September 2010 – Social Media is All About People and Stories

Sharing a banana split at Pride Dairy ice cream parlor in Bottineau ND (courtesy Pride Dairy on Facebook)Let’s bring clarity to all this social-y, tech-y blather….

Think of social media and social networking as human relationships with your visitors, fostered mostly online.

As with building any worthwhile relationship, it takes time, effort and sincere interest on both sides.

Some will try to ignore the process….like the guy at the cocktail party who shoves his business card at you right away and launches into his canned sales script….but we can spot those suckers a mile away. We turn those broadcasts off and find excuses to escape.

Some will try to build relationships with shortcuts and the thinnest amount of effort, but we’re not interested in that, either. Ever looked at a Twitter stream that was obviously auto-posted from someone’s blog or Facebook?  It clearly says, “We are only checking a box. This is a place to dump our canned marketing announcements. If you interact with us, we probably won’t even know it because we’re never really here.”

No, thanks.  Don’t you prefer folks who will talk with you, not at you?

Tourism people have a wonderful advantage in social media because their destinations are full of genuinely compelling stories and friendly people. The trick (and it’s not all that tricky) is to bring those stories and voices online using technology, so that anyone around the world, at any time of day, can learn about what you offer.

The Web can make a big, sprawling city like Seattle more accessible to the visitor, and it’s also made for the tourism little guy who, through technology, now has a global stage and a fair destination marketing fight.

That’s what we’ve been doing for a year now – trying to teach tourism and hospitality professionals how to connect and tell their stories online.

We launched this learning community website on September 9, 2009 (here’s our very first Tourism Currents newsletter) and we look forward to a nice long relationship with you!

Let’s dive into this month’s topics….


Local Reviews, Local Search and Tourism

A lot has been happening on the search engine front, including this week’s announcement of Google’s Instant Search, but we think CVBs, DMOs and destination marketers need to pay particular attention to local search and Google Places.

When visitors search for local attractions or restaurants or lodging in your town, what are they finding? Take some keywords for your destination (example: Jemez Springs NM restaurants) and search yourself – you may be surprised.

Do you see an accurate portrayal of what is available?

Beyond crafting the local listing information to increase its SEO (search engine optimization) one of the things that can help you rank higher in local search listings is input from online reviews, and your local people can even get involved with those reviews.

A reader comment on one of Becky’s blog posts gave us a terrific explanation of the importance of local search to tourism.

The post itself is about small towns and Foursquare, but the comment from community website expert James Laughlin absolutely applies to local search.

James wrote….

“Sorry to say, but I don’t live in a small town (anymore). I often travel ‘through’ them, though, on my way to other big towns. And what the locals think is important would be so valuable to me as a traveler.

Imagine this: I’m on my way to Dallas for a convention and it’s lunchtime. As I’m hurtling down the Interstate, I ask my passenger (because I would never do this while driving) to find us a place to eat.

With Foursquare/Urbanspoon/Yelp [and local search like Google maps and Places] at our fingertips we are able to find a BBQ place that the locals swear by…three towns away. No problem, we decide, we can drive for another 30 minutes for good grub. The only alternative, it seems, is the McDonalds at that rest stop over there (shiver).

But what we missed is that 5 minutes away from where we are now is a Taqueria that was featured on the Food Network. It has won numerous awards and is widely regarded as the best greasy spoon Mexican food in the region. Right next door is a great local ice cream shop that makes a killer Dutch Chocolate (I looooooove Dutch Chocolate).

They blew it. The locals weren’t talking up the place online, so we missed it. (emphasis added) We got good food. We were happy with it, but the locals lost out on an opportunity to promote their local hot spot, and I never found the ice cream parlor that would have become my new favorite. I would have told everyone I know about this new jewel that I uncovered tucked away in a dusty corner of Central Texas. Now it’s lost forever.

Ok, so that’s a little dramatic. But the concept is sound. Route 66 is no longer. People want to get where they’re going, and you have to be prepared when they’re ready to stop. These apps can provide real revenue to your tucked-away jewel of a town.”

Takeaway on this – your locals matter to your visitors, especially when those visitors are searching for you on the Web.


Tips for Better Tourism Photography

Want to increase people’s interest in your Facebook Page? Post their picture.

Hutchinson KS feed store - chicks plus little humans are always a winner (courtesy bjmccray on Flickr CC)Make sure it’s a picture they want to share. Your goal is to get them to pass around (Share) the link to that picture to their Facebook friends, and even tag themselves in your photos.

