destination marketing.
Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences – Photo by Sherry Ott
What about all this BS that technology and social media stop people for having real and genuine relationships? Social Media is making my life, and my relationships with people better every day.
Here’s my story.
My wife and I adopted our daughter two weeks ago from Japan. It was an amazing experience. But hard as well. We had to wait for two weeks in Tokyo for paperwork to processs. Anybody who is a parent knows how weird those first few days are. Being in a strange city where you don’t know anybody without a real support system can be tough.
But it didn’t feel like that at all. Skype allowed us to have our family in Canada and the Netherlands share the moment when our daughter got placed with us live. It was like they were there with us.
And over the next two weeks, people checked in all the time, we never felt alone. There was always somebody to see and talk to.
All our friends made us feel very connected and supported with an outpouring of well wishes and excitement from our personal networks on Facebook.
Even my Twitter followers, some of whom I don’t even know in person, were amazing in their support.
This wouldn’t and couldn’t have happened 10 years ago. And it was all free.
Social Media and technology connects people and builds stronger relationships with more people over larger distances. Because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s artificial or incomplete.
It’s just different, and it’s awesome.
From left to right: Gary Arndt, me, Brooks and Steve Keenan at #blogtripF1
What’s the difference anyways?
That quote comes from Gary Arndt, author of the Everything Everywhere blog. Gary has been traveling around the world since 2007. He has no permanent home. His website receives more visitors than most DMO’s. He has over 100,000 Twitter followers. Gary is the real deal.
A travel writer writes a finished piece. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. On a good travel blog one episode leads to the next and the ongoing story makes the visitor come back over and over again. People are drawn in by the ongoing story.
For more of Gary’s insights, listen to his podcasts about (travel) blogging.
Most people don’t know I’m a huge F1 (Formula One) fan. I watch every qualifying session and every race, ever time. I’m depressed in the off-season.
It started when I was a teenager. On Sundays, me and my Mom would always watch the races together. I don’t remember how it started but it was our thing and it has always stayed with me. Even after I left Europe and moved to Canada where F1 fans are few and far between.
I frequently get asked to speak about tourism marketing at places around the world. It’s very flattering that people are interested in what I think and have to say. In the tourism marketing community, I suppose I’m some sort of influencer. Unfortunately I can’t make it everywhere. I try, but I have to pick and choose.
I met Joantxo Llantada from the Valencia Region Tourist Board at the ENTER conference this year. I presented a case study about our marketing for the 2010 games at Tourism BC and he presented a fascinating case study about his F1 blogtrip. So I told him I was an F1 fan.
A few months later he sent me this tweet.
The decision was very, very, very easy. Come to Valencia to do a presentation and visit the F1 race? Uh… yeah!
Connect with somebody’s passion and they’re easily convinced. Joantxo uses the F1 to bring influencers together for a conference and a blog trip. For 4 days we explored the (awesome) city of Valencia, had great food and inspiring conversations. An awesome mix of the biggest bloggers, journalists, social media marketers and digital professionals. From young to old and from all over.
It was educational and inspirational. More about that in the next few days.
I often hear from hotel operators that negative reviews on Tripadvisor usually aren’t from their typical customers. A 4-star hotel receives bad reviews from customers who got a deal on a discount website because of high parking fees and the expensive restaurant. A family oriented hotel receives bad reviews from business traveler who complain about the noise from the kids playing in the pool.
I use the chart below in some of my presentations:
There are a lot of people will love your product and a lot of people who probably won’t. The people who love of hate your product are the people who will talk about you in social media. The people in the middle shrug their shoulders and won’t mention you either way.
Two lessons from this chart:
This is the story about the ‘Mystery Man’ campaign we ran on behalf of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau last week. It’s a story of the power of social media, passionate communities and bringing people together. We knew it was a great idea but the results exceeded our wildest imagination.
