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SoLoMo top tips
By Pamela Whitby
The growing trend to be social, local and mobile, (SoLoMo) has rapidly changed - and continues to change - how travel organisations do business. Australian destination marketer, Tourism Victoria, is one of these. According to Michael Hauser, the organisation's digital marketing manager, SoLoMo has certainly altered the way they manage technology and content for the visitor. "Our metrics show rapid increases in the use of mobile at the destination, peaking at weekends and during holiday periods," he says. In fact over the Christmas period this year, over 60% of online visits to Tourism Victoria came via mobile, double last year's average.
Tourism Victoria was an early mover with mobile. Nearly ten years ago, it identified this as a key channel for tourism by developing pilot WAP sites. By 2007 it had developed an app and more recently it launched a mobile site for visitmelbourne.com. Social media has also been a strong focus and engagement continues to grow as visitors increase their use of social as a planning tool, and also to share experiences at the destination. "Our Remote Control Tourist campaign last October," says Hauser, "took cutting-edge locational and live webcam technology to provide an integrated social experience to control a live tourist in Melbourne via the web and social media".
With new technologies coming on line all the time, Hauser sees wearable technologies, local search and local offers, local bookings and conversions (particularly for attractions/events), increased local social media conversations, push notifications across local/mobile channels and the growth in free Wifi access (still a key barrier in regional areas of Australia) as very real opportunities in the coming year.
Digital delivers but it must be integrated
According to Mike Supple, Director of Social Media at Milestone Internet Marketing, Tourism Victoria is not alone in the drive to harness the power of digital. With his particular focus on social, Supple has this to say: "We are seeing a heightened interest in social media, with many customers allocating more funds for social media in 2014 than previous years. To ignore this would be a mistake."
Importantly though, the agency has also seen an increase in awareness and adoption of social media as part of a complete digital marketing strategy. Another interesting trend, he says, is increasingly educated consumers who have a real thirst for knowledge - and here social plays and important role.
So the argument that social media is more for brand awareness than bottom line benefits simply does not hold water. "Awareness is good, but there absolutely is measurable ROI [from social] for all businesses," he says. "But to measure it successfully, you have to start by defining your business goals that are tied to revenue."
Ensuring that any social marketing campaign is fully ‘integrated' across the business is one way to do this. For Supple, this means ensuring it is part of a larger content strategy that works across all departments. "Removing the silos between departments improves the impact of all efforts," he says. According to Supple, it's important to empower a person, or team, to be in charge of communicating the content strategy company wide. This means that every newsletter, whitepaper, blog post, product release, interview, conference and so on can be leveraged across multiple departments.
Standing out to drive revenues
Doing your research on customer target markets, as well as digital channels, is absolutely essential. According to Hauser, it is "essential to plan a digital experience that stands out from the competition, is relevant and meets the key objectives of the organisation".
For Tourism Victoria, research has, for example, shown a significant increase in the use of the mobile web as a key digital tool at destination. "Visitors at the destination are twice as likely to use mobile than other visitors to our site," says Hauser.
To stand out then, this DMO uses mobile to build awareness, inspire, educate and build conversation and engagement. "Apart from certain campaigns, we don't directly drive transactions via social but direct consumers to third parties and impact indirect conversion through targeted conversations," he explains.
What Supple is quick to point out, is that increased comments or engagement on social do not directly translate to revenue. However, if you have clearly defined conversion points (like a booking engine on a hotel website) then using social media campaigns, to drive qualified traffic back to your conversion point does impact revenue. "Once you have your business goals defined, use analytics programmes [like Google Analytics] to measure referrals from your different social campaigns to your website, and what path users then go through before ultimately making a purchase or other conversion," he says.
Supple argues that Google Analytics is getting much better at helping to identify assisted conversions by looking at an individual user's interactions with a brand over several weeks, and tracing the different touch points with the brand. "Analysing these assisted conversion paths gives great insight into user behavior, and how you can tailor your email, paid, organic and social marketing strategies to effectively connect with consumers in the places where purchase decisions are most likely to be made," he says.
Two relevant case studies
According to Supple, at an agency level, having visibility into multiple avenues of digital marketing - organic, local, PPC and social - enables complete cross-channel marketing.
Case 1: For a client in Boston, Milestone monitored comments left by users checking-in to a property on Foursquare, and noticed that the convenient location near the water taxi was raised frequently. Seeing that this was important to paying guests, it added some new content to the website regarding the water taxi and other public transit options.
The result: It was a simple step but led to an increase in organic traffic to the site.
Case 2: Another client in Los Angeles, which caters largely to the weekly business traveller, needed to drive business on the weekend. Milestone created a weekend travel package on their website, and then launched a sweepstakes on Facebook that highlighted all the features and amenities available to the leisure traveller, giving away a weekend spa package to one winner. The contest ran for four weeks, using only $400 for paid ads on Facebook to increase visibility.
The result: This promotion not only resulted in a 388% increase in lifetime Facebook fans, but also drove the first revenue directly attributable to social media for this hotel - and it was revenue for times that they would otherwise have had empty rooms.
Top tips to take away
Mike Supple, Director of Social Media at Milestone Internet Marketing, an EyeforTravel sponsor, and Michael Hauser, Digital Marketing Manager, Tourism Victoria will be speaking in San Francisco at Social Media & Mobile Strategies for Travel, 2014 (March 17-18)
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