Post Online Caribbean take-aways: Authenticity in the message, Participate in the Dialogue and join the online communities

So I am not blogging from the beach any longer, but still just as excited about last weeks’ Online Revealed Caribbean event in Puerto Rico.  To sum it up (as quickly as is possible for a chick that is not ever short on words!) the effort paid off in bringing the tourism e-marketing event to the Caribbean community.  We met great people, created an amazing network of people and had many laughs. (of course we did!)
 

Special thanks to our partners and supporters POWERi (thanks Marvin for keeping us on track!), Marketwire’s Melinda Van Patter, Missouri Meeting & Events Joe (what a great surprise to have you in Puerto Rico!), Cal Simmons from Five-Star Alliance.  My co-Bloggers Don Dees and of course Gil the jenius (love the hat and the recap of the event on your Blog!), Mandy Gresh from the zoo (Travelzoo), The Idea Market boys from Canada’s West Coast Carson and Steve, Travel Alberta Trevor (the winner of our Calgary Red Paper Clip contest to attend Online Revealed Caribbean!), Ed from RadonicRodgers design+marketing, and of course our co-Chair extraordinaire Edward Perry from WorldHotels, who I am excited to announce will also be the co-chair for the 4th annual Online Revealed Canada Conference to be held this April 13-15th in Niagara Falls!  I know I have missed many…but the event truly was a success because of the community of people that contributed to making it happen.
 

So the major takeaways from all of the speakers, workshops and conversations that ensued over the 2 day event?
1.      Authenticity in your message.  Make sure that your website, email marketing, Blogs, social media pages, listings on destination sites and everything you do to promote your products and services online are authentic and not simply a canned advertising message.
2.      Encourage the Dialogue.  Reviews are not necessarily a bad thing!  Consumers online are looking to be engaged, and they are used to interacting online – with you and with other likeminded individuals.  It is good old fashion word of mouth – don’t be afraid of it.  Monitor, respond and join the conversation.
3.      The importance of Community.  The overall message coming out of the conference is that billions of people are participating or “being” online (great quote Cal!) and not simply going online.  Consumers are actively posting images, updates, testimonials and having conversations online.  Be in tune with your audience and join the conversation. 
 

If anything was ever an example of the power of community – it would be Online Revealed.  Thanks to all who made this first event in the Caribbean such a great success!
 

[tags]internet marketing conference, online marketing, tourism marketing, e-marketing, hospitality industry, Caribbean tourism, blog marketing, social media marketing [/tags]

Blogging on the Beach

Blogging on the Beach

Yes I love my job!  We are just wrapping up a great week in sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico for the first annual Online Revealed Caribbean conference.  I just had to rub it in with a picture of my Caribbean office!  Did I mention I love my job?

Some highlights of the event for those of you who could not make it to Puerto Rico…

A very lively panel of bloggers yesterday (Don Dees and Gil Schmidt and moi)  talked about the need for authenticity in a Blog – or any other communication vehicle on the web including testimonial websites that allow you to “speak” directly with your customers.  The “reviewousphere” is active on the web so don’t ignore it, embrace it and use it as a focus group for listening to what your customers are saying about your brand.
 

Travelzoo’s Mandy Gresh gave us some tips on push marketing tactics such as email blasts – she said “keep it simple, from price to book-ability. (like have the offer actually available for your customers to book!), Price point is important – advertise a good rate with the right kind of packaging and available options above and beyond your special, and your average rate will be higher than the low price point offered.  She also pointed out that urgency is important – add a book by date and encourage an immediate conversion.
 

Cal Simmons of Adcision Luxury media made some great observations about the new online consumer saying simply that “recommendations really do matter” – more than the brand advertising message.  Mark Charlinksi with VFM Interactive, added that the mix of user reviews, the right price point, the right positioning in all distribution channels – and of course beautiful imagery of the hotel or destination is what will close the deal.   
 

