The Iamsterdam sign is an invitation to take a picture and share it
Building a destination brand is done primarily through the stories people tell each other. And social media has only accelerated that process. Getting more of the right stories told is a massive opportunity but how do you go about it?
Here’s a 5 step strategy for this.
A destination is the stage where memories are made and stories are created. People ignore or forget the ordinary and remember and share what’s remarkable. These remarkable experiences often turn into the primary motivators for others to visit a place. In order to get more stories told in social media, you need to make sure things are worth talking about. The IAmsterdam sign in Amsterdam (above) is always surrounded by tourists taking photos. Not only is it a cool piece of art, it’s also the perfect way to tell your (Facebook/Instagram/etc) friends where you are.
For a tourism business it’s important to build in moments that motivate people to share in the overall experience. For a DMO it’s important to increase the number of things worth talking about overall. Educating your operators about this principle is the low hanging fruit. Every tourism business should have at least one reason for people to talk about them. Often it’s just a matter of making a few tweaks to get people talking. Getting involved in city planning might be more difficult but can pay-off with massive dividend.
When there’s something worth sharing, people need to be able to share it right away. For international visitors, data roaming is often an obstacle and the availability of free Wifi will increase social sharing. It’s not just the responsibility of operators. Viewpoints, beaches, mountaintops, buildings of great architecture typically don’t have a tourism operator associated and Wifi is nowhere to be found. This is where the DMO can step in. Taiwan gets it, they offer free nationwide Wifi to tourists.
But there are other obstacles. Some businesses don’t allow pictures to be taken while others don’t have the proper lighting to make photos or to make them look good. It’s a missed opportunity, you have to give people the opportunity to share, even if it’s in a limited capacity.
People will share an experience when they find it remarkable. For people on the fence it’s easy to pull them over the line by encouraging them. This can be achieved by things from signage to incentives. Disney identifies places in their theme parks with photo opp signs. Some DMO’s are starting to do the same. We worked with a ski resort last year to do put signage up to encourage sharing combined with and a contest for the best photos shared.
At an operator level it’s often a matter of reminding and asking people. Remind people on checkout to give a review on Tripadvisor for example, or follow up with an email. Others take it a step further. When I was in Wollongong, Australia, the Skydiving operator filmed and photographed the experience and gave me a link where I could download the images with an easy way to share them through my social channels.
When people share stories, it’s important to find them. Social Media is like a world-wide, real-time, always-on focus group. You’re crazy if you don’t take advantage of it. You need to find them the relevant stories about your destination, good or bad.
A lot of other opportunities and insights can be gained from the massive amount of stories out there. Brands like KLM, Gatorade, Nascar and many others have dedicated social media team that monitor social media for a variety of purposes. These programs separates signal from noise by curating the content and processing it for specific purposes. Some data might need to actioned on while other data serves specific research purposes.
5a) ACTION – AMPLIFY
Some of the best stories told in social media are worth incorporating in your own marketing. People share stories with great emotional appeal and the quality, creativity and authenticity often rivals what a DMO and their agencies produce. Use the best content you find to enhance your own activities of amplify them through your own channels.
Visit Britain started sourcing the majority of the photos on its website from Flickr back in 2009. Tourism Australia only posts photos on Facebook submitted to them by their community. Many DMOs find the best photos on Instagram and reshare them while Pinterest is probably the best example of content curation with the best photos people find online.
But why stop there? You might want to give some quality content even more exposure. You can use some SEM budget to amplify a great blog post from an influencer for example. Some amplification can go even further. The Canadian Tourism Commission turned some of the best YouTube videos they found about Canada into TV commercials and recently crowd-sourced another. It doesn’t matter who created the story or where it’s located. What matters is that it moves a person down the funnel.
5b) ACTION – CUSTOMER SERVICE
Social Media will identify customer service challenges and opportunities. DMOs are already in the customer service business but have often limited themselves to a box called a visitor centre. Step outside the box and start assisting visitors in real time by responding to people in social media. Customer service challenges can be resolved quickly before they turn into negative stories.
In the meantime, the overall visitor experience will benefit from assisting travellers through social media. KLM will respond to any social media question within an hour. Most tourism operators don’t have the luxury to set-up these kind of services but the DMO can fulfill that role on behalf of their industry.
