DMO bosses reveal their social media tactics in attracting visitors

DMO bosses reveal their social media tactics in attracting visitors

With the summer season approaching, this should be a cracking year for British holidays. Forecasts say the weakened pound and fragile economic confidence is likely to see more Britons taking a break at home this summer.

In order to test the waters, we asked the bosses of four high profile Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) to find out how they are currently using social media to put their messages across to potential visitors.

The results are fascinating and include:

  • Pinterest out, Facebook in.
  • Real-time dialogue with visitors ‘under consideration’ in Cornwall
  • High proportions of marketing spend now on social and digital
  • Better understanding of Return on Investment (ROI)

Our DMO Market Leaders:

DA                   David Andrews, Chief Executive, Visit Wiltshire

ET                   Emma Thornton, Chief Executive, Visit Cambridge

MB                  Malcolm Bell, Chief Executive, Visit Cornwall

DT                   David Thornton, Chief Executive, Visit Isle of Wight


Are you still using all the social media platforms? Or have you ditched any?

MB:  We are now concentrating more on Facebook and Instagram. Whilst maintaining Twitter, we are finding it less important. Live events (Facebook Live) are very powerful but need planning and have to be real and authentic. YouTube is very powerful: our 2016 spring gardens film has had 750k views:

DT: We’re not using Pinterest, but we’re still working on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Flickr.

DA: We stopped using Pinterest: engagement was poor and we felt it better to focus on other social channels, including Instagram.

ET: We don’t put much time into Pinterest – we do a mass upload once every six months. Concentrate on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Which platforms are you finding the most productive, either in return on investment (ROI) or in engagement?

DA: In terms of engagement, Facebook – although we are finding like many DMOs that levels of organic reach are dropping as FB encourages paid promotion. We do use FB advertising as part of campaigns, which is effective for driving traffic to our site. Instagram works well for engagement, particularly as we run instameets with IgersWiltshire (We have built up a good, loyal fan base as a result. It’s not a great channel for referral traffic to our site – however, it works really well for showing visitors that they should come to Wiltshire now and gives more of an immediacy of visit.

DT: Facebook is often the top referrer to our website. YouTube is also good. Twitter’s not great for click throughs, but good for sharing information quickly.

ET, MB: Facebook


Have you created any social media campaigns or projects that have been successfully evaluated to show ROI?

ET: Yes, a recent Park & Ride Easter Trail in partnership with Stagecoach and our local Business Improvement District: the aim was to increase P&R usage and to drive footfall to the Visitor Information Centre (where we also sell commercial tickets: it’s one of our priorities to raise awareness of where it is and what we can offer the public). It achieved both.

DA: We use Office of National Statistics/Visit Britain methodology in evaluating impact our activity has on driving visits and spend. The influence in these terms is down to the influence all our touch points had, not just initial Facebook interaction. For example, when we did some quantitative evaluation on our Twitter activity a couple of years ago, 18% of followers told us they’d use our stream to book accommodation (but that’s not Twitter in isolation, in many cases they were driven to our website from an initial lead).

MB: We introduced a new, refined ROI monitoring tool to identify engagement and action this month.

DT: Not really, as we don’t do ‘social media projects’ as such, we do campaigns which are a mixture of above the line, below, digital and so on. We convert actual visitors into ROI for all our activities over the year – which averages out at somewhere between 10:1 – 18:1.


What proportion of your marketing is now spent on digital?

MB: 95%.

DT: About half, including content made for digital use.

DA: 60% of marketing budget spent on digital/social.

ET: We are a DMO almost entirely reliant on earned income: our available marketing budget is extremely small. We therefore use social media more than any other advertising platform as it is the most cost effective for us.


Any digital/social campaigns/projects in the offing for this summer?

MB: We have launched an 18-week campaign on digital (#CST – Cornish Summer Time) celebrating outdoor living and all the great things we do in Cornwall in the long days and regardless of the weather.

DA: We are running a new ‘digital hub’ which will encourage more people to use our #timeforwiltshire hashtag, promoted via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Plus a new digital campaign to promote attractions ticket sales.  Our use of video, particularly drone footage, has resulted in fantastic engagement so we’re planning more video too, including 360 degree.

ET: Yes. A series of Special Interest Guided Tours: we will boost the Facebook post in the week leading up to the tour (£25 per boost) for six tours.

DT:  All of them have digital elements, some more than others. We did cut back on making apps this year, because our own website is now responsive and works very well on tablets and phones.


Do you have plans for real-time dialogue with visitors whilst in your area through WhatsApp or messaging channels?

MB: Under consideration.

DA: We’re keeping a watching brief on how it might work for a destination with our Wiltshire Online Marketing Group.  Resource requirements are one thing but additionality is really key and there’s little impact evaluation of this yet.

ET: None currently – we have considered Facebook Live but are yet to look into it with any detail.

DT: Not currently, as reception remains patchy across the Island, and pressure of funding makes this kind of service unlikely to be on our short list, with so many other things still to fund first!


Overall, what is the status of your digital and social marketing?

DT: A few years ago, we thought about the above-the-line campaign executions and calls to action first. Now we start by thinking about how messages and campaigns will work digitally, then develop an above the line extension if we feel we need it.

MB: We now have a totally integrated marketing and communications planning and execution that brings PR, print and all digital together working with industry partners to source curate and publish content.

ET: Helps with brand awareness and an increase in new audience engagement for those who do not know us as a DMO.

DA: Social has become a key part of our marketing mix and plays a critical role in creating and distributing authentic content, engaging and influencing visitors, and driving additionality.

Tagged .

Steve Keenan has been a travel journalist for 25 years. He started at a Reed paper, news editing at Travel News in London - now Travel Weekly - having spent a decade reporting general news in the UK and abroad. He also taught English in Peru, delivered cars in the USA, ran the Sydney desk at AAP and took the train home from Hong Kong. He left Travel News in 1990 to freelance for several publications, including The Times of London, which he later joined as deputy travel editor. In December 2004, he became the first national digital travel editor in the UK, running the combined travel website of The Times and Sunday Times. The introduction of a paywall at the papers in 2010 persuaded him that the connected world might continue outside of Wapping and he left to co-found Travel Perspective. The company runs the social media seminars at World Travel Market London, and works with Reed Expos and others in helping the travel and tourism industry best communicate stories in all forms of publishing.

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