Reaching Modern Travelers (and Building Local Advocates) with Homegrown Video

by Kate Harris, Director of Digital Content at Amelia Island, FL

With online videos set to account for more than 80% of all consumer internet traffic by 2020 - not surprising considering the emphasis placed on video content by Facebook and Instagram and the rapid rise in popularity of live video streaming - marketers with an eye on the future are planning to increase their use of video. An effective video is poised to break through the deluge of information and options available to viewers on their phone screens. And, once viewed, videos play a valuable role in guiding the consumer through the entire journey, from awareness to destination research and selection, to purchasing and then enjoying and sharing experiences.

For Amelia Island, the main focus of our social media storytelling is Facebook. And, far and away, the best-performing posts (both organically and as paid promotions) have been and continue to be video posts. As a smaller, less-known Florida destination with a very targeted audience, we needed to be able to fill the video pipeline in a way that was authentic, strategic, and, by the way, could be produced and deployed very quickly to respond to market forces - or even natural disasters.

The seeds of the #LoveAmelia series were planted when our in-house video team provided production support for a PBS series filming on the island. We had seen other destinations, large and small, do well on Facebook with episodes in a series as opposed to disconnected, one-off videos showing a place.  When one of our resorts requested a piece depicting our 50-block Historic District to use for a big meeting arriving in just a few days, we were off. With a combination of a filmed intro and footage from other shoots, we had an episode - one that has garnered over 150,000 views and over 10,000 shares.  

Our editorial calendar has a simple premise: pick out unique experiences that people love and share them. We’ve found that how-to’s and insider takes perform well, but, overall, the enthusiasm of the people depicted is what connects the viewer to the video.  By using in-house talent and local people wherever we can, we have found it empowers and inspires our team, it gives the destination and the brand ‘faces’ that viewers can relate to, and perhaps most importantly, those on camera have a genuine passion for the place that they are excited to share. To keep the ideas going, we meet weekly with the Ambassadors who work at our Welcome Center, who speak to travelers all day and can report on frequently asked questions and trends.

One pleasant surprise has been just how positively local people respond to the series.  Those within an hour of Amelia Island are some of the most engaged, not only sharing with their friends but also engaging with travelers who comment and ask questions, providing a boost to Facebook visibility by doing so.  

Additionally, it is cost-effective and nimble.  Immediately following hurricanes Matthew and Irma, in Fall 2016 and 2017 respectively, video was key for Amelia Island in literally showing the world that the impact to our island was fortunately limited and that we were open for business in a few short days after the storms passed. This had to be on social channels ‘in the moment’ as press coverage was still showing dramatic impacts from elsewhere in Florida, and travelers were unsure as to how their plans should proceed.  Being able to jump in and show people that our Welcome Center was not underwater (as reported), that restaurants were open (with plenty of shrimp) and that historic B&Bs were not only undamaged but also offering special discounts for those affected made a difference in business bouncing back.

The series extension for Facebook Live, #LiveAmelia, does much of the same but “without a net.” Before going live, we strive to test and practice (often by doing a quick live to just the person running the Facebook page) to make sure audio is sufficient and crossing our fingers that the wi-fi signal will hold.  For the most part, we do this for the many events that happen on the island, something popular that we show with a twist. For example, previously we’ve shown the 4th of July fireworks from a rooftop of a hotel overlooking the harbor, a look at Amelia Island Concours week recorded in the front seat of a Porsche on the way to an auction, or a carol-singing session on the streets of the Dickens on Centre holiday festival. In 2017, over half of the top 10 best performing videos on our Facebook page have been #LiveAmelia videos.

If you’re thinking about starting your own series or rejuvenating interest in in-house video, here’s what we would recommend:

  1. Make the opportunity open to multiple team members - you never know who may have real enthusiasm or a special on-camera talent.

  2. Offer basic training, online or with experienced actors in your community

  3. Ask stakeholders such as local businesses for ideas, read TripAdvisor reviews for additional subject ideas and find repeated traveler questions to answer.

  4. Just try it.  Measure it. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Announcing the First Annual Sightseer Awards Winners

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At Sightseer Magazine, we are constantly witness to the amazing work being done by travel marketers that pushes not only the industry forward but also marketing as a whole. The Sightseer Awards recognize the best in digital and social travel marketing to honor this work and encourage further advancements. This year’s categories included: Best Overall Campaign, Best Use of Social Influencers, Best Use of User-Generated Content and Travel Marketer of the Year!

The process began with travel marketers around the globe submitting their best performing campaigns from last year. Judges took into account budgets, goals, lessons learned, results and originality when scoring entrants.

 

MEET THE JUDGES

We were honored to have experts and leaders in travel marketing and social media judge this year’s finalists.

Eva Taylor - Sr. Manager, Global Social Marketing at Hootsuite

Sightseer: Can you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your role at Hootsuite?

Eva: I lead the social marketing team at Hootsuite: this includes overseeing our global social strategy as well as demonstrating the value of social to the organization. Prior to Hootsuite, I've led campaigns and digital strategy at startups, agencies and large-scale companies, working with brands such as Microsoft, Tourism Vancouver and lululemon. I'm very passionate about technology and social media, so I also volunteer quite a bit of my time to the community - for example, I'm currently a Social Media Principal for Women in Tech World, a volunteer-led group based in Vancouver.

S: Was there a specific campaign or tactic that particularly wowed you from this year's Awards finalists?

E: I was very impressed by how many of the finalists had a truly unique component or feature within their campaign that really helped it stand out from the crowd, ranging from creative ad formats to social-first video to influencer marketing. As one example, the Montana Office of Tourism really made the most of their user generated content by incorporating moving elements into the photos submitted, which resulted in some highly engaging and eye-catching content. It may not seem like an overly complex idea at a glance, but this was an excellent creative component that further contributed to an overall very strong integrated campaign.

S: Are there any overall trends that stood out to you from this year's Awards finalists?

E: Strong visual imagery and in-depth storytelling appeared in most, if not all, of the campaigns. A lot of the campaigns also showcased distinct features of the individual communities, such as popular local cuisines to introduce viewers to the unique tastes and culture of that particular region. There was also heavy use of video, which is a great fit for destination marketing.

S: Coming from Hootsuite, you engage with a wide variety of marketers from many industries. But when is comes specifically to travel and social media, what is a key trend that you see as important for the industry to keep in mind in 2018 and beyond?

E: One of the key trends that we've noticed is a decline in trust with traditional institutions, while peer influence is on the rise. This means that genuine advocates - ranging from fans to customers to employees - are more relevant than ever before. This also applies to influencers, where smaller (but passionate) niche communities can be a great place to share experiences and connect with travelers. In terms of content, social video and the use of augmented reality (for example, to power virtual tours) will also be two areas that I expect to grow considerably over the coming year.

 

Chuck Davison - President and CEO at Visit SLO CAL

Sightseer: Can you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your history in travel marketing?

