We can learn a lot of Social Media lessons from Tourism.
And it’s not just the big operators – small operators are getting it right too.
In this post I share 6 Powerful Social Media Lessons from Tourism that work… lessons that you can implement in your business to boost your brand!
I’ve been lucky in the past 3 years to work alongside many wonderful tourism brands, destination organisations and operators ranging from small brick-and-mortar businesses to large tourism organisations.
Let’s just say I have had a lot of social media lessons from tourism.
There’s no doubt that tourism and travel can generate great content – I mean it’s an awesome topic (who doesn’t like travel!).
But it’s not always the big budget operators that use social media and marketing in innovative ways. In fact you will be surprised at how super simple some of these strategies really are!
In this post, I want to share just a few examples of tourism brands and operators (big and small) using marketing strategies that work – ideas, that you can adapt and modify for your own organisation.
6 Powerful Social Media Lessons from Tourism that will Boost Your Brand
1 Be the Source for your Industry
One of the biggest misconceptions I see both in the tourism industry and with everyday businesses is that they perceive they are not “big enough” or “important enough’ to become the go-to-source of content for an industry.
It holds many operators and businesses back from creating content.
But it’s simply not true. Let me introduce you to Sean Blocksidge from the Margaret River Discovery Company. Sean’s business became the #1 Tour on Trip Advisor for a number of years running.
He became a “source” for tourism in the Margaret River.
Yes, that’s right. He became a source of information, not just for tours, but for the entire Margaret River region in general. How? Consistent content. Not the only source of course but a well known source of content.
Sean posts consistent, beautiful images of the Margaret River every day on Instagram. He showcases his region, not just his product or tour.
When I think of the Margaret River I don’t think of the Margaret River Tourism Board or even some of the wineries (which I love). I think of Sean.
Because it’s Sean that has been providing me (and thousands of other fans) with daily consistent content about the Margaret River.
So much so that when I was delivering a keynote in Western Australian earlier this year I made it a priority to drive down to the Margaret River and do Sean’s tour.
And it was amazing (how can kayaking and coastal walks and a private lunch at one of the top vineyards in Australia not be amazing, right?).
One more thing about Sean. He doesn’t JUST post images on Instagram or Facebook. He’s savvy when it comes to blogging too.
He features posts about local events and the Margaret River – and he posts them as soon as he knows the dates.
Often his blog posts show up high on Google – up there with the local tourism authority or the event organisers themselves. Here is an example of one of his posts about the local Surf Pro:
The result? Because he is using content marketing to rank highly on Google, people discover Sean not for his tour company but as a source of content about the Margaret River… and then they often come on his tour!
1 Post content about your industry not just about your product or service.
2 Post about events that your ideal customer would be interested in – be the source of content for your audience.
3 Post consistently – even one image or post per day can catch attention. Then grow it from there. Sean started on Instagram and now posts to Facebook but he focuses on those two platforms as he is a small business.
#2 Treat your Community like Family
I’ve been to Fiji a number of times now and each time it gets better and better. We have stayed in a range of locations and resorts and even spent a week staying in a village while helping to provide health care to the residents.
But the last two visits I have spent in the same place and it’s likely that I will return to that very same place because our experience in this particular resort is so wonderful.
The place is Malolo Island Resort. I’m not sure I should even mention it because I want to keep it all to myself!
Now you are probably expecting me to talk about the beautiful bures, the goregeous beach, stellar food and talented chefs, outdoor spa, coral reefs, fun activities and amazing location. Trust me, I could talk all day about the fabulousness.
But beyond all of those things (which are ALL great, trust me) it’s this…
This is what made us return to Malolo. Watching my kids jump off the boat on arrival and sprint (so fast we lost sight of them), down the Jetty and into the arms of staff at the resort.
You see my kids know the staff by name. And the staff knew my kids by name. I’ve stayed at a lot of hotels and resorts around the world and I have never experienced attention to guests like that.
And here’s what sets Malolo apart from other resorts. It lies with just one word.
The don’t have guests. They don’t have customers. They have “family”. If you stay at Malolo… you become “family”. From the moment you step ashore the island the staff get to know you.
Which is why my kids talked about the people at the resort as much as they talked about the features of the resort and the fun they had on our previous visit. Meet one of their favourites, Fiji Mere.
