Late last year, we began working with the Rwanda Development Board to help promote one of Africa's hottest destinations to potential travelers in the East African Community (EAC) - Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi. The timing couldn't have been better: Rwanda appeared in some of the world's top travel publications as a must see destination in 2014, including National Geographic Traveler, Conde Nast Traveller, and Rough Guide.
Rwanda's most well-known attraction is their mountain gorillas. These iconic creatures gained world renowned in the Dian Fossey biopic Gorillas in the Mist and are front and center of just about every piece of Rwanda marketing collateral that's out there. But the country has so much more to offer, and our job as destination marketers is to help the Rwanda Development Board get the word out.
Our first social media campaign alongside the Rwanda team was aptly named "Discover Rwanda". It ran for three weeks in late December and featured a Facebook app that revealed one new amazing Rwanda travel experience a day as a countdown to the New Year - fifteen adventures in the "Land of 1000 Hills" and fifteen chances to win a free, all-inclusive trip to Rwanda. Prizes were sponsored by our partners at FCm Travel Solutions, Serena Hotels, and the Ruzizi Tented Camp located in Akagera National Park.
We also selectively used Facebook targeted advertising and boosted posts to increase the visibility of the contest and drive additional traffic directly to the fan-gated Facebook app.
How'd We Do?
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Why Facebook Campaigns?
Very few small and medium-sized destinations are working with monstrous marketing budgets these days. A Facebook campaign is a cost-efficient way to build and talk to a highly targeted audience. While our campaign was open to view for anyone, our proactive advertising was aimed just to users in the EAC countries that have already demonstrated through their posts and profile that they're interested in travel. We like to call these folks our "brand advocates" and we want to speak to them because they're the ones that want to hear what we have to say. We're also able to see - in real time - if they like what they're hearing.
Traditional media campaigns are a lot more expensive and a lot less reliable. An advertisement in a magazine or a television spot is a one-off attempt to reach a broad audience. There is no follow-up and no way to reliably track its effectiveness.
With our Facebook campaign, we can provide a clear incentive-based call-to-action ("Enter to Win a Trip") followed by an informational hook ("Click here to learn more") in multiple ways, multiple times. We can test and tweak the messaging throughout the campaign to better resonate with our target audiences. Once we've established a relationship with them, we can continue to place our messaging in their social stream. Each post couples more inspiration with more education - stunning photos and coloful stories alongside trip planning guides or tour opreator directories featuring seasonal deals. This composite effort is destination marketing with a clear purpose: SALES.
Over the course of the next year, we'll keep trying to grow the Rwanda Tourism online community with brand advocates all while engaging, re-engaging, and re-re-engaging these fans of Rwanda - getting to know them better and giving them the kind of inspiration that they need to make Rwanda their next travel decision.
Destination marketing is a marathon. You spend months putting together an extensive marketing plan. Stakeholders are engaged, brands are developed, ads are prepared, content is finalized, etc. - and that’s before the real work of implementing the marketing plan even begins.
As a destination marketer, it’s pretty easy to get so wrapped up in the big, shiny strategy that you forget to pay attention to the here and now. It’s an easy mistake to make, but it’s a big one! While you’re busy making plans for next year, you’re missing the conversation that’s happening right now. What are people currently saying about your destination? How are you using that in your marketing?
Destination marketers need to be prepared for anything at any time. Whether it’s taking advantage of a TV show reference or counteracting some negative press with self-deprecating humor, it’s important to engage before it’s too late. It’s destination marketing at a sprint, and it may just end up being your easiest, but most rewarding campaign.
Here are a few innovative campaigns that have done just that. By deftly playing the cards they were dealt (some good, others bad), these destinations took advantage of quips, perceptions and pop culture references and turned them into marketing gold.
In August, during an episode of the popular TV show Breaking Bad, a reference was made to doing away with a character by “sending him to Belize.” It wasn’t the most flattering reference for the country, but that didn’t stop the Belize Tourism Board from using the line in a creative way. They immediately released a letter to the entire cast poking fun at the mention & inviting them for a relaxing visit after the season was over.
The timely and lighthearted response drew further attention to the destination. It was a smart way to quickly turn the conversation from a negative to a positive. The phrase “send him to Belize” continues to be used.
Americans love football. When quarterback Peyton Manning began yelling “Omaha” at the line of scrimmage earlier this year, everyone wanted to know “What’s up with Omaha?” That remains a mystery, but the city of Omaha is no longer a mystery.