Chuck: I’ve been the President and CEO at Visit SLO CAL for 3 years. Prior to that I was contracted to develop the Tourism Marketing District assessment that quadrupled our organizations budget in 2015. In the past 3 years, a few key Visit SLO CAL initiatives have included: rebranding the destination, doubling our air service including adding flights from two new states, planning for a countywide conference center and launching a new award winning advertising campaign and a new website.  Prior to moving to SLO CAL, I was general manager of North America for Expedia and prior to that I was VP of Marketing and Sales of four hotels in Las Vegas. My travel marketing experience dates back 26 years to my internship days while I was attending UNLV.

S: Was there a specific campaign or tactic that particularly wowed you from this year's Awards finalists?

C: The Louisiana Travel Destination Recipe Videos campaign was impressive and absolutely on brand for their destination.  It resonated with the consumer, based on 3.8M video views and brought the experience of Louisiana’s food scene into kitchen’s around the world.  Impressive to say the least.

S: Are there any overall trends that stood out to you from this year's Awards finalists?

C: Not only is the competition of destination marketing increasing and getting stronger every year, but the campaigns are becoming so much more authentic and diverse based on the differences across all our amazing destinations.  It is great to see communities embracing their unique assets and showcasing those in new and exciting ways that are palatable to the consumer.

S: When it comes to travel and social media, what key trend that you see as important for the industry to keep in mind in 2018 and beyond?

C: We have never been in the mist of more change than we are today so we have to listen, be aware and adapt. Consumers want what they want when they want it, but you can’t be all digital all the time.  Consumers are looking for connection. Customers expect businesses to care. Our focus has to be around creating moments that our customers can turn into memories that ultimately last a lifetime and lead to ambassadors for our destinations.  At the marketing core, it’s what we do.

 

Taisa Veras - Director of Social Media at NYC & Company

Sightseer: Can you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your role at NYC & Company?

Taisa: I’m the Director of Social Media at NYC & Company. In my role, I oversee the strategy and execution of all social media channels both domestic and international. My focus is to utilize social to raise the profile of New York City and to inspire travel, exploration and positive word of mouth about the five boroughs. I also support vibrancy marketing programs such as NYC Restaurant Week, Broadway Week, Off-Broadway Week, Must-See Week and the #SeeYourCity UGC campaign initiative. I work with various media agencies that oversee the social paid efforts for big campaign initiatives and manage our Chinese social media agency.

Before joining NYC & Company, I was a Digital Marketing Manager for various brands in the beauty, wellness, and fashion industries. I also worked in the tech industry at SaaS company Percolate and at a fashion tech startup in London called Shopa. I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising and Marketing Communications. I also completed a Digital Marketing certificate from the technology school General Assembly.

S: Was there a specific campaign or tactic that particularly wowed you from this year's Awards finalists?

T: San Francisco Travel’s “Summer of Love 50th Anniversary” campaign had various tactics that were exemplary and my favorite was the fact that they were able to activate online and offline with clear CTAs that kept their audience engaged throughout the campaign.

S: Are there any overall trends that stood out to you from this year's Awards Finalists?

T: I noticed that lot of DMOs are incorporating influencer marketing into their campaigns, which is great and they seem to be getting ROI from it.

S: When it comes to travel and social media, what key trend that you see as important for the industry to keep in mind in 2018 and beyond?

T: Digital-first approach with mobile and video are two of the key trends that I see as important to keep in mind this year. Research shows that social will dominate time spent on mobile this year and that customers will integrate social deeper into their purchase journey.
 

THE WINNERS

Best Overall Campaign: San Francisco Travel Association

In 2017, San Francisco marked the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love with citywide events, including concerts, exhibitions, and festivals. To encourage visitors to travel to San Francisco during this celebration, San Francisco Travel, the official destination marketing organization for the City by the Bay, launched a prolonged, strategic marketing campaign focused on the once-in-a-lifetime value of experiencing San Francisco at this specific moment.

The Summer of Love campaign targeted all markets: consumer, business, trade, and media. It was composed of fresh, innovative digital and real-world assets. It was an international effort, with the main office in San Francisco coordinating with representatives in the United Kingdom, Europe, and Australia. The campaign also included a national paid media push targeting key B2C and B2B audiences.

 

Best Use of Social Influencers: The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel with agency MMGY Global

The best shelling in the world isn't somewhere exotic and far away - it's on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel - where the ever-changing tides wash over 400 local varieties of shells along the shoreline. But what is shelling? And why is it worth celebrating, or shellebrating? In order to highlight what sets the destination apart from other Florida beaches, an integrated social media + PR campaign was born.

To coincide with National Seashell Day, which is also the first day of summer, The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel launched a Summer Shellcation social media campaign to keep the destination top of mind during the summer travel planning season. Through influencer marketing, social media promotion, and a sweepstakes, they generated online inspiration and drove consumers further into the travel planning process.   

Best Use of User-Generated Content: Helsinki Marketing Ltd with agency Idean Enterprises Ltd

Helsinki is the Baltic Sea’s best-kept secret. With a sizzling food scene and a thriving start-up ecosystem, the city has a lot to offer—and yet it’s still overshadowed by its neighbors Stockholm and Copenhagen as a destination for visitors and talent. In response, the city has been evolving its marketing to highlight the unique experiences locals and visitors enjoy in Helsinki, including the opportunities and quality of life Helsinki can offer to international talent.

The goal was to design a service that will help people find the best of Helsinki in a personal, inspiring and mobile-friendly package for both visitors along with locals and talent interested in moving to Helsinki, which led to the creation of MyHelsinki.fi. Your local guide to Helsinki, MyHelsinki.fi is an inspirational, personal and social window into the best of the city. It offers you a recommendation you can trust. All content and recommendations on the site are made by local tastemakers.

 

Travel Marketer of the Year: Andy MacLellan from VERB Interactive, Inc.

As President and CEO of VERB Interactive, Inc., Andy has been the guiding force in achieving the agency’s goals and accolades, which include 19 Adrian Awards for travel marketing in 2017 and closing  new business with major brands across the US and Canada including Destination British Columbia and sbe.
Thirteen years ago, VERB was a team of two, based in Halifax. Since then, the team has grown exponentially to a team of 74 in 2016 and then 107 and growing, today. VERB is now a leader in the digital marketing space in Canada and the US and creates award-winning work for the world's biggest, most luxurious travel brands and destinations.

In the next issue of Sightseer: profiles on each winner and the Travel Marketer of the Year reveal!

 

Letter from Our CEO: Changing travel behaviors

by Ranvir Gujral

We get to work with some of the world’s most incredible destinations and travel and hospitality brands. Behind these incredible brands, and a source of fascination and inspiration for us, is the marketers responsible for telling each brand’s and destination’s story.  Each conversation with a customer reminds us of the evolution of the industry and, subsequently, the role of the travel marketer dealing with changing consumer demand, preferences, and expectations.