Also William Bakker of B.C. Tourism was not physically here with us in person – Richard Kunz of T4G Limited did bring him to us via video feed with the message that consumers are looking for authentic content, the kind of content that only locals can provide to visitors of a destination.  William discussed B.C. Tourism’s 3 pronged approach to reaching and engaging consumer eyeballs which includes a rich website of images and planning tools, a Consumer Blog forum that allows visitors to post their experiences, AND a place for locals from all communities to recommend “local picks” – giving tourists the inside scoop about where to eat and what to see. 
 

The conclusions?  It is not all about the website anymore it seems!  The website is the point of transaction, and the bottom line is that you need to show your customers how to get to it and why they should stay once they get there.   Thanks to all the attendees, speakers and sponsors that have made our first Online Revealed Caribbean show a great success!

[tags]internet marketing, caribbean online marketing conference, tourism marketing, Travelzoo, VFM Interactive, internet marketing, blogging, online revealed[/tags]

Excerpts from PhoCusWright’s “Next generation of Travellers” Survey

I continually get asked about whether or not to shift advertising dollars away from traditional media to marketing online through tactics like search marketing, search engine optimization and social media marketing.  Although I would recommend a large portion of advertising dollars be spent online, I guess the proof is in the pudding.  Marketers are still wondering whether or not their target audience is really shopping online or if what they are seeing online will really affect a purchase decision. 

Specifically with travel, I am sure that most of us, young and old would agree that at the very least we are using search engines to research and compare destinations, hotels, airfares or cruises – if not to purchase travel online.

I don’t usually like to resort to the statistics or surveys because it is really all relative to the type of product you sell and how your target audience buys your product or service.  I will however make reference to the recently released PhoCusWright “Next Generation of Travellers” survey to make the point that a solid web marketing strategy should be in place for any travel related business. 
 

Some Highlights of the PhoCusWright “next generation” survey:

 -2,559 adults surveyed who are active online users and travel (age was not necessarily important to this sample, it was behaviour)
-next generation is educated and affluent (despite the idea that online users are young with little disposable income)
-they  “spend, on average, over 50% more on travel services annually than their less tech-savvy counterparts”
-“ (71%) use the Internet to search for travel information…41% have taken a virtual tour of a destination, and 38% have built a trip itinerary online”
-“ (37%) report being influenced by personal comments read on social networking or travel advisory web sites” – I guess this means advertisers should be paying attention to Facebook after all!
 

So there you have it – that is the “next generation” of Travellers who don’t seem to fit the normal demographic breakdown – but what about age? 

e-Marketer estimates that “from 2006 to 2011, the percentage of Internet users ages 62 and older will increase at a 7.6% average annual growth rate—more than twice the 3.1% growth rate for the entire US Internet population.”

I guess that “next generation” really means a whole lot of people researching and booking travel online!  So where do you put those advertising dollars?  That’s another post.

[tags]tourism internet marketing, search marketing tourism, phocuswright next generation survey, travel online, travel trends, web marketing strategy,social media marketing[/tags] 


 

Online Revealed Caribbean only Two Weeks away!

OR Carib and The Chicks

The Chicks are taking Online Revealed to San Juan, Puerto Rico this September 17-19 at the Caribe Hilton Hotel.  We are excited to hit the beach and share online marketing best practices with the Caribbean Tourism Community.  We have had great support in producing this event with sponsors and speakers from VFM Interactive, T4G, Travelzoo, Expedia, Marketwire, PowerI and more. 

The two day show will offer content similar to the Online Revealed Canada shows including educational workshops, keynotes and a B2B marketplace with one on one sessions with the experts.  Topics will include online marketing strategy, search engine optimization, how to set up a paid search campaign and Blogging for destinations.

I will post some pics of the event as it unfolds, but this will give you a feel for the what we have planned!  Chicks are heading to the Islands!

[tags]Caribbean tourism conference, tourism internet marketing, search marketing tourism, hospitality, workshops, online marketing training, online revealed, Caribe Hilton Hotel[/tags]     

 

Are the search engines becoming navigation tools instead of research vehicles?

