I have the privilege of attending our SoMeT conferences on three different continents. The learning is incredible. Both from the speaker content, and also from speaking to the attendees. It helps me a lot in my work.
A question I get asked a lot is if there are differences between DMOs in different parts of the world, their challenges and their approaches to solving them. The answer is: yes and no. The challenges are very similar but the approaches differ. I think the regional differences are partly cultural but also influenced by the “neighbour effect.” People pay close attention to the DMO next door, and then this is reflected in their own strategies and tactics.
For this reason, it’s interesting to attend a SoMeT conference on a different continent. You’ll see a different spotlight shone on familiar challenges. It can be very eye opening, and will inspire you to try new ideas and approaches. I know it does for me. Not to mention the fact you’ll also make new connections with your international peers.
It might be a tough sell to your boss or board. The optics and psychological barrier of an intercontinental flight (and costs) to go to a conference when there are options closer by is challenging. But when you put it in terms of value, the additional cost are minimal compared to the value it delivers. We’re talking a few hundred dollars.
So keep an eye on our conferences around the world and what they have to offer. #SoMeT15EU will be held in Amsterdam.
Conferences are inherently social. People gather to learn and discuss topics that they are passionate about with people who care as much about it as they do. Yet the way conferences are created and promoted are incredibly traditional.
There’s a better way: bake social into the conference.
A good example is the Social Media Tourism Symposium Think!’s very own Dave Serino started in 2010. The mission statement describes what the conference is all about:
The symposium is a combination of destination marketing organizations, hotels, resorts, attractions and any other tourism related entities sharing ideas and learning more about how social media is effecting promotion within the travel industry.
What makes this conference unique is the involvement of attendees throughout the entire process. Attendees will have a voice in everything from the location to the session topics and presenters.
By involving the people who care about the subject matter in the planning process, Dave creates a conference that is more relevant and, therefore, more likely to be attended by the people who helped create it. Because all of this happens in social media, people who care are also promoters of the event.
For example, the destination selection process is driven by the SoMeT Facebook community. DMOs respond to an RFP and the Facebook community votes where the conference is going to be held. The 2012 selection process is entering the final stages.
In the process, people also get to know each other. They make friends online and want to attend the conference to meet those new friends.
This is what conferences are all about. Going to a cool place, learning relevant things and meeting new friends. By baking social media into the conference itself (instead of looking at it as an advertising vehicle) you make conferences more relevant with attendees who feel strongly connected and want to help make the event a success.
With websites such as Tripadvisor, WAYN, Google Maps, Facebook, etc., do DMO/NTO/CVB’s need websites at all 10 years from now? Brand new director Armands Slokenbergs from the Latvian Tourism Development Agency asked for a show of hands and nobody raised even a finger. After 3 days of presentations and discussions it’s hard to ignore the fact that we need to go where the consumer is, instead convincing the consumer to come to us.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to present some of my ideas and join about 50 online marketers from 25 European National Tourism Organizations for 3 days during their annual eBusiness Academy. The theme of the conversations was focussed on working with 3rd party websites to provide content and in the case of social networks, join the conversation. Isabel Mosk from Holland noted that “instead of asking to ‘please buy Holland’, we should be asking ‘how can Holland help you'”.
And the message from consumers is clear. You don’t help anybody traditional advertising but by adding value through relationships. Slokenbergs’ limited budget is focussed on encouraging word-of-mouth recommendations (bravo!). He shared some really cool research and one the conclusions was that the best opportunities for word-of-mouth is the though positive interactions between local people and their traditions. A great example is encouraging the celebration of your “Name Day” in Latvia; a local tradition that’s celebrated by everybody.
WAYN and Tripadvisor showed case studies of DMO campaigns. The WAYN campaign with South Africa was particulary impressive. A contest to win a trip (of course) resulted in 20,000 additions to South Africa’s consumer database at a very reasonable cost. The added bennefit was the community engagement who selected the winner and will probably be living vicaruasly through the (Canadian) winner when she goes on her trip soon.
To go where the consumers are is working well for some NTO’s. VisitBritain receives 18.5M visitors to its consumer websites and an equal number of visitors via syndication partners. Other NTO’s are doing interesting things well including Slovenia who works with local search angines and portals. Many syndicate to Google Maps and have developed widgets.
Joobili co-founder Jared Salter shared some interesting thoughts. Not every destination is a top 5 destination year-round. But many destinations are the best destination at least one day a year during a really cool festival. Joobili satisfies the for consumers need who plan a trip based on what the best place to visit is for a particular date or dates. Great way to provide a sense of urgency as well.
Google’s Andrew Pozniak tried really hard to convince us that Google has no intentions to enter the travel vertical but we all know they already have. Not through a big bang, but slowly though Google Maps, Streetview, Place Pages, YouTube and secret Android activities.
Isabel tweeted that we all might work for Google soon. But hey, if anybody is taking over from us, I hope it’s Google.
One thing I observed with some (most) of the Phocuswright innovators is that a lot of the products demo-ed are (still) conceived and created by engineers. Engineers are brilliantly smart. But most suffer from the “because we can” syndrome. FAIL.
Good products are simple and useful. If you don’t meet these criteria, you will fail guaranteed. Meet them, and you have a shot. They are your minimum requirements.
Take Twitter. Turns out Twitter us useful to millions of people. Twitter is also extremely simple. Post and follow. That’s pretty much it.
Twitter could add categories, replies, forwards, tags, google maps and much, much more. Twitter could allow its users to add pictures, voice messages, video. But they have resisted. Because it would stop being simple. And that’s a big reason why Twitter is successful.
Take Kayak. Kayak is also useful. Kayak is also extremely simple in it’s essence. From->to->dates->search and you’re done. The result page focuses on the core task; find the best flight. Features are optional after the core task is completed. These features are useful in itself, but don’t stop the core task from being simple.
I suggest to all the innovators to hire a product manager who understands this, focuses on the core task that’s being satisfied, and strips everything else.
I’m not at the conference but they’re always high tech at PhocusWright and the videos are posted on their website. Here are my impressions after the 10 minute demos:
I have a few more videos to go. So check back.