Who is doing it right?

Let’s give a big ol’ shoutout to agritourism, and a small business that is making it happen with what they have plus local ingredients, with a dollop of social media thrown in.

Pride Dairy of Bottineau, North Dakota, and the Pride Dairy Facebook Page.

Just look at this album of visitors from August 19 – we liked the father/son pic with the banana split so much that we put it at the top of this newsletter!

They take charming photos of their visitors in the dairy’s ice cream parlor and post them for everyone to enjoy. Each one includes a little description. Simple, easy, and beautiful.

Here are some tips so that you can do the same thing (whether you have awesome fresh chokecherry ice cream or not)

***  Shoot pictures of real people engaged in your town. Get their permission by asking, “May I take your picture to share on Facebook?” In our experience, people are pretty willing to agree to that.

***  Look for action, activity, interest. Find people having a picnic, not just sitting on a park bench. Look for the family shopping together.

***  When you have a concert or performance, you know to shoot the performers, but also look for reactions in the crowd. Who is happy? Interested? Applauding?

Your goal is to capture natural and reasonably flattering pictures of real people, then share them with your audience.

People in your photos, not just buildings and objects, are one huge step to more compelling tourism photography.

If you have some favorite tourism photos, please share them in our Tourism Currents Flickr Group Pool!


Best Practices and Tips from TACVB

We enjoyed speaking at our breakout session about blogger fam tours and wired press trips at this year’s TACVB (Texas Association of CVBs) annual conference, and here are a few nuggets that we brought back from Lubbock….besides how much we liked the windmill museum there….

QR codes and video tags

The Beaumont, Texas CVB uses them effectively to connect flat surfaces and paper to the Web, through a barcode reader on a smartphone.

Here’s an example from their Cooperative Marketing display board for the TACVB Idea Fair – they won 1st place in their class, too!

On the left is the full display board, with the QR code in the middle/top of it.

The right side photo is a closeup of the QR code. It gives people extra links and information using the smartphone’s browser, a barcode reader application and the phone’s camera.

Beaumont CVB QR codes in cooperative marketing display, TACVB Idea FairBeaumont CVB cooperative marketing display board TACVB Idea Fair

QR codes can do everything from bring up simple text with a few hyperlinks (good for areas with slow cell phone data rates or poor coverage) to fancier video tags that can boot up little videos right on the phone, through the phone’s Web browser.

Talk about enlivening your static brochures and historical markers! Point, click, boot up coolness on a phone.

Just make sure there’s WiFi or enough data rate available, and that it goes to a mobile-friendly site.

Get Rid of Obstacles to Your Vision

From one of the best leadership speeches we’ve heard, a reminder from Dr. Ken Jones of Lubbock Christian University to focus on removing obstacles.  He said that,

“Great leaders are able to identify obstacles to the vision and get rid of them. Only 15% of people are truly goal oriented. The rest are problem solvers.  So pick the vision, then find the problems and the obstacles in the way. Remove the obstacles and the vision comes true.

There will always be problems, but keep removing the problems.  Keep encouraging the best you know how, take better care of yourself than you have in a long long time, and keep removing the obstacles.”

Tips From a Travel Writer

From Helen Anders on a session about what travel writers would like from CVBs:   Hand the travel writer a flash drive full of photos (we would say also add some info and links on the drive.)

With travel writers, emphasize your uniqueness. Focus on your historic, your unusual and your local – NOT your chains. Need good photos of your destination? Check with nearby state parks and your state tourism agency.

The Year of the Mobile

From Year of the Mobile keynote by Ryan P. Tuttle, VP of Collinson Digital,  @ryanptuttle on Twitter (and here is his mobile presentation on SlideShare)

Priority order for where to focus on mobile-izing your presence, based on where your visitors interact with you online:

1) Website – 100% of your visitors

2) Facebook – 80%

3) Mobile browsing – 40%+

4)  Twitter – 20%

Note:  next year in 2011 the number of units shipped of smartphones is expected to pass the units of laptops and desktops combined.

Marketing to Hispanics

From an excellent presentation by Kelly McDonald on marketing to Hispanics – we were struck by the statistic that 75% of Hispanic households have multiple mobile phones, and the quote that for many, “mobile phones ARE our computers.”

They tend to be very active with SMS/texting, and they use Facebook and MySpace more than other ethnicities.


Is It Already Time to Forget Mobile?

At a recent major tourism conference, a speaker advised against creating mobile-friendly websites for your destination.

