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.
I still get questions from tourism businesses who aren’t sure if and how they should engage in social media. The answer is that you already are part of social media.
So the question is “to ignore” or “to engage”. Answer these questions:
How is social media any different?
Today Facebook launched Facebook Questions, “a beta product that lets you pose questions like these to the Facebook community. With this new feature, you can get a broader set of answers and learn valuable information from people knowledgeable on a range of topics.”
The new feature is slowly being rolled out. It’s extremely buggy for me at the moment. Searching for questions about specific topics or keywords doesn’t work at all for example.
But the concept is becoming clear.
Facebook is making clever use of the social graph (friend networks) and user profiles. Questions asked by my friends and topics I’ve have listed as interests where listed first for me. You can also send a question to a friend. Inside Facebook as more details about the product and how the social graph is used.
What’s great for fanpage owners is that you ask and answer questions as the fanpage.
For DMO’s and travel operators, monitoring questions and answering them can be a powerful way to built relationships with potential customers. Besides it’s incredible userbase, its use of the social graph and ability for fanpages to participate makes it a great tool for engagement.