Imagine you had to start a DMO. Your DMO. You have been given the same budget and must start from scratch. Would your DMO look exactly the same as it does now? The same departments, same positions? The same budget allocations? The same marketing tactics?
The internet, and social media in particular, have completely changed tourism marketing. Forever. People might not talk on Facebook about which fabric softener they use or which soft drink they prefer, but everybody talks about their travels. Social media sophistication is crucial to modern marketing. Yet the tourism industry is way behind.
We have worked with dozens of DMOs around the world, ranging from very small to very large. And we have spoken to hundreds more. Based on our conversations and experiences we have identified the following levels for social media adoption and integration into the organization.
1) Ignoring social media
This level represents DMOs who are not active at all in social media. Social media is seen more as a threat than an opportunity.
Characteristics you can find at this level are:
Two years ago, there were many DMOs at this level, but by today most have moved on. Most DMOs that remain here are tied to very restrictive government policies.
2) Experimenting with social media
DMOs experiment with social media without a specific strategy through random tactics.
Characteristics you can find at this level are:
There are still a lot of DMOs operating at this level. It often takes a noticeable event to move them to the next level. This could be spurred by a social media success internally or by the DMO next door. For example, a rival’s viral YouTube video or growing number of Facebook fans.
3) Social media supporting marketing campaigns
Due to a lack of strategic knowledge, DMOs incorporate social media in paid, outbound marketing campaigns. Often this is an add-on to traditional marketing campaigns, such as a YouTube channel showing videos originally made for TV or using Facebook and Twitter to broadcast campaign messaging.
Characteristics you can find at this level are:
Most DMOs operate at this level, sometimes with some additional effort to keep Facebook and Twitter going year-round. Often the level of success depends on the sophistication of one or two staff members.
DMOs at this level want to succeed but cannot break out of the traditional way of doing business. Getting to level four is usually achieved by having a strong social media success as part of a bigger initiative or having an epiphany that social requires a different way of thinking. Usually, level two experiments continue alongside level three activity.
4) Following a social media strategy
This level is typified by a DMO having a social media strategy in place or having social media integrated into its marketing strategy. The DMO still believes that it is in full control of the destination brand.
Characteristics you can find at this level are:
Leading DMOs have entered this level. Over the next few years we expect a rush of DMOs moving here. DMOs that enter level four first are the ones with less restraining operating environments (such as funding) with innovative leaders and marketing managers.
5) Embracing the social business model
The level five social business recognizes that the destination’s story and reputation are based on visitors’ experiences at every touch point during their trips (see point 1 in “Top 5 Wrong Assumptions in Destination Marketing”). This DMO knows and accepts that it is no longer in control of the destination story. It recognizes and acts on the need to collaborate closely with its industry, residents, influencers and visitors, and that it must change the way success is measured.
The level five DMO starts with the core of the passions that make a destination relevant and leads all partners that have an impact on those experiences. The sole focus is on delivering outstanding visitor experiences that are unique to the destination, and then making it easy for visitors to share these experiences in their own voices.
As painful as it may be, the DMO re-organizes, ending much of its old way of doing business. Staff is re-trained and assigned to new activities.
Characteristics you can find at this level are:
We’re not aware of any DMOs at level five. We have spoken to many DMO executives who know they need to get here and want to get here. Often, their funding models or destination-specific politics stand in the way.
The DMO closest to a level five we are familiar with is Visit Sørlandet in Southern Norway. As a newly created regional DMO, this organization quickly realized it would be impossible to build a Southern Norway brand the traditional way. By creating a strategy based on collaborating with local DMOs and industry members to improve the visitor experience and elevate the collective digital marketing efforts, Visit Sørlandet is building it’s brand through every touchpoint while growing repeat visitation and encouraging word-of-mouth.
For many DMOs that have not reached level four, level five may seem pie in the sky. But the further you move your DMO through the levels, the more you realize just how much the world has changed and the true impact this has. Once you enter level four, you can see level five. It is no longer pie in the sky. It is tomorrow.
At what level is your DMO?
