July 2010 – This Changes How People Travel

Your visitors are asking themselves, “What is there to do/eat/see around here?”

They are finding the answers on their smartphones.

Are you ready for that?

We have been experimenting with different kinds of smartphones and devices that connect to the web, using a Windows phone, an Android model and an iPod Touch with its WiFi.

The Internet is in our pocket, and that is a big deal for tourism.

Let’s face it, a lot of your visitors are notdiving into paper maps and guidebooks before they arrive at your destination. They don’t plan to drop into your brick-and-mortar Visitor’s Center.  They may not be interested in downloading and (heavens! Old School!) printing your PDF brochure.

Instead, they are scrolling through online resources on a smartphone as they drive (hopefully as a passenger) down the highway,  as they step off the plane and as they walk around in your historic downtown.

Let’s talk about some of the tools that they’re using, always remembering that the point is not whether an individual service will come and go, but whether the tech idea or concept behind the service has legs in destination marketing.


Location-based Services: Gowalla and Foursquare

(—->> Update: Gowalla was bought by Facebook and shut down, so now links to Gowalla no longer work. You’d think that Facebook Places would now use Gowalla technology, but we aren’t seeing it yet.)

Neither one of us are big on games (hey, we like to have fun as much as anyone, but we’re too busy for frivolity, dangit!) but Gowalla and Foursquare have piqued our interest.

These are great services to put your online champions to work on populating with local sites, data, tips and insights.

To Answer the “So What?” Question  — Theconcept of info you want, coming to you as you physically stand where you need it, is the takeaway here. Smartphone GPS capabilities are driving the location-based services, and those features are also being rolled into more mainstream services like Facebook and Twitter.

THAT is what makes this significant, even for small towns and rural areas.


Currently, Foursquare is by far the most popular location-based service or app. Users check in as they arrive (or depart) a location. The person with the most recent check-ins at any location is crowned the “mayor.”

Anyone who checks in can leave tips or suggestions for others to follow; this is one of the features that makes it powerful for visitors and locals alike. Tips make anyone feel like an insider, and they can also benefit one’s personal travel (tips about the Orlando airport made media expert Rae Hoffman a Foursquare believer.) It’s possible to set up custom badges by contacting Foursquare directly, but basics matter more. Make sure your local attractions are listed, and encourage people to add Places and relevant tips.

Examples:  The Visit Bucks County (Pennsylvania) Foursquare page and the brand-new Air New Zealand Foursquare promotion (Mayor of the, say, Auckland NZ airport gets free admission into that airport’s Koru Lounge.)


(—->> Update: Gowalla was bought by Facebook and shut down, so now links to Gowalla no longer work. You’d think that Facebook Places would now use Gowalla technology, but we aren’t seeing it yet.)

Gowalla is a bit more fun and friendly, but currently has fewer users (Sheila prefers it to Foursquare, and worries that it will end up like the Betamax vs VHS tapes product war – the better quality products loses out.)

We love the tourism potential of creating custom Gowalla Guides and Lists (formerly called Trips). Any user, including you, can create and publish an itinerary of multiple stops around your town or region.

Use this to modernize your existing tours or create new mini tours especially geared to the high-tech visitors. (Note: we’ve been told that there’s a backlog at Gowalla for creating custom badges, so get your requests in and on the waiting list if you’re interested.)

Examples: the Louisville KY Tour and Bar Crawl in honor of the Kentucky Derby, Off the Wall Spots in Oklahoma City and Miami’s Art Deco District trip with National Geographic.

Here’s an idea that Scott Townsend shared with us;  Bartlesville, Oklahoma, has a set of painted bison (buffalo) statues spread all over town. There’s a list of statue locations on the Visit Bartlesville site. Many cities and towns have a similar arts project. Why not make a Gowalla trip including the whole set? Here’s a darling photo, from a father taking a walk with his son, checking into Gowalla and taking a photo featuring the Centennial Plaza bison.

On Foursquare, you could make sure the location of each statue was included, and then include a relevant tip about the bison statue. By giving the information to visitors in more than one way, you increase the chances that someone will actually benefit from your efforts!

In sum, consider how this sort of immediate, here-and-now service (combined with smartphones) might become a part of your marketing and outreach.

For more background, read through some examples of businesses that are already experimenting with location-based services, as outlined in Aaron Strout’s excellent post, Are Foursquare and Gowalla Just Shiny Objects? and then peruse this July 2010 WIRED article, Behind Foursquare and Gowalla: The great check-in battle.