Side note: My daughter just leaned over my shoulder to look at this post and said “oh Fiji Mere, I miss her”.
Like I said, I have seen some brilliantly creative promotions and marketing in the tourism industry but that one word “family” and Malolo resort, is perhaps the most memorable of them all.
So how can you take this example and apply it to your own business?
1 Try not to think of your fans as numbers – get away from focusing on them being followers or subscribers and think of them as people you want to get to know.
2 Use names. And get the spelling right. In real life or online, using someone’s name helps to create a connection. Traffic, shares, sales… all comes when you have a connection.
3 Show the people behind your business. At Malolo there are dozens of reasons why the resort is special. But getting to know the people trumps them all. It doesn’t matter that you are not a resort. It doesn’t matter if you are online rather than a brick and mortar business with real people. Think about how you can share you and your team and help us to get to know you online – use video, live video, show behind the scenes with images. People connect with people, so find a way to share the people behind your products and services.
Oh and if you want to check out Malolo and all the restaurant, bure, watersport, kidsclub, food and beaches awesomeness.. check out their website. And if you visit, tell them I sent you!
#3 Work as a Team with other Businesses
Working with other businesses in your industry (even your competitors) can be beneficial to both.
Here’s an example of how Brisbane Kids (a website that showcases activities for kids and families in Brisbane Australia) collaborated with the Queensland Museum to share a great printable for the Lost Creatures Exhibit.
Brisbane Kids wrote about the event, offering a printable download for parents to print and take with them to the exhibition.
Working with the Museum gives Brisbane Kids greater exposure and gives the museum more eyeballs on their exhibit.
Queensland Museum may be a major attraction, but Brisbane Kids get two benefits from this promotion – they develop a relationship with Queensland Museum and they establish themselves as a quality source about events for parents in Queensland…. which drives a lot of traffic to their website. And of course Queensland Museum also get to benefit from a strong relationship with a major blog catering for families in their local region.
1 Think about who you can team up with – don’t rule out your competitors or others in your industry. By teaming up with others who service a similar audience you can get greater reach and exposure.
2 Reach out to other Instagram users to combine hashtags – encourage your virtual communities to use both hashtags. I’ve seen this work for photo challenges that have crossover audiences. For example the Ginger Factory and Buderim Ginger both use the hashtag #GoGinger on Instagram. I’ve seen fashion bloggers combine challenges. Think about how you can team up.
#4 Sell the Experience, not the Product
This one is a little like #1 but it’s all about the focus of your brand, and if you do this (sell the experience, not the product) you are more likely to become the source for your industry.
Be like Apple and focus on the benefit to the user and the experience rather than on your product or service. I like to see this go a little further and focus not just on the benefit but to focus on an experience.
In 2015 I ended up on a Hawaiian Island (Kauai) all because I discovered an example of this.
This and the other infographics (yes there were more…. one for each island) helped to eventually shape a family holiday that we had to Hawaii.
Because it wasn’t just about the infographics! When you clicked through on the site there were pages more of advice about how to get the best out of your holiday on Kauai.
There was little mention at all about accommodation (other than a small enquiry form). The focus was on planning your holiday…
But because we got so much help from the Outrigger website, when we decided to book. It was a no brainer for us to stay at the Outrigger on the island.
And the focus on “experience” continued at the resort as well, with great advice about how to spend our holiday.
Since I discovered the Outrigger Infographics the company has overhauled their website and replaced it with a great blog dedicated to the experience of Hawaii. Check it out here.
1 Even if you are not in “tourism” you can focus on the experience and not just the product. Create content around the benefits of your product or service instead of the actual product or service. What will their life be like? How can they do something easier? Can you give tips around the same topic?
2 Be helpful. The Outrigger Resort didn’t focus on their hotels. They focused on helping their readers have a great holiday. Selling their accommodation becomes a lot easier when they don’t have to sell it at all. The content does the marketing for them.
3 Send people to more content, not to a sales page. When I clicked through on the infographic I ended up on a web page with more content about having a great holiday on Kauai. If you give people value in terms of great content they are more likely to have a connection with your brand. When I was ready to travel I clicked straight back to that page and found the accommodation booking form. Mission accomplished!