Your DMO’s current level is not a sign of success or failure. Every DMO is different. Politics and funding models have a big impact. So does the size and scope of a DMO. A country DMO is different from a city DMO. This affects specific marketing strategies and tactics.
It is also not a race. It is a process that organizations need to go through. Some might skip a step. For others, the levels could overlap. But in order for DMOs to stay relevant and effective, they need to climb up.
We have worked with DMOs in all shapes and sizes at every level of this process. We enjoy helping DMOs make the climb.
We have conducted audits, started Facebook pages, trained staff, implemented social media as part of bigger campaigns, run social campaigns, created strategies, helped to define entire business plans centered around social principles and much more.
Inventing the future
Alan Kay, the inventor of the GUI and object-oriented programming once said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Instead of all DMOs trying to invent level 5 independently, we think the best future is that we all invent it together and collectively stay relevant. Please share your thoughts in the comments.
As always, thanks for all my Think! coworkers for their contributions in creating this post
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.
People don’t make a travel decision on a national tourism board website
Justin said: “Our research told us that the majority of long haul travelers visit a national tourist board after they’ve already made the decision to visit”
VisitBritain’s rightly concluded that in order to target people in the decision making process, they need to engage in other places like third party websites. A content partnership with Yahoo is working very well for them for example.
The future of CRM/eMail Marketing is under threat
Justin said: “Where previously you might have focused a lot of CRM activity we learned that the inbox is no longer a happy place. People want to clear it out as fast as possible. So we now want to focus on finding places where people are in the mindset of making decisions about travel [social media].”
I wondered about the same thing about a year ago in this blog post. As people become overwhelmed with email, they pay less attention to marketing messages, even when they opt-in. This kind of change won’t happen overnight but social media is an environment where people are easier to engage, two-way dialogue is possible and content is easy to share.
Social Media’s network effect has incredible reach
Justin: “10,000 followers is amazing. But we followed the traffic of some of our tweets and each of our tweets reaches a potential audience of about 325,000 people”
Through re-tweets on Twitter, and by tagging and sharing on Facebook, a message can travel far and wide in a very short period of time. And the content itself is much more credible because it’s endorsed by a friend who shared it.
Tourism Australia’s fanpage with over 600,000 fans is a good example. Every message they posts could be read by that many people. And for every person that comments on the post, the post gets published to their friend network, extending reach with the potential to organically grow their fanbase.
And as a side-effect, “Facebook is now the third largest referrer to VisitBritain after Google and Yahoo, and we’re not even seeking to push people to the website.”
Content is far more important than a website
Justin: “Our website is not the most important marketing tool for us, our content is. We’re just as happy if somebody reads our content on Yahoo as on our website.”
VisitBritain is agnostic about where content is being consumed and as a result, more of VisitBritains content is being consumed on third party websites. A partnership with Yahoo produces an exponential amount of views, for free. More videos are viewed than some market websites receive visitors.
Producing or gathering the right content, and pushing it out into place where you add value for the publisher and the consumer, preferably with easy sharing opportunities is much more effective than trying to generate website visitation through advertising alone.
User Generated Content is an easy and cost-effective way to publish content
Justin: “95% of VisitBritain’s photography comes from user generated content” and “when somebody’s photo appears on a national tourism boards site, you can bet on it they will send a link to all their friends to check it out.”
VisitBritain set-up a Flickr group called Love UK and is using it as one of the sources for its photos on VisitBritain.com. And because most people are happy to see their photography used, they will tell everybody about it.. on social media.
Brilliant. This is something I’ve advocated for years but I could never get it going. Well done VisitBritain.
Thanks for sharing Justin!
Traditionally, DMO stands for Destination Marketing Organization. But would consumers and industry be better served if the ‘M’ stood for Management instead?
Consider my destination brand definition from a few posts back.
It’s clear that the visitor experience is the best form of destination branding. It will generate great memories people will relive, lead to repeat visitation and word of mouth referrals.
And when you read Ana Pollock’s Reputation, Reputation, Reputation post you will understand how actions by others can dramatically effect a destination brand.