Social Media is about sharing and bringing people together. When the Dallas CVB asked us to design a campaign around Super Bowl XLV we thought ‘Why not use social media to get people talking to each other about Dallas?’.
At Think! Social Media, we work with the concept of passionate communities. These are groups of people connected through a shared passion. Engage a passionate community in the right way by offering something remarkable, and they will do the marketing for you through word-of-mouth.
The Big Idea
Needless to say, every NFL team has an extremely passionate community… and offering a chance to win Super Bowl tickets is pretty remarkable. Remarkable enough get people out into the street talking to each other.
We decided to send a Mystery Man to each city of the teams who made it to the Super Bowl. The first person to find the Mystery Man and tell him the secret phrase, ‘Have you been to Dallas lately?’ would instantly win tickets to the big game, 4 nights accommodation, tickets to the NFL experience and some cash towards travel.
We researched NFL and travel/lifestyle bloggers in each city and asked them if they would like to participate. As “Exclusive Bloggers”, their role would be to share daily clues about the location of the Mystery Man. We were careful in choosing bloggers that have strong social media presences and very engaged readers. We chose 5 in Green Bay and 4 in Pittsburgh. Their role was crucial in tapping into the existing communities and raising awareness about the campaign.
The clues tied in to imagery and facts about attractions in Dallas and became increasingly specific as the weekend went on. By printing the clues on photos they were easy to share through Twitter, and were eye-catching on the blogs and Facebook.
The secret password could only be revealed by ‘liking’ the Visit Dallas Facebook Fan Page. A campaign Twitter account (@DallasSBHunt) was created to coordinate all activities, answer questions and share the latest updates. In addition two hashtags (#SBHuntGB and #SBHuntPGH) were introduced to facilitate discussion around the contest.
The conference finals were played on Sunday January 23. We were prepared for each of the 4 cities. At the end of Sunday we knew the contest would run in Green Bay and Pittsburgh.
We finalized the details of the contest and sent out materials to the bloggers so they could prepare their first blog posts announcing the contest. At this time we activated the contest tab on the Visit Dallas fan page which only had 600 fans.
By noon, the bloggers in each city had announced the contest.
Slowly the word started to spread. At the end of Tuesday, the fanpage had grown to over 1,000 fans and the followers of the campaign Twitter account began to grow.
We continued to build awareness over the next few days. By carefully listening in on Twitter, tapping in to relevant communites and joining the conversations where appropriate we were able to rapidly spread word of the contest. By Thursday, traditional media had gotten wind of what we were up to and a few stations began to report on the contest on the the nightly news. By the end of Thursday over 3000 people had liked the Visit Dallas page.
At 9am the Exclusive Bloggers announced their first clues and the contest began. We quickly learned that we had struck gold in both cities. The streets were full of people searching for our Mystery Man, many tweeting as they went and following along on Facebook. By Friday @DallasSBHunt was trending in both Pittsburgh and Green Bay.
Best of all, two whole cities were out on the streets talking to each other about Dallas.
That night, the hunt for the Dallas Mystery Man was the headline news on all the local stations (this is my favourite). The Visit Dallas Fan Page had grown to 8,000 fans and the campaign Twitter account had well over 1500 followers.
We were lucky that Friday’s clues had been vague enough for our Mystery Men to keep from getting caught, but by Saturday the amount of people on the street made it significantly more difficult to make it through the city unnoticed.
Just after noon our Mystery Man in Green Bay was found and not long after our man in Pittsburgh was caught as well.
The hunt was over, but the ride wasn’t. The winners were invited on news shows (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and countless blogs, websites, radio stations and news papers were reporting on the contest and its winners.
Sunday and beyond
The winners in Green Bay turned out to be a couple who are homeless and live in a local shelter. They were invited on Fox 11′s morning show to tell their story. Shortly thereafter CNN picked up the story and we had reports from our contacts all over North America (even as far as Australia) who saw the campaign on the news.