#5 Location Location Location
I’ve always been a big fan of location based marketing for brick and mortar businesses. Tools like Facebook Offers can still be beneficial. Bonuses based on your customers “checking in” can also get great results for a location based business.
But there’s a new kid on the block when it comes to location based marketing and that’s Snapchat. Snapchat may have a primary demographic of 18-34 year olds but it is reaching more and more people, businesses and demographics every day.
And one of the coolest features is Geofilters. I want to show you an example of a brick and mortar business using geofilters effectively.
Snapchat allows you to submit a filter that is location based that snappers (Snapchat Users) can use when they are in your area. You can use it to showcase an event, a product promotion or your business location. Here is an article about a few travel companies and hotels that are using it creatively.
And remember Tip #1? He also showcases the Rose Bay area of Sydney every day with live broadcasts – he is definitely becoming the source for the area and a destination for travellers in the area.
Recently Johnny created a Geofilter for his customers. Here it is:
How does it work? Snapchat users in the area around Perfection Chocolates are encouraged to take a snap using the Geofilter . If they show their snap in store, they get a free chocolate!
If they get really creative Johnny has some other surprises for them too!
Chocolate Johnny is not only reaching his target demographic – but he is getting free publicity when they snap with the geofilter!
Be sure to check out his social media profiles to see how he uses social media on those platforms to showcase his chocolate products from his factory and store. He also shares (with permission) his customers, his staff and the local area of Rose Bay in Sydney.
Now I know that some of you might be scratching your head thinking “oh man, not another platform” and yes Snapchat might not be for you, but give it a chance and check it out if you can. Here are a couple of tips for you:
1 If you are a location based business, consider using Snapchat filters to promote your product, service or a special deal or offer just like Chocolate Johnny did. You can find out how to do it in this post.
2 If you are not ready to be on Snapchat or don’t have time, then consider this – you don’t need to BE on Snapchat to use Geofilters. Once you have it set up you can let your audience know through other channels about the promotion and they will find it and start snapping. Though of course, it’s better if you are on the platform for engagement.
3 If you are a personal brand or virtual business (with no fixed location) you can still join in the fun. If you go to an event you can still set up a geofilter for your tribe or for a meetup or just for taking selfies with attendees. Get creative!
4 Find a great post or tutorial like this one to see how Snapchat works – it’s different to other platforms and is not as easy to pick up initially but once you know a few tricks it gets easier! Most new users end up loving it and how creative they can be on this platform.
#6 Involve your fans
Fans love to be involved – they love to be part of your story and they really love to give their two cents, have their say or contribute to the discussion.
Pure Michigan is a great example of a Facebook Page that does just that – they involve their fans.
There’s a reason why Pure Michigan has over 1 million fans on Facebook. They engage their fans in a unique way – they ask them to post and comment a LOT and they encourage them to post images.
When Pure Michigan asks fans to respond they do just that… with photos. Let me give you a visual on this. Pure Michigan asks fans what their favourite lighthouse is.. they respond with dozens of pictures of lighthouses:
… and there’s more…
In fact, the social media team at Pure Michigan have trained their fans to post images so much that even when they don’t ask them to.. they still post images in the comments. The comments below this post were filled with images of waterfalls!
And it’s the same story for beaches, waves, bridges… the fans LOVE to share their own content with the Pure Michigan page.
What does this mean for you? Well there’s a few things you can take from this:
1 Involve your fans – they love to answer questions and give their opinion. Ask them to participate and they will!
2 Ask your fans to help you make a decision – should we do this or that?
3 Respond to their contributions. If you post on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and ask your fans to respond, makes sure you answer back! Engagement doesn’t come from thin air – you have to invest time and effort into it.
But… like Pure Michigan, when you do put in the effort, engagement becomes habitual for your fans. And they might even post a lighthouse photo or two (so to speak!).
I hope you have found some great tips from these examples.
Tell me, what “tip from tourism” has resonated with you. How could you use it in your own business?
Or maybe you have been inspired something not listed in this article. Share it below!
All tours and accommodation mentioned in this post were paid for at my own expense with the exception of a night as a guest at Malolo (but we love the place so much we stayed on for an extra week and it still wasn't long enough!).
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