Some will argue that all of the above is part of marketing. But semantics aside, changing the ‘M’ in DMO to Management would broaden the traditional focus and increase the scope into things that also matter.
I’m not talking about a visitor centre or a training program. I’m talking about generating a vision for the destination, looking at all aspects of the destination experience and working with extended groups of stakeholders to truly manage and deliver an end-to-end world class experience.
And when you satisfy your visitors, wouldn’t a destination be a better place to live for its residents as well?
Perhaps the most annoying thing you can tell me is that some DMO is re-branding their destination.
A destination brand is:
To re-brand a destination, you need to change the stories people tell when they get home. In order to do that you need to change the experiences travelers have. Changing your story doesn’t mean anything if yours is different from the real one.
The future of DMO websites needs real time and social content. Yesterday, our Torch Relay Field Reporter program is a good example of a step towards real time content. And I use social in a broad sense. It means collaboration with people who have a personal or commercial interest in assisting potential travelers to visit a destination.
In our case, our province is a collection of regions, cities and communities; most with their own DMO. Last year our regions took a bold step and decided to use their region on HelloBC as their website. Instead of both spending time and money on development, content, SEO, SEM, etc, we’re now collaborating and HelloBC is better for it.
Most DMO’s are also using Twitter now. Twitter is a great way to connect our website visitors with local experts and give them real time information about regions and communities. So we’re starting to add the local DMO twitter feeds to the relevant pages of HelloBC.
Another step towards a more social and real time website.
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.
The role of our website is a favourite topic among senior management at Tourism BC and has been for a long time. PhoCusWright’s Destination Marketing: Understanding the Role and Inpact on Destination Marketers flared up another round last summer. I’ll spare you those details but here are some of my thoughts.
PhoCusWright rightfully notes that almost every DMO is different they way they’re structured, funded and organized but that key issues and challenges are very similar. I’ve been talking to my peers around the world for 10 years now and that’s definely true.
And it’s becoming more challenging all the time. Online innovation continues are a rapid pace while a DMO website is now at the heart of all marketing activities. My perspective a user centered one. If you don’t meet your website user’s goals, there’s no hope you’ll ever meet any of your organizational or stakeholder objectives, because your visitors won’t stick around.
One place to start is to figure out where a person’s place is in the planning (or purchase) cycle.
Find out if somebody:
The answer to the question posed above could radically change the approach you should take. If most people are in the first group, they’re looking for a reason to visit. They need to be inspired. Big imagery, videos that connect on an emotional level and experiential stories work really well in this phase. Most DMO websites serve consumers in this phase very well.
But if somebody is in the third group, the role of the website is not to lose the sale. They’re already inspired and motivated. Most DMO websites don’t do very well here. When somebody visits a DMO website in this phase, it probably means there’s just a few nagging questions and they need answers. Details. How long does it take to drive there? How expensive is everything?Is the museum open on Mondays? Is there enough to do for the whole family?
Forget the emotional video and big images. The website can look like Craigslist. They just want detailed information (they could also be looking for a deal by the way, but that’s another poll to run).
PhoCusWright has polled consumers and their report includes valuable information about where consumers say they visit DMO websites in the process. We’ve polled our website visitors about this for a while now and our numbers are a bit different from PhoCusWright’s. This leads me to believe that it might vary based on the destination.
It’s super easy to find out where your visitors are in the process. Poll them. Find out. And use it internally as you discuss the role of your website. And get the PhoCusWight report, it’s worth the money.
A few weeks ago I posted about our call for video field reporters. I also promised more details. Here we go.
Our video strategy is multi-faceted based on the opportunities that are currently available. Some are traditional and some are new. But they’ll all work together in a framework.
Let’s first examine the types of tourism related videos out there.
First, there’s the destination video. Emotional music, breathtaking scenery, friendly people, incredible experiences. The intent is to create a strong emotional connection with somebody. The content include all the core brand attributes and the target audience enjoying them. These videos are often used at consumer and/or tradeshows and most destinations have put these videos on their websites and video networks such as YouTube.
