The best meal I ever had wasn’t at a fancy restaurant, made by a celebrity chef, with an award winning wine. It was at a small B&B in Chame, Nepal. Because it was freezing cold we huddled around the kitchen fire where dinner was being made.
The whole family helped out. Kids were preparing veggies, the husband was making the dough for bread and mom was in charge of everything and everybody. Friends and family came and went.
That Dal Bhat was the best meal I’ve ever had. Because it was an authentic experience.
The word authentic keeps popping up lately. Tourists increasingly want authentic experiences. In social media, you need to be authentic to be successful. To be authentic is to be real and genuine.
Simon Sinek, who writes fantastic stuff about leadership by the way, talks about imperfection and authenticity in this blog post.
That’s why so much marketing is junk. People try to make it too perfect and as a result, the message isn’t authentic anymore. It’s like most marketing comes from the same assembly line. Killed by process, approvals and egos.
Imperfection is not always a bad thing, when it creates authenticity. Keep this in mind for your business. Don’t mold it like everybody else’s (but don’t use your bathroom as a place for imperfection). Give staff some room to be themselves so they don’t sound like robots and give them the ability to think on their feet and give customers personalized attention.
And in social media, authenticity is a must. Don’t always try to craft the perfect message. Be yourself and try to have meaningful relationships with your network. Just don’t be stupid. And when you make a mistake, apologize.
I’ll finish by quoting Simon one more time.
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.
The main benefit of the 2010 games from an overall marketing perspective is exposure. The TV broadcasts are (still) the priority and the travel media teams from Tourism BC and our tourism partners work with broadcasters around the world to ensure the destination message is covered to it’s maximum potential. They even have staff ‘embedded’ with priority markets; an Olympic first.
There are also many people around the globe who stay connected with the games through online channels. Some call it the ‘biggest screen’ principle. When somebody doesn’t have access to a large TV screen, they’ll watch it online (at work?) or when that’s not available, on their cellphone. People also stay connected with the events by visiting the official Olympic website, a broadcaster website or their favourite news site. We want to maximize these opportunities as well.
Leveraging the exposure is core for our online activities. We’ve worked for years to build the right relationships and create win-win situations. It took me to New York to meet with the NBC Olympics team for example. By building relationships and creating win-win situations by offering ideas and support, we have maximized stories, photos and videos on the NBCOlympics website, the official 2010 games website and more.
A strong collective between city, province and country DMO’s is important. Media and sponsors don’t have time to deal with each individually and we’re pleased with the collaboration and results. Broadcasters and sponsors around the world use our B-Roll and websites contain our stories that highlight all of British Columbia and Canada.
Have you ever been on a great Ski mountain with 1,000 other people and wondered what it would be like to have the whole mountain to yourself? Well, your dream could come true. We’re giving away a mountain at one of our Ski resorts for a whole day.
And it gets better. You get to bring 19 of your friends.
A mountain in one of our great 13 Ski resorts to yourself with 19 of your friends for a day. For real. Enter our Great Mountain Giveaway.
Last week was a Milestone week for us. We launched 3 new Asian websites:
We stay true to our user centered approach while supporting a growing number of websites. Our decisions are driven by research; we try not to guess. Turning research results into sounds decisions regarding technology, content and acquisition strategies is where the fun is at.
Our approach to our Asian was no different from our other websites. We worked with in-market specialists, including our staff, who where instrumental at turning this project into a success. Here are some details about our approach to international websites.
Our core technology platform now support websites for our North American, UK, Australian, Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese markets. Our websites are integrated with our Destination Management System that serves as the core of our content management. Product information collected through TourismBC.net is included on all 6 websites.
We have conducted focus groups, phone interviews, card sorts and/or usability tests to find the best way to organize the content on each website. We start with research about how our target audience in a particular market approach their trip planning; their mental model.
We adjust our taxonomy where needed. For example, in North America a farm accommodation is called a ‘guest ranch‘. In the UK it’s called a ‘cowboy ranch‘ and in Australia a farmstay.
Templates & design
We’ve re-used our templates for HelloBC.com for our other market websites. This is partly because of economic reasons. We don’t have unlimited people and budget. By keeping things consistent, we also make it easier to maintain the templates over time. Content makes a website appropriate for a market. Changing a picture around can have a significant impact. We keep a close eye on things and might migrate into more a distinct look and feel for certain markets if our research tell us to do so.
As I mentioned earlier, all tourism operators who have enrolled in our HelloBC Listing Program are automatically published on all 6 websites.
We also support a large volume of destination information on each website. In order to make this more efficient, we have connected certain pages on our market websites with HelloBC. Even though they might fit someplace different in the Information Architecture, the copy and images are the same as HelloBC. If anything changes on HelloBC, so does the copy on the other websites. There are still areas on each page to publish market specific content. Each website also has disconnected pages. These pages are either unique for that market, or need different copy from HelloBC (the getting to British Columbia page for example)
This is “easy” on our UK and Australian market websites because they are in English. But it’s different for our websites in a foreign language. For these websites we are using the services of a translation partner. Pages can still be connected. But when a page on HelloBC is updated, our content specialist has to option to send a work order to our translation partner. A translator who’s located in the respective country will translate the new or updated content. One of our in-market staff members will approve the copy and publish the new content. It’s fully automated with a work-flow system.
There’s no time to sit still. The 2010 games are just 500 days away and we need to be ready. We kicked off our German website project last week. But that’s not the only things we’re working on. More about other activities soon.