In a recent Hitwise Blog post, Heather Hopkins talks about how Search engines might now be becoming more of a navigation tool to direct searchers to brand sites and popular intermediaries (within the travel industry), more than the research vehicles to find new websites that they once were.

It does seem that there has been a change in how searchers use the search engines.  I remember when being on page 2 or 3 of Google or Yahoo was still a good thing.  Now, it is critical to be found above the fold in order to attract the right customer or you might as well call it a day.  Could it be that consumers are going back to brand loyalty over price point? (it’s about time!)

That tells me that Destination Marketing Organizations really need to step up their game to ensure that they are being seen on behalf of their members and partners, with a focus on building the destination brand.  It seems that the big brand sites are doing their part in driving their costomers back through the more direct channel.

The DMO’s (destination organizations such as associations, chambers and visitor bureau’s) are a big part of the filtering process for those using the search engines to navigate through search engines to find the brands sites, portal websites, and mapping websites.  Destinations should offer mapping functionality by incorporating features such as Google Maps, as well they should consider other Web 2.0 techniques such as forums and blogs to ensure that they can expand the online reach and visibility on behalf of their partners.
 
As for the tourism marketer now, It really is about finding the low hanging fruit, and people are still picking fruit!  (I think I have strawberry’s on the mind – it is that time of year!)  As I have previously posted, although there may be a decrease in the amount of people planning travel this summer, there is still a huge advantage for those tourism marketers who are focussing on attracting the eyes of the consumer using the Internet to research and book.  The right offer at the right time at the right price will certainly still convert. 

Be the low hanging fruit by being visible in the search engines, on your local destination portals, your brand sites, and through strategic and targeted paid search, and Google local campaigns and you will be sure to attract the attention of the consumers that will be buying their summer travel experiences.

I have a really big craving for some fresh strawberries now…I think I might just do a search for the closest strawberry patch!

[tags]destination marketing, tourism marketing, travel planning, web 2.0 techniques, Google Maps, search engine marketing, online marketing[/tags]

travel marketers should shift Ad dollars online for the summer travel season

Although we have been hearing so much about gas prices and other factors that will affect the upcoming travel season, a recent study reported on by eMarketer, and conducted by AOL, states that “seven in ten families plan to travel once school is out this summer, and 75% plan to make an online reservation for a rental car, air travel or lodging.”  This means good news for those tourism operators who have already placed a good portion of their advertising budgets online.
 

For those who have not allocated dollars for online advertising, I would suggest re-looking at some opportunities now as there is still time to plan and execute online marketing programs in time for the summer booking season.  Traditional media channels require more time to book and prepare material, where online marketing channels can be set up fairly quickly – and can be targeted very specifically to attract consumers who are actively looking to buy.
 

The AOL study, which surveyed 1000 US families with school aged children, also points out that “72% of consumers browsed search engines, 58% went to online booking sites, 26% visited consumer testimonial sites and 19% browsed travel information sites.” 

The opportunity here with economic conditions making it necessary to focus advertising dollars on the most targeted channels, is to use online marketing channels such as paid search advertising (or PPC) with search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and AOL (thanks for the study!) to get in front of an audience who is more likely now than ever to make a purchase online, and is actively using the internet to make their travel decisions.
 

Other opportunities include focussing on search engine optimization (SEO), or understanding what users type into search engines when they are looking for travel information, and making sure that the website has content and meta data to reflect those search terms.  A long term SEO strategy is always recommended and being found as a relevant result in the search engines is critical.    
 

Leveraging positioning or expanding ad placement on popular destination marketing websites like local Visitor Bureau websites, or larger provincial or area specific destination sites is a good idea.  Travel marketers should also put resources and inventory towards pushing packages through online channels and online agencies or intermediaries such as Travelocity.com, Orbitz.com and Expedia.com – with a goal of making sure that there are attractive rates, or unique value propositions available for customers using all online channels to research their travel purchase.
 

The internet is the most targeted advertising channel there is, and it is where travel consumers are looking to plan, and buy travel. A solid Web marketing strategy is something tourism operators need to be focussing attention on.  If you can’t be found in the search engines, on destination websites, testimonial sites and other travel information websites, you will not be visible to your perspective audience.  When correctly used, the internet has the power to reach the right customer, at the right time and at the right price.  