5c) ACTION – MITIGATE
Listening can also help to find information about a destination on the internet that’s incorrect (yes, there is incorrect information on the interwebs). This information could be viewed by many potential visitors who could make the wrong decision as a result. Often it’s just a matter of contacting the owner of the source to correct the error. Start by asking nicely!
If something slips through the cracks and negative stories start to emerge it’s important to mitigate these as soon as possible. There are also specific events that could cause a social media crisis. Think about a natural disaster, a call for a boycott or an influencer will a horrible experience. Being prepared and having a social media response plan in place will streamline communication before things escalate far and wide and cause considerable damage. Don’t rely on old corporate communication strategies, they don’t apply to social media. Just ask United.
5d) ACTION – LEARN
People will take pictures of things they find remarkable. And when they put themselves in the photo it’s even more remarkable. The things people find remarkable might surprise you. Insights gained from a curation program can provide you with all kinds of new marketing ideas or even identify potential target audiences. You will also identify the challenges visitors might have with the destination experience overall, sometimes in places you might not expect. Addressing these challenges in a fundamental way through service design will allow you to create a more favourable perception of the destination overall. You can measure these things over time, segment them by audience, experience and other parameters. It’s a massive opportunity and part of the future of destination marketing.
I’m not a foodie. But I like food. I like cooking. I like to eat good food. I like authentic experiences. I like holes in the wall. I once drove 5 hours to eat deep fried cheese. And when I was in LA last month I drove an hour to visit the Kogi food truck (photo). But I don’t really watch food shows, read food blogs or base every restaurant I visit on reviews on Yelp or Tripadvisor.
I have friends for that.
My friend Stephanie is a foodie. She tries crazy recipes and knows about all the new and hot restaurants in town. And beyond. There aren’t a lot of cities I travel to where she doesn’t know of someplace amazing.
Stephanie is not a big food influencer. She doesn’t blog, doesn’t take photos of her food, she doesn’t pin food recipes. She does influence her friends though. In person or on Facebook. And if she recommends a restaurant, I’m going.
I’m not a foodie. But I’m influenced by one.
Stephanie in turn, is influenced by a host of people who share her obsession with food. She’s part of a passionate community of foodies. A lot of her friends are foodies, she watches Food TV, reads a lot of food blogs, is active on Chow and follows celebrity chefs on Twitter.
Stephanie is a foodie. She makes her decisions based on information from influencers in the foodie community.
The example above is the essence of modern tourism marketing. Restaurants will get people like me in the door because I’m influenced by a foodie, who in turn is influenced by leaders in the foodie community.
As a marketer, you need to approach this in reverse. Activate the influencers who connect with the passionate community, who in turn connect with consumers at large.
This works for any kind of niche. Hiking, skiing, modern art, theatre, gambling, roller coasters, etc. There are thousands of passionate communities and each community, large or small, has influencers. It’s just a matter of activating it.
As a tourism marketer you need to identify your niches and ensure the delivery of your experience is remarkable so people will recommend your destination or product. It will start a cascading effect that produces long term results.
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.
Happy new year. All the best for 2012. My resolution is ar least one post a week. We start with a tip.
Most DMO’s will have stockpiles of leftover printed guides from 2011 somewhere in a warehouse. Refusing to accept these are remnants of a distance past, they print more than there is demand.
Here’s an idea. Search for doctors and dentist offices in your key markets and send them a free copy. The combination of bored people waiting for their appointment with the low turnover of magazines in these offices will provide some good reach for relative low investment.
Every year Google launches over 500 improvements to its search algorithm. There’s a lot to learn from this video for modern day marketers.
Focus on your end user
It all starts with a focus on the user. “Google has made a huge investment in understanding what works for users (3:25)” because “when you align Google’s interests with user interests, good things happen (3:17)“.
Aligning business objectives with user objectives should sit at the core of any online marketer principles. Without it, you’re sure to fail.
Keep improving what you have
Google is obsessed with improving their search product; “we get excited when we hit on an idea what helps a lot of users (3:37)“. Continuous improvements sits at the heart of their culture.