We definitely succeeded in getting people talking about Dallas. We also proved that when you run a Social Media campaign within passionate communities, you don’t need a big media budget. And, if the community is passionate enough, you’ll even make it on the news.
We grew the Visit Dallas Fan Page by almost 10,000 fans in three days. The fanpage received about 100,000 pageviews and generated over 500,000 news feed impressions.
But what we’re most proud of is the incredible positive reaction from the people in Green Bay and Pittsburgh. We received many messages from individuals telling Dallas how much they enjoyed the weekend.
We want to thank the Dallas CVB for giving us the opportunity to execute our crazy idea and give a big thank you to all the local bloggers and the great people of Green Bay and Pittsburgh. May the best team win on Sunday!
This entry is cross-posted on the Think! Social Media blog.
Every year I use the ‘quite time’ around the holidays to have a look at what other DMO’s around the world are doing. I love poking around to see what I can learn. I’m thinking of creating a giant presentation with my findings (let me know if you’re interested).
One of the things I’m looking at is what DMO’s are doing to incorporate real time information. This is a trend DMO’s can’t ignore. Brochureware websites are no longer acceptable and consumers expect content that is timely as well.
Florida has created a Florida Live section on their website. The page includes their Twitter feed, Flickr photo’s, YouTube videos etc. It also includes a Google Map with the Twitter feeds from local DMO’s, live webcams, YouTube videos and Fishing Reports.
The fishing reports are very cool. Every day the captains call in from their boats to give an update of the fishing conditions of their area. Users can listen to each captain reporting on the conditions.
Incorporating expert content from industry members or residents is something I’ve been pitching for a long time now. Most DMO’s do this with expert bloggers (some better than others). This is a very creative idea to make it timely, relevant and credible.
Great idea, good content, good execution. I love it.
Do you have examples of ‘live information’ incorporated into DMO or other tourism websites?
Interesting post from Jeremiah Owyang today about his research findings that Social Media Boutiques are Winning Deals Over Traditional Digital Agencies. And although I think the line between traditional, digital and social media agencies is a lot more blurred than the post suggests, it’s an interesting read.
Jeremiah’s research concludes that especially the clients who are more advanced in social media leave traditional agencies for boutique agencies for the following reasons:
I would add to that list that ‘traditional’ agencies often lack the culture necessary to really make social media (or digital for that matter) work.
And at Think! Social Media we can add a specialized focus on the travel, tourism and hospitality industry as well. This industry isn’t easy to figure out and you need to understand the specifics in order to deliver real value to your clients.
Jeremiah also identifies some weaknesses boutique agencies can have:
At Think! we’re already rapidly expanding to offer full digital services with integrated social media. We’re achieving this though great partnerships (including ‘traditional’ agencies) and by acquiring new talent, here in Vancouver, but also around the world.
It’s safe to say that 2011 will be very exciting.
My passion is to bring innovative marketing to the tourism industry so that travelers are happy and operators benefit.
The world has changed. Social media, online marketing and technology continues to disrupt traditional marketing methods and success will be defined by understanding new emerging principles, creating sound strategies with a nimble execution of tactics.
We need to bring 21st century marketing to the tourism industry. From the smallest operator to the largest DMO. I love sharing what I know and also learn from others. I want to do more of it.
So after 11 great years at Tourism British Columbia I’ve decided it is time for a change. Effective November 12, I will be joining the team at Think! Social Media. Rodney and Ben have built an impressive team of brilliant people who bring smart marketing to an exciting and growing list of clients in the travel and tourism industry.
Think! has a different approach. We live the principles of social media. The result is some impressive work and strong client relationships. Clients are now asking to build out the services beyond social media. We will do this while staying true to our values.
I’m sad to leave the organization who have given me so many great opportunities and especially the incredibly talented people I work with every day, around the world. People at Tourism BC, but also at our partners. I’m going to miss them a lot. But in a networked world, we’re only one tweet or status update away.