Instead of letting the conversation revolve only around football, Visit Omaha quickly reminded everyone that Omaha is an actual destination with a fantastic tweet that went viral.
It’s a small destination, but for a few weeks, everyone was talking about Omaha.
Now this is being dealt a bad hand. Years ago, Sioux City, Iowa’s small regional airport was given the 3-letter airport code, SUX. After years of trying to change the sad moniker, the city finally decided to just embrace it. “FLY SUX” became an official motto and even the website was renamed www.flysux.com. T-shirts were printed, coffee mugs were sold, and a billboard went up on I-29 advertising the airport and the town.
As the airport commissioner put it, “It’s better to be memorable than to have three initials no one can really recall.” By embracing the quirky code, Sioux City has certainly become memorable.
The Northern Ireland Tourist Board knows a good thing when they see it. In this case, it’s the TV series Game of Thrones, which has a huge cult following. The series is filmed in Ireland, and has become a central part of Ireland’s 2014 tourism campaign. There are already tour packages and driving tours established around the show’s various filming sites. We can’t wait to see what they will come up with next - we’re hoping a branded ad will follow!
Since 2009, Visit Philly has been writing “letters” to all kinds of people, places & things. Signed, “With Love, Philadelphia XOXO” the entire campaign has been one of our favorites in recent memory. There have been several perfectly timed letters, but just one example is this snarky ad poking fun at the reality TV show “Jersey Shore.” It’s a great example of an adaptable campaign that can immediately respond to anything happening in pop culture.
And don’t think this only works for television references. Music can also be a great jumping off point for marketing material. You have probably heard the song Oklahoma from the musical of the same name. If you’re really lucky, you may have starred in this musical in high school. Either way, it’s probably the most recognizable thing associated with the state. This ad, which was released in 2013 and has over 2 million views on YouTube, took an old, familiar song and made it new again.
Today, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder announced plans to create the Original Americans Foundation in response to the controversy over the NFL team name. According to a letter written by Snyder to Redskins fans on Monday “The mission of the Original Americans Foundation is to provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities for tribal communities”.
As a life-long Redskins fan I am torn on this name issue. On one hand, as someone that lives and breathes burgundy and gold, the idea of changing the name of my beloved team is unthinkable. But on the other hand, I am very sensitive to the idea that this name is derogatory to our Native Americans. Normally, I would say that I would love the chance to be the owner of my favorite team, but this name controversy is something that I would hate to deal with or make a decision on.
I applaud Mr. Snyder’s move to create this Original Americans Foundation and invest in improving the well being of our Native Americans, but judging from the negative news stories that have covered the announcement, the foundation needs to do more then just distribute coats. This is why I strongly believe that Dan Snyder should use the Original Americans Foundation to create a genuine sense of pride and real economic benefits by helping tribes develop and promote cultural and heritage tourism on Native American land.
Using cultural and heritage tourism to support economic development is not a new idea for Native Americans. Several organizations that Solimar works with including AIANTA, BIA, National Geographic Society, and George Washington University have been helping support the development of cultural and heritage tourism in Indian Country for decades.
"Indian country is a unique part of the American experience. In today’s America, more than 56 million acres in the lower 48 states and more than 40 million acres in Alaska are considered “Indian country.” Native people also have ties to lands not currently under their management responsibility but which have been significant sacred places and landscapes since time immemorial. Notwithstanding their unique place in America, many tribal communities are looking to cultural and heritage tourism as an important component of economic development within their communities." - NATHPO's Tribal Tourism Toolkit
Solimar works with indigenous communities around the world and here in the US to develop and promote sustainable tourism. We know first hand the power of tourism designed, developed, and managed by tribes themselves - unique, authentic, cultural, and nature-based tourism that create a sense of pride while providing real economic benefits. We know our Native Americans are capable and would like to provide these types of visitor experiences but unfortunately with a few exceptions, most tribes need a lot of help and support to develop this type of tourism.
This is the type of development support the Original Americans Foundation should be providing. Not just because this type of financial support and technical expertise is needed, but more importantly because of the marketing reach the Redskins could provide to support these Native American cultural heritage tourism experiences.
As a season ticket holder I would love for commercial breaks to feature breathtaking scenery and Native Americans inviting fans to come experience their land and discover their cultural heritage like this video produced by Montana's office of tourism.
