Social Media Starter Moves for Tourism

Maranui Surf Club 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

First Steps

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.

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?

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  • virginislandstv

    As someone just getting started in all this, I found your post to be simple, to the point and a lot less daunting than all the rest!! thanks!

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  • http://tourismtechnology.rezgo.com stephenjoyce

    Excellent post Chris. I'm surprised I didn't see this one earlier. A lot of what you discuss in your post revolves around the central idea of connecting and creating relationships with people. Making the site more interactive, inviting bloggers to interact, encourage sharing of media, all revolve around the central premise of engagement and interaction. This is especially true with tourism sites because tourism is all about experiences and what better way to promote an experience then through the sharing of stories, images, and video.

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    Chris, just wanted to let you know that I actually made the transition myself(pat on the back) but thanks for the recommendation though. The new site is now on wp at http://www.ourgenerationtravel.com

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    6 Large, for something people can do themselves for like $20/yr. I guess customization is a good thing. I encourage most folks to start with a Free WordPress Account to get started blogging. Content can easily enough be moved to a hosted wordpress blog for not much more than a few bucks and a customized theme, heck a hundred bucks can get you Thesis to play with.

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  • http://www.hellobc.com/ jose.gonzalez@tourismbc.com

    Great post Chris! Just found read this now. Here's my take:

    On our destination marketing organization (dmo) website, we have a blog set up – hellobc.com/blogs. It works well but it does need improvements. One specific improvement is displaying recent comments (as you suggested). I think if users see interaction within the site that may encourage participation. Also adding profile info on our bloggers would help in getting users to identify with our blog personalities and their posts.

    One specific social media project that has been a huge success is our field reporter program. We hired field reporters and sent them to various parts of British Columbia (youtube.com/bcfieldreporter). It was a great way to create awareness for our province and it encouraged other community dmo's to participate i.e. either hiring their own or using our field reporter to cover their community.

  • http://www.hellobc.com/ jose.gonzalez@tourismbc.com

    Great post Chris! Just found read this now. Here's my take:

    On our destination marketing organization (dmo) website, we have a blog set up – hellobc.com/blogs. It works well but it does need improvements. One specific improvement is displaying recent comments (as you suggested). I think if users see interaction within the site that may encourage participation. Also adding profile info on our bloggers would help in getting users to identify with our blog personalities and their posts.

    One specific social media project that has been a huge success is our field reporter program. We hired field reporters and sent them to various parts of British Columbia (youtube.com/bcfieldreporter). It was a great way to create awareness for our province and it encouraged other community dmo's to participate i.e. either hiring their own or using our field reporter to cover their community.

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  • Cristiemandal

    I think the best way to start is Facebook, Flikr or any other social networks. Being known through these communities is the first and maybe the most iportant steps.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with Cristie. Facebook is a great way to start. Also, other sites to consider, are sites specialized on hotels search and booking, like this one where I recently looked at the Ubud Hotels for a cheap room. I realized that this kind of sites are increasing in number and also improve their look and their efficiency. It’s a great way to boost your hotel’s business.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with Cristie. Facebook is a great way to start. Also, other sites to consider, are sites specialized on hotels search and booking, like this one where I recently looked at the Ubud Hotels for a cheap room. I realized that this kind of sites are increasing in number and also improve their look and their efficiency. It’s a great way to boost your hotel’s business.

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