[tags] tourism marketing, destination marketing, seo, sem, search engine marketing, web strategy, travel, hospitality, online marketing, web marketing [/tags]

 

Google to take over marketing travel destinations through video?

In a post this week in Business Week, Catherine Holahan talks about an interview with Rob Torres, Google’s managing director for Travel where she gets the skinny on Google’s plans for the “$90+ billion global travel ad and sales market.”  Looks like Google has set its sights on Travel Destinations as a revenue opportunity.  (Do they really need any more revenue opportunities??)

As Holahan outlines in her post, Google is trying to take back control of the “advertising” opportunities around what now is primarily user generated content posted by the general public to the leading video sharing site YouTube.com (of which Google owns of course).  Google’s Rob Torres points out the following, “the goal of the goal of Google’s travel division (aside from generating revenue or course!) is to give users a destination where they can research travel plans, read user reviews, and see user uploaded videos and photos.” Already, about 50% of travelers use some sort of online social media site to research their plans…why not give them a one-stop shop for travel information,” says Torres.

So Google’s quest is to “help” Travel destinations and the associations and tourism boards that run them by helping them distribute canned and “advertorial” web TV spots (paid for of course by the destinations), on YouTube.com –  and then lead users to other content including paid search Ads, instead of encouraging advertisers to purchase ads around user generated content.
Check out the example that Holahan refers to in the article – New Zealand, which to date has had 884,621 views – nice!  In addition, they have posted 40 other video’s to YouTube.  Currently when you do a search in YouTube.com for the term “New Zealand” the top result is this video, and not the user generated video’s posted by users.  Most other travel destinations when searched on YouTube serve up video’s posted by users that are not advertising messages professionally created.

According to Marion  Edward in “Mouth/Mouse: Social Networking and the Travel Industry, “YouTube has already grown to serve more than 100 million video views per day and is receiving more than 65,000 video uploads daily…with a user base ranging from 18-49, spanning all geographies.”

There are however tourism destinations already actively posting video’s to YouTube and other video sharing sites such as Yahoo! Video, Break.com, and Metacafe.com,  but user generated content seems to still be the most watched video’s.  I am sure that Google will make some changes to the algorithms that YouTube.com uses to serve up search results…then this medium becomes less of a social network (which is the origins of the site) and more a “pay to play” advertising vehicle like search.

Some great examples of destinations already posting video’s include; Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism, and Nova Scotia Tourism.

My take?  Google wants to make sure that they are capitalizing on the revenue opportunity the YouTube.com presents – which is fairly minimal if destinations are simply advertising in conjunction with user generated content, and many are not yet comfortable with that.  Advertisers seem to still want “control” over the message and have not fully embraced “endorsing” user generated content and reviews.

So here it is right from the horse’s mouth… “Fueling Google’s travel plans is consumers move to researching and booking vacations online. In 2007, more travel sales were booked online than in person, says Google’s Rob Torres. “That means travel marketers, many of whom already spend millions on search ads and the like, will likely shift more of their budgets to the Web…rather than try to convince travel marketers to advertise on user-generated videos, they can sell sponsored destination pages on YouTube where travel marketers can post their own videos and influence or control what types of content users upload.”

Then Google can also sell other forms of advertising, such as search ads, to drive traffic to the site.” There you have it!  Now that does not sound like it is all about the user experience now does it?!

Sounds like a smart idea (google is usually pretty smart from what I hear!!) – but will the users who consume YouTube.com embrace an advertising message over user generated content?  Is there room for both?  I guess we will see!

[tags]tourism marketing, travel, online marketing, youtube, video sharing, social media marketing, destination marketing, travel destinations, Google travel [/tags] 

The 3rd Annual Online Revealed Canada Conference is here!

