I’m in Wellington, New Zealand. This picture was snapped at the Maranui Surf Life Saving Club, which is not only a club but a great way to get lunch. Many of the people here at the Marketing Now! conference are from the tourism industry, and are seeking ways to bring New Zealanders and Australians to the various destinations they are promoting. Their questions to me during breaks was how to get started. Here’s my take. I want your take in comments and follow-on blog posts.
Social Media Starter Moves for Tourism
Before dipping into social media, let’s assume that your basic strategy is to build awareness and drive purchases of vacation experiences to your destinations. Awareness and sales. Easy to do. For our first steps, let’s focus on determining where your people are online and start listening to what they’re talking about.
- Begin listening today. Here’s a step-by-step guide to grow bigger ears. That’s how the Roger Smith Hotel found me!
- Comment frequently where you find contact. Here’s a crash course in comments.
- Tinker with search queries to find how to discover people who might benefit from hearing from you. I made a sample query here.
Now that you know how to listen, how to comment, and how to search for new people, you’ve got a sense of the online landscape. What should come next is a conversation internally about how to engage, what conversations you want to have, what actions you hope people might take next, which social tools to use, and how you might use them.
Potential Engagement Ideas
Let’s assume that what you want most is to find people talking about coming to your area (or looking for ideas on a vacation destination), and then you want to equip them to have an even better time. You’re going to build a relationship where you will trade some information and maybe even some special access in exchange for the hope of better exposure to the experience after the fact. Let’s talk about that a bit more.
Let’s say you are responsible for encouraging visits to the local volcano. You have a typical tour that runs, and you also sometimes run “special” tours for visiting dignitaries. How much expense is there in running the special tour for people you engage via the web? If this answer is “not much,” do it.
On another thread, and they’re related, let’s say that your hope is that you’ll get even more people to come to your volcano. One way to do this is to equip others to share the information. This doesn’t take as much work as you think.
- Print a small business card and post it at useful locations. On the card, invite people to share their media. Invite them to use Flickr or YouTube or other sharing sites. Make a simple tag for reference and put it on the card. Maybe it’s “whiteisland” for the White Island volcano here in New Zealand. Thus, you can search on the tag and find what people put up.
- Encourage video and photo sharing on your site. Get permission to post the best of what you find, and ask people if you can use people’s names or website URLs or whatever (to promote them back for helping you).
- Always be attentive for which bloggers or media makers are visiting your region and invite them to better access to your attractions. If you have a consortium of businesses or destinations, do what you can to network up a relationship amongst as many as possible. Share the potential experience coverage all the way around.
Is this making sense so far? Nothing major, and yet, it’s something you might not yet be doing.
Tidy Up Your Web Presence
I think there’s room for improvement in most tourism-related sites that I sampled. First and foremost, when I say this, I don’t mean “go spend tons of money.” I mean, make it easier for people to connect, communicate, get information, and do what you need them to do.
If you’re looking to encourage people to interact with your destinations, consider making your site something more interactive. I visited a few tourism sites from folks here in New Zealand and what I found was that they’re fairly cookie cutter and that they don’t really give me a sense of what I should do next. Let’s talk about what your site might do (and if you’re really daring, consider scrapping your existing site entirely and putting up a customized blog instead). Cost for this in the US at least is cheap, like $2000 – $4000 USD for a really decent job.
Here’s a potential “site flow” for what your site should be doing for you:
- Easy access to humans. Make contact information (in MANY formats) ubiquitous. Besides a “contact” page, have something really clear in a corner somewhere (like a sidebar) with a name or two to contact, a telephone number, an email address, and if you’re really cutting edge, your twitter handle.
- Simple “ask.” If you’re asking people to book reservations to your destination, make that the MOST OBVIOUS thing to do on the site. If you’re asking people to visit a group of destinations, then make a downloadable PDF list of contact and direction details.
- Ways to collaborate/participate. Allow for comments, testimonials, ways to link up to things. In fact, be daring and allow people to comment negatively if they have a problem. Solve the problem in public, and I promise you that you’ll see a positive response from that.
- Make things to give away. Like I mentioned above about the downloadable PDF, give people things to take with them: an audio tour (easily recorded with podcasting technology), a list of great videos to watch and/or embed on their own sites (to show off to their friends). Give people things, and they’ll be glad for it.
Convert the Physical to the Digital
Here’s one of the biggest magic tricks of them all: when you share things that are typically only experienced in person with others, it gives ideas handles such that others can take those ideas and run with them. For example, if you put on an event around the Colossal Squid at the Te Papa museum here in Wellington, if you get the local video coverage, that only goes local. If you’re looking for more outreach (like, say, getting everyone in Melbourne to come and visit), you need to go digital and spread things.
- Hand out a dozen Flip Mino video cameras. Encourage people to shoot the event from their own perspective. Encourage them to interview each other. Have kids shoot their questions for scientists, and maybe then have scientists shoot their responses. Share it on your site, and encourage follow-on participation and Q&A.
- Encourage photography and hand out both a potential tag ( not sure what I mean? See here) and also maybe an email address where to send photos. Ask people for permission to use them, and/or whether the person has a URL they want promoted when sharing the content.
- Invite bloggers and build special information into the events. Don’t just look for bloggers that write specifically about the topic at hand. For example, with the Colossal Squid, you could invite Science Fiction bloggers to talk about their interpretations on the squid for fiction. Invite art bloggers to talk about it. Invite foodies and throw a calamari tasting around the squid. Never stop at the straightforward when the tangential can be so much more fun.
Time for Your Ideas
Maybe you’re in tourism and you want to tell me about a specific challenge. Maybe you’re on the tourist side of this conversation. I’d love to have a larger discussion. What do you think? What else do you want? What experiences have you had with social media and tourism?