At Chute, we have an insatiable appetite for both learning and informing, which you hopefully see reflected in the articles we include in this magazine, among other things we publish. As such, for the past several years, Chute has conducted a study to better understand the ever changing preferences and behaviors of travelers. We survey actual travelers to understand what influences their travel decisions.

This year’s study revealed several interesting takeaways, and while I don’t want to give all the good stuff away, I want to share a few highlights.

Firstly, it’s important to note what has stayed constant. Social media is the top source of travel inspiration after personal recommendations from family members or friends. And authentic imagery or user generated content is consistently preferred over stock and professional content across social platforms - Facebook, Instagram and Youtube. It’s clear consumers want recommendations that are personal and genuine. And over the past three years, the most influential social platforms on traveler decisions were all visually focused, while primarily-text based platforms like Twitter fell to the bottom of the list.

Just when you think you’ve figured out consumer behavior, however, you realize change is the only real constant. During the first two years of the study, Facebook was solidly in first place as the social platform most used by travelers for discovering inspiring travel content. But this year, Instagram squeaked past the mothership to take first place. Instagram launched several new features over the past 12-18 months, like Collections, Stories, and even the ability to follow hashtags vs. an account, which helped propel the platform to the top.

This type of change is precisely what makes your job so challenging, but also likely what makes it rewarding and interesting. Consumers change. Platforms change. And your job is to stay ahead of it all. This is what prompted us to launch the first Sightseer Awards to recognize some of the best examples of meeting travelers where they are, testing new platforms and ideas, pushing boundaries, taking risks, and, of course, staying ahead of the curve.

As I was reading through the submissions, it was great to understand the thought process behind solving a challenge creatively, but what really stood out to me were the responses to the question, “What did you learn?” For most submissions, this question yielded the longest response - you all had so much to share with your peers about how you might do things differently next time or what else you might consider.  

Here are some of my favorites…

When, it comes to working with social influencers, Matt Wakefield from Travel Tacoma recommends, “When targeting influencers, make sure and dig deep into their audiences and make sure the audience matches who you want to appeal to. Always keep in mind that the influencer is not your audience. They're the medium that helps you reach your audience. An influencer with millions of geographically diverse followers with the wrong demographics will cost much more and be much less effective than one with 50,000 followers that live in your target market and have interests that match what your destination provides.”

When it comes to using UGC, all submissions spoke to how it outperformed other types of content, and Mariella Ralph from RCI Europe shared, “From doing this program, we learned that our followers engage quite well with UGC... This has increased all of our statistics on our Instagram, therefore, we shall be continuing to source UGC through Chute and using this within our Instagram content for 2018. We will also consider posting UGC onto our other social media platforms and broaden our type of content (e.g. videos).”

And Mervi Holmen, from Visit Finland, reminds us not to forget other interests beyond travel to maximize your reach and relevance, “To do cross-over marketing combining travel, culture and science was extremely interesting and inspiring - all were very excited and involved in this project.”

Head here to read more about this year's winners and judges. We’ll continue to highlight many of the incredible submissions and lessons learned in future issues of Sightseer. Congratulations to the finalists and winners for charting the course for the industry!

 

Game Changer Marketing: Sparkloft Media and SORTEDfood’s Collaboration for Brand USA

By Lisa Farrar Wellman

If you want to understand the power of influence, the easiest way is to see how we’re all influencers in our own daily lives. Many of us have given impassioned arguments for our favorite restaurant, shared where we bought our spectacular new shoes, or even booked a vacation inspired by amazing photos shared by old college friends.

Online influencers are basically the same but with a much larger reach. And their influence on others makes them valuable to marketers. How valuable? According to Invesp, influencer marketing provides 11 times more ROI than traditional digital marketing strategies. Forbes tells us that “with the rise of ad blockers and decline in radio and TV viewership, influencer marketing has proven to be the most effective form of advertising.” By partnering with an influencer, marketing experts can create powerful, rewarding strategies that help everyone involved—influencer, brand and customer.

An example of this perfect combination is that of Sparkloft Media and SORTEDfood. Brand USA approached Sparkloft, challenging them to produce a campaign that would increase awareness of the US in the international travel market—especially in the UK. They wanted to work with a YouTube influencer to create a series of videos about US-specific foods (and where to find them) and target potential travelers and foodies.

SORTEDfood began in England in 2009 when a group of old school friends got together to dish about food. What began eight years ago as a simple Youtube channel has grown into reaching almost 2 million subscribers. Not only that, but the group has developed a true community around their content, branching out to their own website and app.

Sparkloft chose influential SORTEDfood for the Brand USA campaign, which resulted in a romp through Chicago and Kansas City in search of the cities’ most scrumptious foods.

Influencers: when you’ve met one, you’ve met…one

How does a brand choose an influencer? While it may seem like an influencer’s reach is the key metric companies should look to, engagement and community are the real indicators of any creator’s influence. Subscriber and view counts are easy to buy, but an audience that’s willing to learn from and engage is not. On YouTube, one way to decipher this is through the comments. Are there people there who seem familiar with the creators, as though they’re a returning viewer? Is the creator able to grow a following on other platforms - like Instagram or Twitter?

Another important element of influencer marketing is to think about the relationship between the brand and the creator. At the end of the day, someone in your organization has to work with the chosen influencer, and you want that partnership to be as beneficial and pleasant as possible because that will lead to not only better content but also the possibility of a more long term partnership. Along with developing a good working relationship comes setting clear goals. The influencer has to understand the brand’s expectations for the project. If they don’t get it, walk away. And remember: influencers can also easily walk away from you too.

“We get approached by brands (or agencies working on their behalf) nearly every day - and turn down ninety nine percent of them,” says Jamie Spafford of SORTEDfood. “When working with influencers, it's important to remember that with any project, they probably have more to lose if it goes wrong than the brand. If the project is not well received by their audience, they could lose the trust and attention of their audience and therefore the future of their business, whereas the brand is likely to write it off as a failure and move on to the next campaign. So give the influencer business objectives, areas to talk around, a list of no-no's and then take their advice on a creative approach based on their experience and expertise. In other words, help them be the best version of themselves so their audience celebrate your involvement.”

What really helps a brand stand out?

“The things that stand out for us are brands who want to help us and our community achieve bigger and better things - take us somewhere new, help us do something that's never been done before, find a way to celebrate our community,” Spafford says.

Lastly, think about the brand and influencer fit. Again, just having reach isn’t enough. You have to think about who you’re reaching and why you want to reach that audience. For Sparkloft, the choice was clear.

“SORTEDfood stood out for several reasons” says Martin Stoll, Sparkloft CEO. “For one, they have huge reach and very high engagement. When promoting a destination, we like to work with non-travel influencers as they bring a new perspective to telling a destination story. SORTEDfood was perfect because food is a great lens to tell a destination story, they had done travel content before that we could look at and they have a lot of authority when it came to food — one of the possible lenses for the story we wanted to produce.”