Traditional marketers spend almost all their efforts before they launch because it’s hard to change things after. Online marketers need to spend the majority of their effort post launch. You receive instant results and it’s easy to change things.
This includes websites, social media, search, email marketing, etc.
Base decisions on data, not opinion
In too many organization, decisions are made based on opinions. Usually a senior person doesn’t like something or receives pressure from a stakeholder with an agenda and want something changed. Or a real problem is being dismissed because it’s invisible (a technology upgrade for example). Rarely does anybody actually look at the data in detail.
At Google, “a problem identified and hypothesis created (0:35)” and subjected to “rigorous scientific testing (0:53)“, using a trained panel called raters (0:59), live experiments (1:14) and analyzed by a search analyst (1:14). The decission to make the change is then held in a “launch decision meeting (1:47) by the leadership, based on data with an unbiased view”.
Implementing this at your organization
These are some key elements of Google’s success. But even when you’re not Google with a large team, here’s what even the smallest organization can do:
I think it was Michele McKenzie who said at Online Revealed Canada that people in the tourism industry should realize they’re in the business of making memories first and putting heads to beds second. I agree.
If you haven’t seen Simon Sinek’s TED video below, you really should. His book is a worth a read as well.
Simon’s hypothesis is simple. Businesses communicate wrong. They communicate WHAT they do, then HOW they do it. Instead they should communicate WHY they do things, then HOW they do it, then WHAT they do. When you inspire people about WHY you do things, the how and what makes more sense.
At Think! we believe we can make people’s lives better by making tourism experiences better, one destination or product at a time. We do this by working with DMO’s and tourism product operators, helping them create remarkable products and market them to the niche audiences that truly love them. We have a methodology and we offer strategic development, training, products and delivery services to achieve this.
Why should somebody visit your destination or business? Don’t tell me because you have the best food, the best golf, best art scene or the cleanest rooms. That’s WHAT you do. And everybody else claims the same thing.
Disney themeparks are in the business of making “magical” memories for families. Vegas is in the business of making memories that “stay in Vegas” to anybody but families. They both know their WHY and so does everybody who works there, and their customers who visit know it as well.
What’s your WHY?
artwork by Hugh MacLeod
Interesting post from Fred Wilson, a VC and principal of Union Square Ventures about advertising (he calls it marketing).
This quote stands out:
I’ve often thought that advertising is what you do when a product is either mediocre or commoditized. If customers don’t love your product, give you repeat business and tell their friends, you’ll have to do the talking yourself through paid media. Big brands like Google, Facebook, Zara, Starbucks and Zappos though demonstrate that you can build large successful brands without much advertising.
The thing I could never reconcile in mind were the ads ran by companies like Apple. They have a cult following and products people love and rave about. Why bother with spending anything on paid media? The second part of Fred’s quote is brilliant and makes sense. Advertising can rally your base and pull people of the line.
I’m not claiming advertising doesn’t work. I’m sure that the amount of sham-wows, slap shops and collectable plates sold as a result of their TV Ads makes the producer a profit. But that doesn’t mean its a good product.
A good product sells itself. Don’t fix a mediocre product with advertising, fix the product instead.
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.
I described how we maximize exposure on Olympic related website. The next step is to drive people to our consumer website HelloBC.com where they can start planning their trip. The following chart is a conceptual diagram of our approach for driving traffic from these websites through referral links.
The Olympics are about stories. Stories related to athletes, the events and yes the host destination. The circles on the diagram represent these stories. Most are related to the sporting events and athletes (blue). But some are related to the host destination (yellow). These stories can send somebody down the path that will lead to visiting British Columbia.
We try to carry the destination stories through. Many broadcasters will run host destination vignettes on their TV broadcast. These stories are usually also posted on their website and media will often refer to their website for more info. And since the web doesn’t have a finite amount of space, there are more stories posted on websites. By offering ideas and support, most broadcasters have agreed to post links to HelloBC or one of our tourism partner websites to allow visitors to have access to even further depth, allowing us to continue the consumer buying process and get her one step closer to visiting BC.
The strategy is working so far. Visitors from referring sites have increased more than tenfold compared to peak traffic in the summer.