This week, we are hosting the annual Online Revealed Canada Conference in association with Yahoo! Canada in Calgary, Alberta.  We are so excited this year to be bringing some new and exciting content including the ORC Tips from the T-List Bloggers summit (discussing how the tourism industry can use Blogs as a marketing vehicle), a Web Strategy track of workshops that discuss how to bring together the pieces of your web strategy, and we are opening with a keynote from Kyle MacDonald – the guy who used social media channels to trade up from one red paper click up to a house!

We are also happy to welcome new partners and presenters from across Canada to the ORC group including; ISL Canada, 6S Marketing, Blink Media, RezGo, Epiar, Point B Marketing, Venture Communications, Travel Alberta, Westjet, and Canwest.  This group of workshop leaders and presenters will definitely bring some fantastic insights for our attendees who are looking for solutions in marketing Canadian travel products online. 

The Online Revealed conference kicks off Monday night and runs May 13th and 14th at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Calgary.  I will do my best to post throughout the event but this Chick is the host of the event so it might be tough…stay tuned or visit the Tips from the T-list Online Revealed Blogsite for live updates!

Online Revealed Conference[tags] internet marketing conference, tips from the t-list, blogs, social media marketing, tourism marketing, web strategy, online revealed [/tags]

  

The Bill Marriott Blog – is it a success?

I recently had an interesting online discussion with Scott Allison, Regional Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Marriott Canada, about a comment I made at an Online Revealed Regional show we held in Toronto earlier this month.  In my discussion about new media channels such as Social Media and Blogging, and how to apply them to the marketing strategy of a brand – I stated that I was not convinced that a Blog was the best play for a brand like Marriott.  

Bill Marriott entered the Blogosphere in January of 2007 with much fanfare from the media, and he also caused quite a stir within the Blogging community.  The initial buzz resulted in articles such as this in the Washington Post which speculated about the purpose of the Blog, and whether or not it was a legitimate forum – or one produced by a really good PR team.

During my New Media discussion at the Online Revealed show, I was discussing the effectiveness of a channel such as a Blog from the perspective of the blogosphere in general.  I was discussing how users interact and navigate through channels such as Blogs, where the rules of engagement are much different than a traditional marketing vehicle such as a website.  Typically Blogs (until this point) have not been commercial spaces from a user perspective. (or not obviously commercial anyway).  I referred to Mr. Marriott’s Blog as something that was not necessarily a good example of a successful Blog.

Well, it seems that Mr. Marriott has forged onward since the Blogs inception, and created a space whereby he can communicate with his customers on a global level, share his experiences, and generate some publicity for the hotel brand giant, as Scott Allison pointed out to me through an online discussion over email.  As he had heard of my comments, he immediately reached out to challenge my opinion, and point out the successes of the Blog from a brand perspective.  Of course I welcomed the dialogue!

Mr. Allison’s comments were very valid and included the following points:

“Even our competitors have acknowledged the blog as a competitive win for Marriott.   Not only has it provided a great channel for customers, it also allows him to very personally communicate things that are important to him. The blog has also encouraged Marriott to expand the initiative to other Marriott executives including our corporate executive chef.” 

Marriott Recently launched a new Blog authored by Marriott International’s Vice President, Culinary and Corporate – Chef Brad Nelson “Marriott in the Kitchen – Food, Travel, Thoughts.”  This blog is quite impressive and not as obvious with the Marriott brand messages.  Chef Nelson’s posts discuss events he attends, food writers he meets, recipes of course – and his travels.

Mr Allison pointed out some additional points in defending the merits of the Marriott branded Blog:

“Because Bill Marriott believes that he is first a foremost a hotelier, one of the side benefits has been the buzz generated by people who blog with him, and then link to a page to make a reservation – revenue from people who came through what wasn’t originally intended as a booking channel. 

The fact that Marriott remains a family business, rooted in a rich culture of looking after our associates so that they in turn look after our customers is a unique to Marriott. No other leader in the hotel industry has Bill Marriott’s credibility and experience from the ground up – he worked in food & beverage operations growing up.   Fortunately many people read his blog and interact with us through this exciting channel, and it has definitely contributed to shifting traffic to the brand site with 80% of e-commerce being transacted on Marriott.com.” 
Mr. Alison finished off with the following sentiment, of which I would definitely agree with.