For their part, SORTEDfood is careful about what brands they work with, as well. Influencers know that their followers are paying attention, and creating content that their audience will enjoy is the top driver for all creators. Audience members hold influencers responsible for their work, whether they originated it or partnered with others to create it.

“The reason we're able to do this is because we've always been true and authentic in everything we've said and done,” says Spafford. “Because of this, our community trusts us and what we say. The reason a brand partner would want to work with us is because of the relationship we have with our community. Therefore, our responsibility to both parties is to remain true and authentic. This means working with brand partners in the right way, that helps take our content to another level and being able to celebrate their involvement to our audience, rather than shying away from it or just endorsing products or companies for cash.”

Game-Changing Food

The SORTEDfood team made their way through Chicago and Kansas City trying viewer-recommended dishes while also chatting it up with locals and hearing even more restaurant endorsements. They ate five to six meals daily and depended on the “divide and conquer” method to get them through all those menus. They paired off and spread out over the two cities. They sought out the hole-in-the-wall joints (can you say BBQ from a gas station?) as well as more traditional establishments.

The videos are shot by the guys’ longtime friend, so as Spafford put it, “it's just like I'm talking to him. I think that helps keep our casual vibe.” It certainly does and as planned, audiences responded positively and in great numbers.

“SORTEDfood was really great to work with,” says Stoll. “Not only did this project produce more than [the goal of] the one million views, it was also a lot of fun.”

Every marketer knows that emotion is important and a successful campaign is one that elicits desired emotions. SORTEDfood and Sparkloft’s videos make Chicago and Kansas City look like fun, worthwhile places to visit. Online viewers actively participated in the campaign and engaged with SORTEDfood the entire time. Mission accomplished.

The Results

According to Sparkloft, the primary key performance indicator (KPI) was to hit one million video views, which was surpassed with nearly 1.2 million video views across all platforms. YouTube contributed 1,042,013 of these views. The total reach, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, was 2.6 million.

The secondary KPI for this campaign was time spent watching the videos, as it demonstrated how engaged they were with the content featuring these unique destinations — thus confirming relevance of the content. On average, people watched four minutes, 33 seconds of the YouTube videos, which was 64 percent of the way through. This is a fantastic result because for videos seven to eight minutes in length or more, watch time often falls under 60 percent.  In total, there were close to 3.9 million minutes of content watched. That's 65,000 hours, over 2,700 days or nearly seven and a half years!

In looking at the quality of engagement, from comments to on-the-ground interactions, the results were outstanding. The work created a fantastic, passionate stream of conversation across the board: people local to Chicago or Kansas City were discussing and debating their favorite food destinations and some travelers, after seeing the videos, sent photos to SORTEDfood of themselves visiting the featured establishments. Sparkloft even heard from people who altered or made travel plans to specifically include the foodie places, sights or cities that were highlighted throughout the project.

Finally, beyond the vendors and cities visited, the positive and collaborative partnership between Brand USA, Sparkloft and SORTEDfood demonstrated excellence in pulling together a successful sponsored piece of work.

Not every partnership between a brand and influencer ends up this successfully. Four friends got paid to eat fantastic food and tour two beautiful US cities. Over a million others followed along and some of them made travel plans for themselves. That doesn’t happen every day but when a brand finds that perfect match in an influencer, the possibilities are endless and the future very bright indeed.

Game changer.

Determining Which Social Platforms Your Brand Should Be on and Your Content Strategy

By Jeanna Wood

Remember those days when a brand’s online presence was limited to a website? Or when Facebook “Fan Pages” made its way into the newsfeed? How about when one Twitter user reinvented the pound symbol and created the hashtag? Not only did that revolutionize social media, but it literally became the currency for Instagram users, which has only been around since 2010. It’s hard to believe the evolution that’s taken place in social media over the past decade, and it’s safe to say it’s not slowing down anytime soon.

While most brands started the millennium with traditional marketing plans that included billboards and print ads, it’s likely their marketing plans have shifted to digital media and social engagement. And just like the rest of us, these brands encountered social platforms that did not work for them. Whether it was Myspace, Google+, Vine or platforms that are still thriving today, we’ve all (myself included) messed around on social media sites that have no ROI for the brands we manage. Does your brand need to be on every social network? To put it simply, no…but how do you know which platforms to pursue?

Understand Your Goal & Audience

“It's important to work backwards in most cases when you are building a strategy. Understanding your goal and who you’re talking to is a great starting point,” expressed Dan Melick, director of digital at Three21 Creative, a digital creative marketing agency in Orlando, Florida. By understanding your goal and audience, this will determine what the ROI is and what tactics are needed to deploy success.

Each social network presents itself with a vast array of differences. The audience on one social platform varies from the audience on another, and the way audiences behave on these platforms will also differ. It’s important to, “…figure out where your audience is spending their time, how they behave in that space, and see if an opportunity is there,” Melick pointed out.

Depending on your brand’s goals, it may be time to re-evaluate your brand’s social channels. It was about a year ago when my marketing team decided to pursue Snapchat in hopes to capture a younger demographic. After starting from scratch, in eight months’ time our audience did not grow like we hoped and the engagement was not there. Instead of producing original content for a channel that had very little ROI, we switched gears and allocated monies to develop Instagram Stories where a captive audience was already tuning in. As a result, our audience has grown exponentially and our engagement doubled.

Keep in mind that the content published on one platform may not translate well on the next, which could lead to multiple forms of tailored content to please your social audience. Plus, you’ll want to consider how much it will cost to manage multiple platforms and how they integrate with each other.

Ultimately, when choosing platforms that work best for your brand, ask yourself the following questions: “Is the customer we’re trying to target engaging with that platform? Is their behavior tailored to perform the action we’re hoping to achieve?” By answering those questions truthfully, that will help keep your brand’s vision strong and aligned with what is right for your brand and your audience.

Build a Content Strategy

The process for creating a content strategy starts with audience research, but now that you’ve identified your audience and their behavioral traits, it’s time to shift your focus to building a strategy, “…that engages with them and drives them into your funnels,” emphasized Melick. A strategy that drives traffic is built on determining the best form of content, posting frequency and tailoring the style to your audience.

  1. Have a Clear Content Strategy – Essentially, at its core, your strategy is the “why” behind everything you do. As mentioned above, understanding your goal will help you answer the following question, “Why are you creating content?” Most brands produce content to achieve at least one profitable result i.e. increased revenue, brand awareness, or better educated customers.
     

  2. Always Put Your Audience at the Center of Your Thinking – You should be willing to use and test different forms of content to better understand what your audience gravitates to. Whether you share blogs, videos or visuals like user generated content, learn the type of content your audience prefers and focus more of your efforts on those things. This also applies to the stories you share. For example, my Facebook audience does not engage with visuals that have to do with surfing, but anything to do with sunrises or beautiful beach imagery, my engagement soars.
     

