Turns out, social media is a pain in the ass for destinations
Okay, maybe not a total pain in the ass – perhaps massively confusing. ROI, influence, Pinterest, fans, followers, friends – where do we go from here?
The promise of free promotion, easy communication and masses of consumer advocates singing the limitless, yet carefully crafted message of your brand has not developed as planned.
Of course, no one said it would.
Instead, tourism destinations worldwide find themselves in a fight for social relevancy. Adding more fans is problematic, as is expanding to other social networks.
Seriously, I know someone said this was free!?!?
So what is the strategy? What is next? What should you do with all those fans? Let’s figure that out…
Sign-up and spit out
The typical social tactic looks something like this: join social network, build audience, send marketing messages, repeat. However, as many of our peers are discovering, this format is challenging to scale and even more difficult to leverage.
The idea that you can supplement marketing with social media is often cited, but rarely executed.
The very core of what social strategy means is starting to change, thanks in part to the development of two other trends. Namely, the creative newsroom and influencer marketing.
Trends that go beyond the basic sign-up and spit out strategy current employed by so many of our peers.
The idea of the creative newsroom has been talked about for months, but can be found in summary form thanks to Ian Schfer’s Ad Age piece.
Allow me to cut through the jargon for you:
A creative newsroom is a social tactic that produces a shit-load of time-sensitive, brand relevant content and pushes said content into social channels. Watch for trends, identify the most “viral” (ugh) content and promote further with paid placements (Facebook Promoted Posts).
Also see William Baker’s thoughtful Five Levels of Social Media Sophistication at the DMO, specifically level five.
A recent example of this creative newsroom approach to social media would be the recent royal naughty bits on display in Las Vegas. The LVCVA created time-senstive, social content and hit the share button. The result? Just as much chatter about the poster as well, um… alright, you get it.
The idea of the creative newsroom is simple. People want real-time content. If no one is producing real-time content about your brand, destination, city, then create it yourself.
A big shift from the social media intern. The challenge therefore for DMOs is ownership and frequency.
Without clear ownership of a specific product, determining what content to create is a constant cycle of the generic…already a common problem with destination social strategy.
Frequency is the other issue. Even a CVB such as Las Vegas would have trouble creating enough interesting content to sustain a social media newsroom.
The creative newsroom is an option, but not the easiest to execute for our tourism vertical.
Influencer marketing is fairly straightforward. Find influencers within key subjects (travel, food, etc.) on social media and invite them to visit your destination.
Payment optional. Call it a social FAM trip, blogger hoedown or consumer convene, the idea is the same.
Recently, two destinations have experimented with this form of social marketing, our peers in Seattle and the Australian capital city of Canberra (I know, not Sydney).
While the executions are slightly unique, both campaigns operate under the same influencer marketing theory: find social travelers, bring them to the destination and let them tweet, post and instragram their way across the city.
But look deeper, this is a shift in the way DMOs utilize social media.
In these cases, Seattle and Canberra are not creating the content…they are not the ones tweeting…but merely connecting influential social individuals with the product they represent.
One could argue that using this approach, the need for a DMO to have a Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest account is no longer necessary.
Delete them. Close them. You don’t need them.
Which answers the ownership question directly. No need to worry about who you are posting about because you are not posting anymore.
The destination itself does not have to be social, just the visitors.
Let’s add another option, another trend, to the potential evolutionary path for the DMO. A focus on the customer experience.
Now, let’s be clear, DMOs do not have direct customers. Rather the businesses represented have the relationship with the customer.
Again, the ownership issue.
But what if the DMO went deeper? What if the DMO provided the education and training desperately needed by local tourism operators, not just in terms of social media, but customer experience.
As mentioned by the very sharp Augie Ray, there is too great a focus on social marketing and not enough on a positive product / customer experience.
It is massively difficult to market, represent and speak for a product that you don’t own, to consumers you don’t have.
This is the challenge for most DMOs, understanding that their place in the social lifecycle is not marketing, but educating.
Ensuring, through training, education and support, that the local businesses relationship with the consumer represents the best of the city, region or country.
Without the need for direct social communication from the DMO.
We have reached the next stage in social media. Our grand experiment is coming to an end, forcing us to make a decision.
Do you move forward with a fierce focus on social media? Build a creative newsroom, hire a social media agency, hire more staff, claim more territory and destroy those in your way?
Or do you delete? Do you teach, educate and support? Becoming more Geek Squad and less Best Buy.
Do you place the focus on the customer experience, rather than marketing, to build the social chatter about your destination via the businesses within your destination?
You will be asked to make this choice. Social or support?
Evolution will not wait!!
NB: Kick ass image via Shutterstock.
Troy Thompson, a contributing Node to Tnooz, is a self-described technopologist, a respected blogger, consultant and thought-leader in the tourism/travel marketing industry.
Owner and consultant at Travel 2.0 Consulting, Troy has been providing unique interactive and marketing solutions to a variety of clients for more than a decade.