Destination Marketing Organization’s TV commercials are often a mini version of the destination video. Sometimes, they include a touch of humour or clever creative, like this video from Utah. But they always include all the core brand tributes again. Watch the Utah commercial and you know what they market and who they market to. Often there’s a call to action to visit a website, a fulfillment piece (guide) or a price point (often through a trade partner).
Then there are the travel host videos, as you will find on travel shows on TV. A host visits a destination and documents some of his or her experience in an informal documentary style. Usually all the “must sees” are covered. Sometimes, if it’s a special interest show, a specific experience is covered.
New on the scene are DMO created documentaries. These highlight a specific iconic experience of a destination. Often, there’s also a host involved and it’s informative and specific to an iconic experience.
And there are the user generated videos of course. Nothing is more credible than real experiences from real people. The amazing video above was the winner of the best user generated video at the eTourism awards last year.
Each type of video has a specific purpose. From creating awareness through creating an emotional connection, to real and authentic experiences that makes somebody think “I can be part of this story”. We’re currently in the process of creating a new destination video, TV commercials and documentaries. We’re also encouraging consumers to share their videos with us on our blog section.
But what’s interesting is that we believe there’s room for an additional category, a variation of the travel host, with a user generated content feel. We call these “field reporter” videos. Last year we experimented with this concept.
The video above is one of our ski host video. The intent of the video was to create an authentic video but still hit on the core brand message. The result was positive. Chris did a great job and consumers responded positvice, but our key learning was that we created something that felt a bit off. It didn’t feel authentic, and it wasn’t a slick documentary either.
Together for our agency (Cossette Communication Group) we re-defined the video host concept and renamed it to “field reporters”. The idea was to hire 6 people who with good personalities who can handle a video camera. We would send them out into all corners of BC and document their experiences. In order to make it authentic, they have to find somebody and ask for a recommendation. After the recommendation, they need to follow through and document their experience. Nothing planned, nothing staged. They had to be host, camera person and editor. We did add our logo at the beginning of each video to be transparent that we asked these people to create these videos.
And that’s what we’ve done over the last month. We found 7 very talented individuals and send each one to each of our 6 tourism regions, and one on a circle tour on his motorbike. We did give each a list of “iconic” tourism products so they had an idea what was going on in the area. They all made 5-7 videos each. We will use these videos on HelloBC to complement our existing content.
Below is a sample.
Here’s Chris climbing the Squamish Chief.
Ivan visited Bella Coola, and found a first nation person to take him to old Petroglyphs.
Kelli visited the Thompson Okanagan and hiked the Kettle Valley trail.
Mike visited the Kootenay Rockies and was told to visit Fort Steele and the Bull River Guest Ranch near Cranbrook.
Ami was told to take a train ride from Prince Rupert to Prince George through Northern British Columbia.
And Gary rode the Coast Cariboo Circle Tour his motor bike.
We’re also encouraging our staff, communities and industry to create their own videos. It’s easy enough to do. All you need is a video camera and some video editing software.
Some have already taken us up on the challenge. Clint from our Norther BC region create the video above.
And here’s our online team member Mikala’s visit to a farmers market
By posting these videos on our blog, hopefully we’ll even inspire some BC residents and our travelers to give our their tips and insider information. The intent is to get many video’s capturing the diverse range of tourism experiences throughout the province. We will still use the destination video and professionally produced documentaries to get people excited, and the videos created by field reporters, industry, communities, staff and user will capture the details.
To watch all field reporter videos, keep an eye on Tourism BC’s YouTube channel and our Field Reporter playlist. Our field reporters are still editing some of their videos, so more will be added soon.
I was supposed to present with Richard Kunz from T4G, our technology solutions provider, at Online Revealed Caribbean. I couldn’t go unfortunately but Richard interviewed me and incorporated some of the footage in his presentation. I received some good feedback so I decided to put the whole interview online.
We discussed Web 2.0, user generated content, social networks and one-to-one marketing for Destination Marketing Organizations and the tourism industry. I shared some of the things we’re working with T4G on to provide more relevancy to individual consumers on a mass scale.
Richard and I will hopefully be at the next Online Revealed Canada in Niagara Falls on April 13-15.