Building a strategy for social media in destination marketing

Think about the big picture (courtesy krossbow at Flickr CC)

Think about the big picture (courtesy krossbow at Flickr Creative Commons)

Let’s talk STRATEGY

That word has come up several times over the past few weeks. Our clients are asking for help with it, conference breakout sessions are devoted to it and we’ve been looking at our own marketing strategy for Tourism Currents.

Since figuring out a strategy for social media seems to be top of mind at the moment, we thought we’d dive in and further the conversation.

When crafting a successful CVB/DMO/hotel marketing strategy, start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What makes sense for you, your market or your tourism/hospitality clients?
  • How are you going to position yourself? In other words, who is your best market (another way to say “target market” because, well, why think of visitors and guests as targets?)
  • Can you describe your ideal visitor and no, it is not “everyone”. It is someone very specific who ADORES what you have to offer.
  • How are you going to integrate your marketing efforts across all of the ways that visitors talk about you today, and in the near future: online, offline, mobile, etc.
  • What makes sense for you, your market or your tourism/hospitality clients? (Uh huh, we said that one a second time – it is so important!)

Recently we asked a group of tourism and hospitality professionals this question:

“If you were able to start over again for your destination or your business – we mean from scratch with a website, social media channels, etc. – what would you do differently?”

A great answer came from William Bakker at Destination Think!:  “Put social at the core. Instead of building marketing programs and digital channels and using social to support them, start with social and build digital and other channels to support social.”

Voilà! A new twist on building a marketing strategy, based on the seismic changes happening right now in visitor research techniques, word of mouth communications and travel purchases.

Making social the starting core of what you do will change who you are as an organization. It flattens wire diagrams, it cuts across departments, it means that visitors and guests will often drive the message themselves despite your carefully-crafted brochure blurbs.

Jay Baer summed up social media integration this way:

“Companies should focus more on how to BE social, and less on how to DO social media.”

Thinking Through a Strategy for Social Media

Here is a simple framework for creating a social-media centered destination marketing strategy.

Note that the fundamental questions you ask are not any different than they’ve always been:

  • Who is my market? Can I describe my ideal visitor or guest? Am I keeping up with current trends, because what I knew to be true five years ago may be different now – like the assumption that boomer travelers aren’t tech-savvy.
  • Where is my market most active online, including primary social media platforms? If you are unsure about this, look at the current demographics for each social media platform and match them with your typical visitor. Do a survey. Listen for mentions of your town on social media (our Tourism Currents Lesson One is all about how to listen.) If your email provider is MailChimp, you can use their paid SocialPro feature to find out more about the social media profiles of each of your email list members.
  • How can we best interact with them where they are to meet our overall marketing goals of awareness, increased interest and finally, whatever we define as a successful conversion into a happy visitor/guest?
  • Before getting into the weeds of tactics like Facebook ads or how to kick-start a destination marketing blog, first define what a successful marketing strategy looks like. What are our top overall goals, and what are we measuring to see if we’re getting there?

Really, folks. That’s it to start.

Who is your market, where can you find them now on social media, and what sort of content can you create that will appeal to them and encourage some trip-planning?

—>>  We explain more here about how to connect social media to your marketing strategy.

—>>  Here is our planning process for a social media content calendar that supports your strategy.

During the past few years we’ve all been going a bit crazy adding online channels, trying to stretch our marketing dollars in a tough economy, and throughout it all, keeping our heads above water even as it feels like we’re going over Niagara every day.

It’s time now to step back and get back to basics.

When was the last time that you really looked at your strategy? Why not take some time now to consider if it is still a viable strategy or if it’s time to give your strategy a twist.


At Tourism Currents, we help you and your tourism partners learn how to use social media and digital destination marketing to bring more visitors to town. Pick what works for you: our self-paced online course in social media for tourism, our coaching/consulting services, or our speaking and workshop services.


Have you connected with us in your favorite places? If you arrived here directly from a link, here’s the email signup for this newsletter. Say Hi to Leslie and Sheila at Tourism Currents on….

Don’t miss these goodies, either:

Trackbacks for this post

Comments are now closed for this article.