  3. Tailor the Execution for Each Platform – Remember how your audience consumes content on each channel. A one-minute video on Instagram, 10-second snaps on Snapchat and a 280-character limit on Twitter are just a few examples of how consuming content varies from channel to channel. By tailoring the execution for each platform, not only are you giving them a better user experience but you’re giving them another reason to follow and engage with you on another channel.
     

  4. Keep Content Fresh and Relevant – Our audiences are constantly bombarded with an overwhelming amount of content, which makes it harder to keep them engaged. Always be looking to change up your tactics to keep your audience coming back again and again.

Social media is no small undertaking. With advancements taking place daily, your brand has to be willing to accept change, take risks and try new things. Your brand’s social presence could make all the difference in exceeding your goals, so do what’s needed to revamp your social media plan this year.

Reaching your audience isn’t enough. You have to speak with their voice.

By Vince Tatarian, Content Director, Odyssey Storyworks

The social media machine demands a specific voice. Posts have to be cute but not try too hard,
be humorous but not slapstick, and ultimately, make people feel compelled to enact the gold
standard of engagement: hit the “share” button.

As a Content Strategist, I’m always look for content that is “social-first” – content that looks like it
belongs. User Generated Content (UGC) is a great way to do just that.
But doubling down on UGC isn’t simple. User-made content is just one criteria to creating a
successful social media strategy. When we utilize social media, we want to provide content that
melds with the other content on the platform. We want to come across like your friends do;
posting videos that inspire wanderlust, cueing in on social trends and engaging in two-way
conversations.

Successfully using social media with UGC is especially important for Destination Marketing
Organizations (DMOs). Audiences are heavily influenced by positive recommendations from
family, friends and rating sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp and FourSquare. They want to read about
(and see) a destination from someone like them..

Potential travelers usually don’t go to government visitor’s websites or seek out standard
advertising. They look for genuine opinions.

Social media has the potential to fill that gap.

What successful UGC looks like

Every day, thousands of people post about the places they’re exploring. Delicious food,
amazing landscapes, inspiring architecture– travelers capture and share all of that and more.
These posts generate excitement and visibility for destinations.
What makes user generated content work?

Audiences can imagine they are the one doing the activity. At its best, this type of content
shows audiences an intimate first person point of view. Good UGC used in the correct way can
show what a destination is “really” like, and a low cost too.

Destinations on the beach are a prime example for how to take advantage of social media’s
potential. Too often, beach marketing is the same generic couple running down the beach at
sunset, kicking water with their feet as the waves roll in. It’s so generic, it could be any beach.
Based on that type of advertisement, there’s no reason for people to visit that beach over any
other beach.

Imagine seeing a Snapchat from your friend of the same beach with the caption “I love this
place so much!” The underlying magic here is that your friend loves that place so much, they
took the time to make a short video and caption it and then share it. And if they like that beach
so much, you might like it just as much. Maybe you should visit.

Video: the most engaging UGC type

User generated content can be powerful. But, there’s one form that speaks louder than the
others. Video is the big dog of UGC.
Video has been all the rage for the last two years. But not just any video will do. Audiences want
to feel transported.
A thirty second clip of people riding horses, ATV’s and skydiving over tropical waters is fun, but
what if we did it with a POV angle? We can send the consumer plummeting towards paradise,
galloping across the beach on horseback, or on a thrilling ride down the coastline at sunset. And
you don’t have to send out a full crew to do and film each of those activities. In fact, you can
collect POV content with ease.
Content aggregators like Chute make it possible to pull content directly from the consumer. We
can see and use the content that people upload, allowing us to source in real-time with 1 click.
There are drawbacks to be sure. But properly used UGC adds a new perspective to social
media strategies and marketing strategies overall.

Speaking directly to your audience

UGC can be amazing sleight of hand. It can pull back the curtain on audience personas and cut
directly to an experience. The social media world still has a lot of growing to do, you probably won’t find too many Instagram posts from grandparents or Snapchats from Dad’s with their kids.
But that is rapidly changing and as it stands, social media still reaches large swaths of
demographics.

The destination market is saturated. Messaging and visuals that could be from Anywhere USA–
any beach, any mountain, any cute town or any bustling city.
How are you going to differentiate yourself from the noise? One way to show what makes you
stand apart is with the genuine voice of the people that have visited.
UGC is till in its infancy. There will be missteps and pitfalls. And you must be careful about what
you use and how you use it. But we are constantly pushing ourselves to assess: “Are we adding
value to the destination marketing conversation, or are we just adding noise?”
Used the wrong way, UGC is just another noise maker, but its unique qualities make it a tool
with a lot of potential.

Flip Flops, Ice Cream, & Travel Marketing Trends: Summer 2018

By Lisa Farrar Wellman

Summer comes with fewer responsibilities, more white space on the calendar and inviting weather that encourages all of us to step outside normal and into extraordinary. Or at least, that’s the message travel marketers are trying to remind potential travelers of right now - especially with Americans taking less vacation days than they have in decades, many travel marketers are reminding travelers why taking those days and going on those new adventures is important.

While Americans may not be taking as many vacation days, they’re still spending. Americans alone spent more than $100 billion on summer vacations in 2017, a survey from Allianz Travel Insurance Vacation Confidence Index shows; that’s a 12.5 percent increase over 2016. How do you market your brand to not only keep up with these sun chasing wanderers but actually take charge and guide them right to your front door? Let’s dig into some of the trends marketers are using.

Lights, Camera, Action

This summer, look for video to continue growing - whatever the platform. The Digital Marketing Institute says that 51.9% of marketing professionals indicate that video is the type of content with the best ROI. Customers connect with video and recollect visual messages, so don’t forget to use video on your brand’s website, as well. KISSmetrics found that a video call-to-action produces 380% more clicks than a sidebar call-to-action. Video can truly be powerful, but for those starting out consider keeping content light and short. According to Wistia, the ideal length is two minutes (a 90-second video engages the same as a 30-second spot). Plus, always take the time to include captions (many people never bother to turn sound on) to increase viewership by 12% (Facebook, 2016).

Introducing a new program, idea or contest? Watching a video is just easier than reading. Use video to show the steps instead of writing out directions. Your audience is more likely to remember both the program itself and how to enroll in it. Remember the dimensions that work best on each platform and ideally edit and film in a way where it’s easy to crop into square, vertical or horizontal video.

Using video on social media is a fantastic way to engage with your audience via user generated content (UGC). Let your customers tell your story through their own visuals. Almost 70% of those surveyed in Chute’s 2018 Travelers Preferences Report said they would like to see more photos and videos created by real travelers sharing their experiences.

“We are currently running our summer consumer campaign in Canada,” says Robin Anderson, Global Marketing Manager of Travel Yukon. “The creative platform is Don’t Wait for Someday, which strives to hit travelers where they live by highlighting mundane, everyday situations and reminding consumers they need to visit the Yukon, soon, to get out of their routines and not to put it off any longer.”