The reason?

Mobile browsers are getting so good that real soon they will be able to display your regular page with no modifications (so there’s no need to invest in creating a whole new mobile-friendly site.)

Becky has some thoughts on this. She says it’s bad advice for two reasons.

1. “Real soon” is relative. Even as the cutting edge browsers get better, it will take time to get those out into the hands of real people. How many not-so-advanced mobile phone browsers are out there right now in the hands of your potential visitors? How many more not-so-advanced phones are they buying every day?

2. People want different information when they are on the go. Think about what information you need when visiting a new town. My guess is people want information on the events happening today, basic attraction information and other info that is not all that easy to get from Google or Yelp.

How can you tell what mobile visitors really want?

Check your current site’s traffic analytics (find out how to get these if you don’t know. If you don’t have any, Google Analytics is free.) Look for the number and type of mobile browsers used. Also check the pages with the most mobile views.

Secret Tip: you don’t have to duplicate your whole site right this minute. Instead, create a special mobile FAQ page to answer the most common questions of your visitors on the go. Keep it up to date with the events of the day. If you can’t add this to your current site, use a service like Posterous that is automatically mobile-friendly. (Update April 2013 – looks like Posterous will be shut down.)


Learn About Social Media and Connect With the Experts

There’s nothing better than going where the geeks are to learn how to really understand and use social media tools….

How? Where? Keep reading!

BlogWorld and New Media Expo October 14-16

***  Our tourism workshop is coming up fast – it’s all day on October 14 as one of the tracks at BlogWorld and New Media Expo in Las Vegas.

Joining us as presenters and facilitators is a dynamite trio:

—-> Ann Peavey from the Seattle CVB (@SeattleMaven)

—-> Jeff Hurt from Velvet Chainsaw Consulting (@JeffHurt)

—-> Mike Bersabal from the Pensacola CVB (@Mike_VstPcola)

Nowhere else will you get both social media education sessions and the chance to connect with thousands of influential bloggers who are also attending one of the biggest tech conferences in the world.

Two very important things to know:

***  BlogWorld attendee discount pricing expires 9/16! 2010 Pass pricing and link to register is here: (this will be replaced/updated for BlogWorld West 2011.)

***  Hotel discounted rooms are booking up quickly – don’t miss the great prices! This is some of the best hotel pricing in the history of BlogWorld, with partner hotel rooms from $45 and they even include free Internet access.  🙂  2010 hotel pricing and link to book rooms online is here: (this will be replaced/updated for BlogWorld West 2011.)

BlogWorld is on track to draw 5000+ bloggers this year, and we really hope that you can join us!

You can register at and get 20% off of any pass (we recommend the Full Access one) by using code TC20.

140 Conference SmallTown

This is an exciting new development for anyone who has ever wondered how to attract buzz and interest to their small town or rural area….

The popular series of 140 Conferences – about Twitter and other communications in the new “State of Now” – is about to add a venue to their event lineup that has previously included gatherings in Los Angeles, Boston, Tel Aviv, London (where Becky spoke) and Detroit.

It’s the 140 Conference SmallTown in Hutchinson, Kansas, at the historic downtown Fox Theatre, on November 1, 2010.

If you’ve ever wanted to see how small towns and their economic development can benefit from technology, join us in “Hutch.”  Speakers are limited to 10 – 15 minutes, there are lots of different voices (including yours, maybe?) and go read this heartfelt post by Deb Brown about why she’s thrilled that 140 Conference SmallTown will help get rid of the term “flyover country” forever.

Social Media Tourism Symposium in Loudon, VA

This is a new conference for “those who do the work,” according to founder and organizer Dave Serino. Anyone could vote on their preferred conference venue, and it ended up near the Washington DC area in Loudon County.

The Social Media Tourism Symposium will be a combination of destination marketing organizations, hotels, resorts, attractions and any other tourism related entities sharing ideas and learning more about how social media is affecting promotion within the travel industry.

What makes this conference unique is the involvement of attendees throughout the entire process. Attendees will have a voice in everything from the location to the session topics and presenters.

Sheila will be speaking on “Getting Blood from a Turnip When You’re the Turnip: Creating More Travel Blog Content with Less Time.”

The full list of speakers and topics plus registration information is on the Symposium EventBrite page.

Dave is pulling together a hands-on gathering, and we think it will be well worth your time!


If you found this newsletter helpful, please go here to learn more about our online course and here to sign up to get the newsletter by email. Thanks!

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