“Bill Marriott continues to be the most eloquent spokesperson for our brand, whatever the channel.” 

Well Scott – I can’t argue with you!  It does seems that Mr. Marriott has taken on this medium with the commitment and tone it requires – and he is engaging discussions with Marriott team members, customers, bloggers and media alike. 

If then we are referring to the success of the Blog as a marketing vehicle, and as a successful and true “Blog” – I would now have to agree that Bill Marriott’s “Marriott on the Move” just might qualify as a great success!

[tags]Marriott blog, blogging, social media, Marriott on the move, new media, chef blog, hotel marketing, e-commerce[/tags]

 

Web 2.0 in action – talking the talk and walking the walk

I just read this article published today in MarketingSherpa.com – a source I often refer to for more practical examples of online marketing tactics and case studies.  As we often speak and write about Web 2.0  concepts and applications, sometimes we just need a good old step by step “story” of success to understand how all of these new media applications could work when put together as a well thought out strategy. 

The case study How to Use Web 2.0 to Promote Your Content & Lift Revenue 200%  highlights how the travel publisher “Rough Guides” built it’s brand using new media channels such as Podcasting, communities within the brand site, Blogs, mobile marketing tactics and social media communities such as MySpace, Facebook and Wikipedia to increase brand awareness and increase book sales.

Some of my takeaways from this article include:

1. Rough Guides established from the start that the ultimate goal of implementing these tactics was conversion.         Conversion to them was distribution to achieve the goal of increased book sales. 

2. They had a goal and a plan to get there before launching any Web 2.0 marketing tactics – and they adjusted where necessary. 

There are nuances to each channel that must be understood in order to be effective. (The Rough Guides group understood that they had to match the content to the channel – the traditional marketing message does not fly in the blogosphere and in social media sites like MySpace)

3. They benchmarked and measured the success of each channel (podcasting/blogging/MySpace page) by establishing a goal, and tweaking campaigns continuously. 

The marketingsherpa article points out that once they determined that Podcasting was not getting the downloads they had anticipated – they re-positioned them to focus only on Niche topics and posted them less often.

4. I love that Rough Guides points out that you should monitor the conversation – but don’t try to moderate it. 

That is a great point although that does not mean that you can’t be a participant in the conversation.  If you are a brand playing in the social media space, you need to ensure that your users understand that you are the brand – users want legitimate conversation and not the marketing message.

5. Rough Guides uses these channels as one big focus group to improve and expand their products!  Brilliant!  Don’t be afraid of new media – it is the most measurable marketing channel there has ever been. 

Listen to the buzz and tweak accordingly.

The case study points out that website traffic is up and that they have increased book revenue by 200% !  Don’t you just love a happy ending?  Hopefully just the beginning for Rough Guides!

[tags]web 2.0, social media, online marketing, wikipedia, myspace, blogs, podcasts, web strategy[/tags]

Blogs, YouTube, break.com, Flickr, Facebook – can I control the message?!

Patricia and I just completed four online marketing workshops to four very different and distinct groups from Illinois at the Illinois Tourism Annual Conference, and from across Canada at the Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC) annual conference.  Our first leg of the race last week was two presentations to members of the Illinois Tourism members in Springfield, Illinois. 

We had a great mix of travel industry suppliers, destination marketing professionals, hotels and attractions and we took the opportunity to dive into discussing new technologies for marketing tourism, and whether or not to participate in the game.

It is quite apparent that the internet has changed the way we market to consumers, but it was quite funny to see the reaction of the participants when we pulled up live YouTube results for brands such as the Chicago Botanic Gardens, where we found a video montage of a sweet man and his wife (i presume!) touring the gardens to a romantic melody, obviously not posted by the Botanic Garden staff (need I say more?)  Who would have thought that our customers would be producing their own commercials for our brand experiences?  The point is, this is exactly what they are doing! 