One of the biggest challenges for cultural heritage tourism is the lack of marketing and promotional budgets that help connect these experiences to the market. If the Redskins organization would open up their media empire to help showcase and celebrate our Native American communities, not only would we help create demand for these experiences, but each Redskin game would celebrate and showcase the cultural heritage of our Native Americans.
This seems like a much more logical investment strategy to support the mission of this new Original American Foundation, but judging from the lack of investments in the free agency market to shore up our secondary, I guess we can’t always expect wise investments from this team.
Regardless of what happens with the foundation, the name change, or the Redskins’ secondary, I will be there on opening day dressed in burgundy and gold routing for my team with the same passion as always. That’s what Redskins fans do – we hope, we believe, and we pray - at least for the first half of the season. #HTTR
Instagram is nothing new - it’s long been one of our favorite social media platforms - but it still lags behind other tourism marketing tools. Don’t neglect this simple app that offers huge potential. Photos are a big part of travel marketing, and this humble app specializes in nothing else so there is no reason it shouldn’t be part of your tourism marketing plan.
But where should you get started? Luckily, Instagram is a very straightforward platform. Here are a few tourism players who are doing great things on Instagram, and some quick lessons we can learn from their success.
Highlight User-Generated Content
Why does Australia always make our lists of the best of the best? Because they are terrific tourism marketers. But don’t be fooled - you don’t have to have a huge budget like Australia to see results. In fact, Australia’s Instagram success does not come from employing hoards of photographers. Instead, Australia came up with an innovative way to crowd source their photos. Their entire social media strategy is aimed at enabling fans to build upon their platforms, like Instagram. They essentially turned their fans into marketers. Now, they receive 900 photo submissions each day and choose the best 4-5 photos to share with their 600,000+ Instagram followers.
Pay Attention to Hashtags
If you feel a little overwhelmed, step back and focus on doing one thing really well. Instagram has a variety of common hashtags that encourage sharing among users. The most popular one, by far, is #tbt or #throwbackthursday where users post older photos on Thursday. Within the tourism world, nobody does #tbt better than Delta. In fact, most of their Instagram content is throwback photos from the earlier days of the airline. Your photos don’t have to be new and shiny. It can be a great marketing tool to reflect on the nostalgia of a different time – especially since so many people have vivid travel memories. It also inadvertently emphasizes the long tradition of your brand and highlights innovation over time.
Throwback Thursday isn’t the only hashtag around either. Read here for a list of other great daily hashtags, and don’t forget to pay attention to current trends. Specific hashtags pop up all the time to celebrate events, holidays, and other happenings.
Don't Neglect Other Aspects of Your Brand
Yes, gorgeous travel photos are an easy sell on Instagram, but don’t neglect to highlight other aspects of your brand. Everything can’t be photos of sunsets or beaches! And those won’t necessarily help your brand or destination stand out in the crowd. Virgin America has found creative ways to highlight other aspects of the traveler experience. Their Instagram feed is full of passengers and cabin crew doing everything but taking themselves too seriously. Their photos help display the mood of the airline by emphasizing people and candid moments over scenery and posed shots. They always look like they are having fun, which is a huge feat for a company that deals in an area of travel most people consider to be a pain.
Virgin also runs some great contests, like this social media one from 2013. They offered 15 minutes of free in-flight wifi for Twitter, Instagram & Vine and encouraged passengers to use these social media platforms & a specific Virgin American hashtag to enter to win airline points. The easier you make it for users to interact with your social media (free wifi!), the more results you’ll see.
Educate Your Audience
Instagram isn’t just about gathering likes and follows. Like all social media platforms, the ultimate goal is to grow your audience and generate more customers. Sharing beautiful images is a great way to showcase your destination and inspire future visitors, but it’s also important to help nudge them down your sales funnel. You want them to go from aspiring traveler to actual traveler.
One way you can help this process is by focusing on educating your audiences with key pieces of information. This will also help set your destination apart. I know this is a huge need in tourism marketing because I had to look outside the travel world for a good example.
NASA’s Goddard Space Center does an outstanding job of marrying their breathtaking images with equally intriguing information. Each photo helps inform the viewer with interesting facts, tidbits and stories. You can do the same thing with your travel-minded audience. Rather than share a photo of a lake with only its name and location, mention a unique fact about it. Maybe it’s great for fishing or swimming. Maybe it hosts an annual festival. Maybe it’s a hidden gem that most visitors would be surprised to learn is easily accessed from a nearby hub city.
You should still try to be concise, but by adding one extra sentence, you can help move your traveler from the dreaming to planning stage of travel.