We now live in the microwave era, where everything is expected in 30 seconds or less, with at-your-fingertips convenience. Destination planning is no exception to the instant gratification rule. Sure, Google is a great gateway to fascinating sights and unique cultural experiences waiting for you at your next vacation spot, but compiling all the needed information is time-consuming in the giant sea of information.
Enter destination marketing organizations (DMOs). I recall being a child and enjoying stopping into visitor information centers, picking up handfuls of colorful brochures and then sitting at a picnic table to rank each adventure in order of importance. Having access to all of the needed information in one tidy little place takes much of the struggle out of effectively planning.
So how are DMOs creating an online one-stop-shop as useful as that quaint roadside experience? Here’s a look at just a few great DMO examples in social media.
First, the ‘official people for tourism in the UK’ according to their Twitter bio: @VisitBritain. By playing around on one website (http://www.visitbritain.com), I was able to plan an entire trip, create an itinerary on my trusty notepad, and decide on everything from accommodations to how I best want to get around when I visit.
But what makes a DMO stand out is when they integrate social media. While there was a side bar with Facebook activity and a peek at Flickr photos uploaded by tourists from everywhere, social integration would have made my experience richer with reviews and recommendations from real visitors.
Despite my poking and playing, it wasn’t until I peeked through their Twitter feed that I found the VisitBritain Super Blog!
I found the Twitter feed of The Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions to be more a mix of questions to their audience and conversations that were easy to jump in on.
@visitholland Haven't been to Naarden but my wife & I plan to visit Deventer in early summer as part of our annual trip to Holland.— BarryPiatoff (@BarryPiatoff) May 29, 2012
And I loved learning about this fun 2011 campaign. Most impressive was how VisitHolland demonstrated the ROI in this video explaining their campaign. Skeptics take note!
Another great decision by VisitHolland, was their choice to ask visitors to their website to take a brief survey asking basic questions such as what brought you to their site, to how likely would you be to subscribe to a newsletter, and even asked if you liked the colors chosen on the website. Visitor feedback is just as important to a website as it is the physical location, and I like what Holland has done here.
The Jordan Tourism Board directs you to their Facebook page from their Twitter bio. I always find linking from one social profile to another to be an interesting way to encourage people to connect with you. What I found even more interesting, however, was that from their Facebook page, it took a few clicks to get to an actual hyperlink that would take me to the official website.
Because I am visual and enjoy seeing the world through social media versus simply hearing about it, I clicked through Jordan's many Facebook albums and was most excited by 99 Things To Do In Amman. I even shared a picture to my own Facebook page.
The final thing I appreciate about Jordan's social plan, was that they name and identify the hashtag they prefer you use when chatting about or with them in their Twitter bio. While it's a great idea, a quick look at #Jordan might point out how difficult of a hashtag this will be to monitor and how irrelevant many of the tweets using it may be.
The Arizona Office Of Tourism website made me happy when I saw their social buttons in the upper left hand corner. Why would that matter? Well, without having to dig I got a quick feel for their desire, if nothing else, to be a social DMO. Trying and doing is better than ignoring, and Arizona is doing a fine job at being present in the social space.
Identifying their hours of standard operation on their Twitter bio leads me to believe that they have set hours to respond to inquiries and mentions. A breeze through their feed confirms my suspicions, and I'm tickled to take notice of a healthy combination of engagement, sharing, and promotions.
Like many DMOs, Arizona incorporates contests and feeds of their Facebook page.
So what can we learn?
Destination marketing organizations like the four listed above are doing well to incorporate social media in the mix to prove they are bucket-list-worthy. Here are a few take-aways to ensure your DMO has social strategy working well for you:
- Make your social media channels easily visible and accessible from your main website. (why were there no Pinterest links, for example?)
- Ensure links back to your primary webpage or channels are fast and easy to get to.
- If you're going to write a blog, create a vlog, or share streams of photos, be proud of them and highlight your visuals so visitors can quickly get to them.
- Open ended questions, interesting promotions, and unique visuals can generate conversation. Give people something to talk about.
- Ask your visitors what they most want to see — online and offline.
- Be available. Let people know where to reach you, when, and for what reasons they should use social channels versus traditional means of contact.
- Hashtags should be easily trackable and as unique to your branding as you can get without being too complicated.
What else can we learn from DMOs in social media? What do you have to tell your favorite DMO that they're doing well? Or need a hand with? Share with us in the comments below.
[Photo of tulips by Kıvanç Niş]