A great example of using a channel like YouTube came from our next round of workshops for the Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC) Conference held this year in Halifax, Canada.  We again explored the social media space live during the workshop (never really knowing what might be pulled as a relevant result and always making sure we warn the audience!)  We again searched Youtube.com – this time for the Days Inn brand of hotels,  and what we found was a perfect example of embracing and participating in the online conversations and experiences that your audience is engaging in through their research process.

The top YouTube.com result for a search for “Days Inn” is a hysterical “Days Inn Rap” which was “produced” it seems by an unknown boy, a buddy, and a video camera sitting in a car. (warning – this video is not suitable for all audiences but it will give you a good laugh!) 

This rap has been viewed 1,175 times since posted!  Instead of reacting negatively to the popularity of the video, Days Inn had also posted already produced brand commercials of which also appeared within the popular rap posts results.  This offered viewers the option to receive the brand message with the rap, and leveraged the distribution of the “un-canned” rap produced by a boy in a car.  The commercials were viewed over 4,000 times! 

So the message here is – you can’t control your brand messages and conversations happening through channels like YouTube, Break.com, Facebook, My Space and the thousands of other Blogs and social media networks that are an active part of the consumer time research process today.  These channels all drive your brands “online buzz” and marketers don’t have all of the control any longer.

Today we have gone beyond the website and consumers are now interacting and connecting with each other online instead of simply reacting to advertising messages, searching and viewing websites.  The brand reputation has become something generated by the marketing message AND by consumer interaction and testimonial. 

[tags]social media marketing, youtube, facebook, myspace, flickr, days inn, online marketing workshops, new media[/tags]

 

Beyond the Website – Blogging builds a brand reputation for small Canadian tourist destination

I met with a colleague of mine last week in Halifax, Nova Scotia in a quaint little coffee shop listening to her story about how she took a website with a small (I mean very small) budget, with a mandate to promote tourism in and around the Bay of Fundy  (a small Canadian East Coast destination known for the world renown natural wonder of the high and low tides), who instead of investing in new creative, decided to start a Blog to communicate on another level with perspective visitors and media.

Terri shared with me how she started the Blog somewhat haphazardly and launched it much like many not really knowing what to write about.  She evolved the Blog slowly by creating a forum for her personal Bay of Fundy experiences and sharing what life was like in the small Canadian East Coast town.

Posting at least once a week, Terri has shared little known facts, tips for places to see, and she has been able to share the “experience” of living the culture of the area – without the Marketing message as it is traditionally delivered.  She has had people from all over the world who have posted comments and shared experiences and the Blog has successfully built traffic to the main Bay of Fundy Tourism website.

The blog has also allowed her to manage the “online reputation” of the tourist destination more proactively by feeding the Blog with unique stories, unique destinations and points of interest, best times to visit and a look into life in the small fishing town instead of relying on the marketing message or the testimonial like comments that are floating through many Blogs and social media websites.  Terri is careful to keep the natural tone of a Blog and she has found that she enjoys telling the story of her community through her posts. 

After two years of contributing to the Blog, she has not only generated more traffic to the main Bay of Fundy tourism website, but she has generated more media attention from journalists looking for the Bay of Fundy “stories” because of the distribution power of the blog.  The Blog works in conjunction with the main Bay of Fundy Tourism website creating the interest for visitors and the website continues to “close the sale” and offer access to accommodation, dining and all of the other vacation planning tools that searchers use to finalize travel plans.

This is a great example of using new media techniques like a Blog to manage a brand “reputation,” and build targeted and legitimate traffic to a traditional website.  Terri shared with me that her Blog posts often get indexed more quickly (or sometimes instead) of the news outlets, which she measures through Google Alerts. 

By adding an alert for keywords and phrases around “Bay of Fundy”, Terri keeps in touch with what stories are being “picked up” in the search engines, and she maintains a pulse on the brand message that her Blog is helping to develop.  Thanks for sharing your story with me Terri – looking forward to reading your next post!

[tags]Blog, Blogging, social media marketing, bay of fundy, nova scotia tourism, travel, google alerts, Canadian travel blog, web marketing[/tags]

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