“We aggregate user photos and videos and seek permission to use their content in our marketing,” says Anderson. “We have an exceptional Instagram following (over 70,000) and we occasionally offer photographer takeovers of our Instagram page. We also host select influencers on in-Yukon tours designed to provide them with exposure to incredible scenery, people and activities so they can share it with their audiences. We, in turn, share the content with our social following.”

Make It Personal

According to the American Marketing Association, the average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages each day. You have to cut through that chaos or get lost in it. Use customer data to fine tune your marketing efforts. Know their favorite drinks or hotel room preferences. Keep track of their dress size or preferred fashion designer. Even the smallest budget has room for consistently knowing repeat customers.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analytics are being used more often to provide smart content to travelers. Holly Pavlika of Collective Bias, writes in Forbes, “In 2018, we will see the death of marketing to segments — smart content will drive the demand for communicating with one single customer and catering to their needs.”

Fierce competition for travel dollars means more and more vacationers expect personalized experiences to make their trips Instagram-worthy. They don’t just want the vacation their neighbors had. They want to be catered to and personally known, understood. Savvy travelers, even budget ones, want to be wowed. Your brand needs to provide just that little something extra or watch as your customers drive off into the sunset with your competitors.

Immediacy Counts

Eighty-five percent of travelers do not make specific plans until they are already on their vacation. This means they don’t have time for a lot of research or comparisons. Your website needs to load quickly and be easy to navigate (this includes your mobile version). Remember that 30% of all mobile searches are related to a location (Google, 2016). Unfortunately, most travel destinations provide information via a website that can easily become outdated or loads too slowly. Don’t be those guys.

Thirty-eight percent of bookings happen the same day or up to two days before the chosen activity (Phocuswright, 2017). Customers obviously want flexibility. Create an online booking system (with real time updates) to satisfy both the early planner and the spontaneous explorer. Don’t punish your customers for booking last minute either.

Instant communication also involves service after the sale. Pay attention to your online reputation by responding to both compliments and complaints whether they appear in Yelp, your inbox or on your company’s Facebook page.

Hook but Promote Holistically

You’re always promoting the overall experience of your travel brand, but be on the lookout for specific summertime draws you might have missed. Pay attention to what’s happening in your own backyard, so when a new restaurant opens or a local attraction gets a facelift, you can capitalize on it. Then, make sure your customer service personnel know all the details and have the inside scoop for your customers.

Families hit the road during the summer because kids are out of school and activities like piano lessons and soccer practice grind to a halt. City tourism offices can hook them in with a promotion offering family value packs to the pro-baseball team’s latest series while also maintaining regular marketing for the area in general. Students are also free and breezy in the summer so meet them where they are (the beach, clubs, concerts) and introduce your brand with an offer like complimentary appetizers in your restaurant or a buy one, get one on horse riding or kayaking excursions.  

“Every year brings something completely new and exciting in Tampa Bay, and that determines how we prepare for the summer,” says Stephanie Fred, public relations for Visit Tampa Bay. “If there is a new roller coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, we will target family travelers. If there is a food hall like waterfront Heights Public Market or the trendy Hall on Franklin opening, we are going to target adult travelers. With that said, we will normally use the new attractions as a hook, but continually push the destination holistically.”

Make Friends

In the travel industry, everyone wins when visitors come to town. Guests show up for a concert but stay to visit the art museum and dine in the warehouse district. Building relationships with your fellow attraction brands or local businesses can widen your audience and optimize resources. Hone in on possible partners in your area and make it happen.

You’ll often see sightseeing companies promote their services in hotels, but dig deeper and connect with the not-so-obvious choices. Invite the city symphony to perform its spring concert on your grounds. Provide pastries from a local bakery in your lobby. Set up a reciprocal relationship with the theme park down the road offering discounts to each other’s customers. Partnerships should be mutually beneficial but don’t just think in dollar signs. Partner with those who will maintain or enhance your brand’s reputation.

“We have hundreds of partners throughout Hillsborough County,” says Fred, “and they are pivotal in helping us promote the destination to visitors. We also partner with other tourism boards to promote the region and share the market. Working together allows us to be more efficient with our dollars all the while strengthening our relationships with our neighboring cities.”

So many people travel during the summer that you might think getting travelers through your doors would be a cinch, but our world is vast and beautiful. Every travel-related marketer out there is competing for those limited summer dollars. Grabbing and holding visitors’ attention isn’t easy but it is definitely possible. Get it done.

The 10 Commandments of Instagram Marketing for Travel Brands

When it comes to social platforms, few are as beloved as Instagram. As of 2017, 700 million people are active on the platform. In Chute’s studies, we’ve found that it is the #1 social platform young travelers turn to for travel inspiration, and according to Eye for Travel 60% of travel marketers are already utilizing the platform. In this article, I’ll outline my top 10 dos and don’ts for the platform.

One: Do Optimize for Discovery

There are a variety of ways people discover content on the platform, but the top two are geolocation search and hashtag search. People will be able to discover this content through the search page in the Instagram app where your content will appear in real-time and (hopefully) also achieve a spot in the Top 9 section, which is based on engagement. Plus, hashtags are only becoming increasingly importing with the launch of Instagram’s feature that lets users follow not only people but hashtags! So if someone is planning a trip to New Zealand and decides to follow that hashtag, your content could also pop up in their actual feed.

Want all 10 tips plus lots of real examples from other travel brands and destination? Download the 10 Commandments of Instagram ebook! 

How Destination Marketing Will Change Over the Next 5 Years

by J. William Seccombe

Bob Dylan said it best: “The times they are a-changin’” , and they are changing fast. For destination marketers, what’s worked for the past 20-plus years won’t be effective in the next five.  As CMO.com reported, “We are undergoing a massive change in the way that the world works.”

At the heart of this shift are the exponential growth of technology and a serious crisis in confidence. Gallup polls show only 35 percent of American public have confidence in established institutions. Big business (21 percent) and Internet news (16 percent) are among the least trusted right alongside Government and Marketers. Conversely, small business maintains the confidence of 70 percent of the Gallup responders.

What does that tell us? Consumers prefer to do business with people and organizations they know and trust. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but it does present real challenges to traditional destination marketing efforts when the public is wary of the media channels and messages that we historically have relied on.

Destination marketers must thread the needle of using rapidly evolving technology—considered invasive by some—to spread messages that resonate and add value to skeptical audiences. Personalization is key.  Marketers stuck with traditional targeting of large demographic and geographic audiences with mass marketing messages will lose out to those that deliver personalized information that add real value to individual customers.

It won’t be easy. Consider that Deloitte LLP predicts 40 percent of today’s Fortune 500 companies won’t exist in five years. But it can be done.

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less,” retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki.

How destination markets hone their skills with these six key technologies will dictate their fate.