Video: Lessons Learned So Far

As Sheila continues her YouTube/Facebook video work for her local CVB, she’d like to offer these quick tips for non-pro videographers like herself:

1) Just get out there and do it. The video space feels similar to where blogging was in late 2005/early 2006….getting more mature but still plenty of running room.  Claim your video real estate on the web NOW and start filming while there’s less competition, or face a continuously-steeper learning curve.

2) Think, think, think about your lighting.  Move around to position your camera so that light falls on and illuminates your subject. Rules of photography apply – morning and evening light is usually best because it’s more diffused and flattering. When inside, turn on every light you can find, and don’t let subjects become backlit by windows.

3)  Think, think, think about your audio. Nobody wants to watch a video with crummy audio. They just won’t. Sheila struggles with outdoor wind noise in many of her videos, and she just bought a Kodak Zi8 video camera largely because it allows her to plug in a small lavaliere external microphone. In her last video interview at a baseball diamond, the audio assaults included a mower starting up, then a powerwasher for the stadium chairs and finally, two guys pounding on the pitcher’s mound to groom it for the next game. Hurray for the little mic clipped onto her subject’s shirt as he spoke!

If you don’t have an external mic, get your subject to a quiet place, get them to speak up and get them up against a wall so the sound can bounce back to your camera.

4)  Do not shoot jiggly videos or pan (move left or right) the camera too quickly. Get a tripod. If you find yourself without a tripod, use two hands to anchor that camera as best you can. Look for a pole or wall or anything that you can prop it against to make it steady.

5)  Think before you shoot. Sometimes, your videos will be very spontaneous, but most of the time you’ll have an opportunity ahead of time to lay out a shot list or storyboard (ways of thinking about which visuals you want to capture.) Travel TV Girl Lori R. Ansaldi suggests that you visit the venue without shooting anything first, to get a sense of what happens and which shots you’ll want to capture, from which angles, then draw up your shot list, think through your visual story and return with a camera.

6)  If YOU are being interviewed for a video (more and more common these days) here are your key media training tips:  Speak up. Smile. Be animated. Give short, succinct answers to questions (yes, speak in sound bites.)  Don’t force your interviewer to have to edit for hours to pull out the nuggets. Get up into the camera; don’t be shy. Did we mention: speak up?  🙂


Come See Us Live and In Person

This summer will be a great time to come out and meet us in person; we’d love to say hello!

  • Sheila will be at the Texas Festivals and Events Association (TFEA) annual conference with secrets for Managing the Technology Explosion plus Using Social Media to Tell the Story of Your Festival , July 8-11 in Houston.
  • Becky will be teaching photography basics at Picture My Weekend, July 24 in Alva, Oklahoma.
  • August 9-12, we’ll both be talking about Hosting Wired Fam Tours and Blogger Press Trips at the Texas Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus (TACVB) annual conference in Lubbock. We’ll also be exhibiting in the trade show.
  • September 19-22, Sheila will be at the Texas Travel Industry Association’s (TTIA) Texas Travel Summit in Galveston, sharing tips to Fill That Convention Center: How Social Media Can Help You Get Them in the Door.
  • September 28 – 30, Becky will be exhibiting at the Oklahoma Municipal League Annual Conference in Oklahoma City.


We Show How to Fish Where the Online Fish Are:

BlogWorld and New Media Expo

To really understand what’s going on with tech and social media, you have to “go where the geeks are” – events like South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi,) BlogHer, SOBCon and BlogWorld – and be immersed in how they communicate.

Just as you are used to working with print travel writers and TV travel shows to earn some coverage for your destination in magazines, newspapers and broadcast, it’s time to learn how to work with online writers and content creators. These are the people who can provide online coverage; coverage that goes up almost immediately and stays online indefinitely.

Are you ready to reach out? There are travel bloggers, food writers, family authors, sports bloggers, baby boomer writers and craft bloggers. They post articles, photos, videos, and audio from their travels for a diverse online audience. You should get to know them.

We have a two-part approach to help you get into this world, as part of the BlogWorld and New Media Expo tech conference at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

First, we will teach a one-day workshop for you: CVB, DMO and other tourism folks on October 14, 2010 (registration page coming soon!) Second, you’ll be part of networking meetings, tweetups and other “get to know you” sessions with the online influentials at BlogWorld.

There is no other event that gives you both: education for yourself, and networking to meet online publishers.

Tech and social media stuff moves fast; you need to keep up in order to make intelligent decisions about whether to incorporate something into your marketing efforts.

We hope you’ll join us and thousands of bloggers and podcasters in Las Vegas.


Thoughts, suggestions or questions? Don’t be shy; put ’em right down in the comments!


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Commenting area

  1. sigh ~ so much too learn

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