Big Data

Savvy consumers know that they are being tracked at every step, from their email opens to their Facebook clicks—and they don’t like it. But at the same time, the data in the cloud is the key to unlocking people’s trust, and in turn, their wallets. What websites consumers visit, who their social media contacts are, where they live and where they’ve been are tools to predict their next trips, purchases and plans. The ability to accurately predict those future steps adds value to the consumer. Destination marketers can’t rely on humans alone to look ahead. This leads us to…

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI allows marketers to use all that big data. It is creating a shift from targeting consumers based on their demographics and how much they spend to predicting their trends based on purchase history and other factors like location. Currently, about 20 percent of advertising through automation. By 2023, that number will be closer to 80 percent. By using a consumer’s history and preferences, marketing messaging will be far more effective. Big data and AI are going to reshape how marketers do their jobs.

Digital Interface

For almost 150 years—since the typewriter was invented in Milwaukee in 1868—we’ve relied on a keyboard in some ways to communicate. With the rise and fall of the BlackBerry and ubiquitous smartphones with touchscreens, they board has shrunk at about the same rate as consumer confidence. Soon, keyboards may be non-existent. Already, 20 percent of mobile searches are using these chatbots. NYC & Company, the tourism arm of New York City, is piloting the launch of Chute’s chatbot designed specifically for destinations. “Travelers are no longer just going to one resource or turning to visitor guides alone to research and plan. With so many outlets, it’s vital for destinations to be at the ready and reach travelers wherever they are,” says Fred Dixon, NYX & Company president and CEO.

Comscore estimates by 2020 about 50 percent of mobile searches will be done via chatbots like Alexa, Siri, Cortina and Jarvis. In 2025, 95 percent of consumers’ interaction with their devices, and homes for that matter, could be done through voice. What does that mean for marketers? Just consider the pages of results a Google search results in and compare that the one or two options Alexa offers up instead. Are you beginning to understand why you need to know what a consumer is looking before they even know?

Internet of Things (IOT)

Gartner Tech Research says 8.3 billion things are connected to the internet in 2017—up 31 percent from last year. It predicts that number to jump to more than 20 billion in 2020. When you combine IOT with digital interface, the pace of how you rely on AI and voice search picks up significantly. IOT is reshaping habits we have had for generations, such as walking into the house and turning on the lights (remember the Clapper?)—now you can tell your phone to go ahead and turn those on for you.

Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR)

AR has already arrived. If we weren’t quite sure of that fact, the Pokémon Go craze certainly proved it. New phones are coming out that are pre-programmed to support AR. Apps are coming out almost daily with AR uses. Now that we know the technology exists and can be mass produced, it’s only a matter of a time before AR goes fully mainstream. VR is also here, but it is still a burgeoning technology that has yet to be used by marketers on a universal scale.

Blockchain

Blockchain technology is decentralized data (it’s the technology that Bitcoin is built on), and lives in so many places that it can’t be changed or hacked, as happed to Equifax customers recently. In the future, instead of companies, such as credit bureaus and social media outlets, owning your data and monetizing it, consumers will own their own data and allow businesses to have it in exchange for products and services. This ties back into the trust issues at the very heart of destination marketing.

The Keys to Future Marketing Success

So, what can destination marketers do about the “crisis of trust” and technology that seems impossible to keep up with? Among the tips that will be discussed at Connect Travel’s Marketing Leadership Summit, Feb. 19-21, in Orlando, Florida, are:

  • Make offerings hyper-personal and providing real value adds for customers. Instead of focusing on pushing out your message to get consumers to act, focus on what you are providing them with that will enrich their lives.

  • Your voice search strategy. How do you get your brand to be relevant in a voice-search world? Start building quality Q&A content on your website that offers robust answers in natural language. Buzzwords and stiff language are things of the past.

  • Building circles of trust. Identify the brands—whether they are small businesses with a cult following or bigger players like Amazon—that people trust, and partner with them. Again, these partnerships provide value to your customers with services or information that they need or want. Remember, consumers work with who they know and trust.

  • Authenticity and specificity in your messaging. Communicate to your customers how your destinations are truly different. Blah language like “shopping, dining and fun for the whole family” won’t get you anywhere anymore. Get to the heart of the community values and deliver authentic messages.

Fantastic Influencers & Where to Find Them

by Monica Watson

As the creator, curator and publisher of all of Visit Kansas City’s (also known as Visit KC) CVB, Carolyn Anderson knows a thing or two about influencers. The Social Media Manager has worked with creators from a wide array of verticals in a variety of projects. After her presentation at the destination marketing event eTourism Summit, we spoke with Anderson to get a glimpse into how she sets the influencer strategy at Visit KC and how she decides who would be the best partners.

Sightseer: Diving right in, why do you see influence in marketing as important both for Visit Kansas City and also specifically for your own role?

Anderson: As a CVB, we are very aware of the fact that we obviously have a ton of content, expertise and experience selling our city, if you will. But what is great is to get those kind of perspectives from people that haven't experienced Kansas City before or are experiencing it in a different way than maybe us as individuals haven't considered before because they’re different ages or have different interests, different pursuits. It's a really valuable way to expand the knowledge that we have and get that credibility from a new source.

In the case of our influencer campaign this summer, we worked with four social media bloggers from Chicago. They took the very easy flight from Chicago to Kansas City and spent about two and a half days seeing some of the best food, drink and shopping options that we have here. It was really good to get their first timer or new impression perspective.

How does it help my job? To get more advocates, voices and perspectives that are different from my own is very valuable. I'm still human behind that social media screen. I am experiencing things differently than someone else, and it's really great to get a broader spectrum of experiences shared through influencers.

 

S: When it comes to finding your influencers, do you only work with travel creators?

A: So one of our key takeaways when presenting at the eTourism presentation was to think outside the travel vertical. It's very tempting to take the content of someone who has traveled the world and knows how to share an experience within a city. But there's also a fresh perspective that can be gained from a broader lifestyle blogger perspective or perhaps one that is lifestyle, but their favorite thing is to travel through eating food. Working with a variety of different bloggers allows their story to resonate with a wider array of potential visitors who may be interested in searching for that information. If I'm traveling, I might type in ‘best Mexican restaurants in Kansas City,’ for example. One of our bloggers created a recipe inspired by their trip, and that unique impact travel has on food is fun and something unique she was able to bring. So extending beyond the travel vertical is a really valuable way to get niche interests and reach more people.

 

S: There’s a lot of confusion around paying versus just providing a free experience. How do you handle compensation of influencers?

A: We're kind of split on this as an industry. Some people just don't believe in compensation when you provide the travel or provide free meals, tickets and things like that. At a minimum, I definitely believe paying for their experiences when they’re here is a no-brainer. However, beyond that, we have started to do formal contracts and working with our agency of record.

This helps in a couple different ways. First, we are finding influencers that are more in-demand, and for good reason, The quality of their writing and photography tend to be better. Additionally, we are asking a lot of them: their time while they're here plus the work that goes into providing those assets and stories post-visit along with access to their audience.

If you are paying, my advice is start out by giving the highest and best offer. You know what you have to spend, and it probably is not a flexible number, so don't try to make it one. Many times that is a perfectly amount. Even if they do ask for more, and we’re unable to provide it, they still end up typically expressing interest in working with us in some capacity. We have just found that it helps elevate the influencer’s experience and their respect for us as a CVB as well.

 

S: When it comes to the actual planning of influencer campaigns, what does that look like internally?

A: We do one big influencer campaign a year, in the summer typically to align with high-travel season, and the planning starts about one quarter in advance. This encompasses research to trip finalization to their actual visit. It's not all I work on for that quarter, but these things take time.

 

S: What are some of the tactics that you utilize when going through those planning stages?

A: We start with the big campaign idea and, regardless of who we end up working with, what we want them to experience and what Kansas City story do we want to tell. Last year, we focused heavily on the sports, family, and outdoor experience that you can have in Kansas City. This year, we wanted to kind of switch up the story and tell a different perspective, like I mentioned earlier. We wanted to have a female voice to showcase a weekends with the ladies with the goal of highlighting dining options, activities and attractions may appeal to people that look like those influencers’ followers.

That's another thing you should keep in mind when you're selecting the influencers and researching the influencers. Their followers are used to a certain type of content from those influencers, so we want to ensure that their experience is authentic to what they would be interested in. That goes into the research and reservations that we make at restaurants and things like that. We want the experience to be one they may do on their own, even though we're hosting their experience in Kansas City.

 

S: Sometimes influencer programs end up getting lumped in with press trips, which isn’t too shocking. From a quick glance they do sound very similar. But I know that was something you warned against during your eTourism presentation.

A: Press trips are not something I've worked directly on as much as influencer trips, but the experience is quite different. Press trips that I have been a part of have oftentimes been larger groups - like twenty people in shuttle busses. Or, secondly, it's one person and they are flying in on behalf of their publication and are experiencing this city on their own terms, writing the story that they are charged with writing. In that case, we have very little contact with them outside of booking their travel. They’re not obligated to take photos and document their experience while they're here. Compare that to an influencer program, where there's a longer chain of marketing possibilities because they market the city while they're here and then they write the content and share the assets following their visit to extend the efforts of what they were doing.

It's just sort of a different audience, a different mindset, and ultimately, the destination of that content is different as well. The assets that are procured and provided by the influencers are assets that we can use here at KC. The story itself ends up on the blog or the website of the influencer versus a publication geared towards another specific audience.

 

S: Speaking of expectations, how do you set those for the influencers? And are there any guidelines they have to follow when working with you?

A: We want to make sure it's worth their time but also worth our investment. And we want to make sure that this is not a flash in the pan, one and done, temporary story that’s gone in 24 hours campaign. We ensure that we get access to assets, which includes photography, video, and their writing. Also, we want to ensure that we're getting the amount that we would like. We outline that in the contract, and they have to sign that contract so that they know that they are obligated to fulfill it in order to get payment.

We also have a code of conduct. We chose the influencer for a reason, and that's because we felt like their style, tone and voice would compliment our destination. If they change that dramatically while they're here, that's going to be quite a shock to what we were expecting to provide to our audiences along with affecting the impression on followers of the destination. So, we outline what we saw on their channels that we liked along with the the tone and direction that we're expecting to see when they’re here.

 

S: When it comes to measurement, what are you looking at as defining success? Do you also outline any specific goals and metrics that you also outline for the influencer? And how do you go about tracking those metrics?

A: First, we want to make sure that we have content that we can work with well beyond their visit and their time here. And then the goals are typically based on a combination of numbers estimated by our agency of record on the campaigns that they've done in this industry in terms of influencer marketing. But, in addition to that, now we have two years of influencer visits to compare against. We've focused on impressions and engagements, which reflect audience interest in what that influencer is doing in our city. I personally want to ensure that no matter how many impressions we get, the engagement number continues to rise year-over-year with these influencer trips because that, to me, is an extra indicator of interest.

 

S: You mentioned your most recent campaign was around having a weekend getaway featuring women. The photos and results you got seem really impressive. Can you walk me through that one a bit more?

A: To start, we knew that we wanted to bring them in from Chicago. That is a great fly-in market for us that we've identified. It's a 53-minute flight, so it makes sense for people to come to Kansas City for a weekend when they're coming in from Chicago. We wanted to identify that market. And then, within that market, our agency of record helped us identify prominent influencers, backing up to the point of lifestyle influencers. They're not just travel focused. And we found these four influencers that we felt would balance the story telling between all types of things that you can do in Kansas City; eat, drink, shop, experience the creative scene, things like that.

So, once we started doing the research, I found four influencers that to me had that magic mix of a strong following, but more importantly, strong writing, strong photography and a style that we felt would tell the Kansas City story in a positive and authentic way. I mean, that's another big thing too: these influencers and the influencers I value working with are very authentic and aren't afraid to tell it like it is. And in this case they really liked Kansas City. So, we appreciated that it was a positive experience.

We have a pretty good idea of what an optimal itinerary could involve and what's feasibly and logistically possible in a two and a half day time frame. You don't want it to be so packed to the gills that they're too exhausted by the end of day two to even talk about the dessert that they're eating or the hotel that they're staying at. You want to space it out, remembering that these are people with needs for breaks and needs for rest and relaxation. So we built an itinerary that balanced the best of what we have with moments for them to go out on their own as well. We didn't want to be on their side 100% of the time. We were there most of the time though.

We also made sure to work with members and partners that are flexible and understand that the reservation is for a group of influencers. So, I'm just being sure that the places that we select are going to be helpful because it's not the most typical arrangement when four giant photographers come out and are taking pictures of oysters and all sorts of staged shots that tells a story. That takes some time and effort and patience from the members and partners involved. Plus, now they're going to get some great marketing out of it as well.

Ultimately, this particular campaign ended up in Chicago. Where they're home, they were able to say, hey, we're bringing Kansas City UP to Chicago now that we're headed back. We've just experienced it, so now we want you to see it, too. So we had a speakeasy underground in Chicago to put our money where our mouth is and say, hey, this is what we were saying we've got. Here's our music, here's our great food and why don't you come experience it for yourself.

 

S: Lastly, looking back at the past year and looking forward to the rest of 2018 and beyone, what are some influencer marketing shifts you’re anticipating? How do you think this form of marketing, which seems to be ever-changing, ever-growing, how to you see that evolving?

A: Looking local will be a really valuable approach for many CVB's and one that I would like to do as well. I think that local influencers are actually going to know their destination inside and out. And who doesn't want to hear from a local -- where their favorite places and things to do are? It's a really authentic voice to share a destination story. So, I think looking to locals for influencers will be a big asset for businesses and industries such as my own.