The 2015 Oregon Governor’s Conference on Tourism took place Apr. 12-14 at the Eugene Hilton. The conference revolved around the growth of the U.S. tourism industry and provided ways for Oregon businesses to capitalize on this $2.1 trillion industry that ranks No. 1 among all U.S. industry exports. In Oregon, tourism is now a $10.3 billion industry, with the wine-related travel contributing $207.5 million. Research shows that in Oregon visitors love and look for our authenticity, which can be expressed as quirky and unpretentious. For wine tourists in Oregon, it’s not about just tasting wine but the ability to taste it with the person who made it.
The top six topics at The Oregon Governor’s Conference on Tourism that were most relevant to the Oregon wine industry include:
- Using Social Media in Tourism
- Understanding your Audience through Research, Data and Social Listening
- Creating and Sharing Content Strategically
- Integrating Your Marketing Plans
- Working with Social Media Influencers
- Maintaining a Service Culture
Highlights and key points of these six sessions will be discussed in an effort to share content and frame these topics into a focused Oregon wine industry dialog.
Using Social Media in Tourism
Throughout the conference, speakers discussed the next level of social media and instructed attendees to not think of social as “social media marketing,” but rather “social marketing.” An estimated 76% of travelers share their experiences via social media platforms. To take your brand’s social media presence to the next level consider not only getting visitors to share, but getting them to share your specific brand’s point-of-view when doing so. To be most effective with social or digital content, be human and inspirational. Consider what the payoff is for the consumers to use your #hashtag. Below are a few key questions to ask when creating social media content:
- What’s our organization’s point of view?
- What do we want to promote?
- How can we get people to share that story?
The consumer brand / product experience typically follows the path Aware Know Like Buy. Therefore, it is important to transition consumers past simple awareness of your product or brand to liking as that will lead them to buy. One way to make the transition from “Aware” to “Like” is by teaching something new each time the potential customer “meets” your brand. Social channels create opportunities for new and different information about your brand or product to be provided at every exposure, which can make it more valuable than traditional advertising that communicates a fixed message.
Understanding Your Audience through Research, Data and Social Listening
There are many ways your business can use research wisely to understand your audience. First, start by looking at your audience in different ways:
- How does your buyer profile differ from your visitor profile?
- How can you target these audiences differently?
- What defines your heaviest users?
- What are the behaviors of first-time visitors vs. long-time visitors?
To gain these insights try implementing surveys paths. For example, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival conducts in-venue surveys every three years, ticket buyer survey every three years and a survey to new accounts every year. This allows them to challenge assumptions, inform marketing strategy and inform grant applications. However, it’s important to keep surveys to no more than 25 questions as completion rates dip dramatically after this point. If you’re trying to conduct research on a small budget consider other organizations that probably have the same question and find ways to band with organizations to fund research.
It’s also important to listen to your audience. Be sure to monitor hashtags, conversations, keywords, etc. by using social media dashboard platforms like Hootsuite. Answering and interacting with the people who talk to you or about you will help your brand feel more human. Mining your Google Analytics will show you where your current site traffic is coming from, how people are engaging with your content by outlining the number of pageviews to your website, traffic sources and where visitors exit the site. Make note of referring sources that provide a low bounce rate with high time spent on your site. BuzzSumo is a tool that provides insights on what content is shared the most from your site. Forums like TripAdvisor are also a good place to get to know your audience, the questions they have and what motivates them. Zip code analyses of your email lists or survey responses can help to understand where your audience is located and if you’re targeting the right area.
Listening to your audience will allow you to tailor (curate or create) your content accordingly.
Creating and Sharing Content Strategically
Once a consumer knows your brand, likes it and is ready to visit, the travel planning cycle has changed to a threefold process: Inspiration Research Purchase. Here are some things for businesses to keep in mind when planning brand messaging for each step of the consumer travel planning cycle.
Evaluating your Inspiration Phase:
- What content do you have available?
- How can it be shared?
- Where is your audience?
- How can you develop content?
Evaluating your Research Phase:
- What is the SEO opportunity?
- What kind of search gets you the right audience?
- Approximately 74% of travelers watch videos related to an interest or hobby – what are the interests of your target? Do you have video content that speaks to your future traveler?
Evaluating your Purchase Phase:
- How can you simplify your mobile “booking” process? $6 billion in travel bookings were made on mobile in 2012 and this is estimated to hit $40 billion in 2015.
- Can you click or call to book directly from your mobile site?
Integrating Your Marketing Plans
Now that you’ve evaluated your consumer’s purchasing cycle, you can develop an integrated marketing strategy. To do this, start with a well-stated problem. Develop a strategy to solve the problem by a solution. Think of this as “Get WHO to do WHAT by overcoming WHICH BARRIERS.”
Your brand messaging should be consistent across platforms but it is vital to tailor your approach to address the needs of the audience for that particular channel. This will lead you to evaluate the role of your media channels and how frequently they need updating:
- Print guides: information overview with who/what/where/how. These usually provide inspiration and can have a Q&A with people behind your business, local insight and/or themed stories. This sort of content is usually updated annually.
- E-news / web stories: balance of information and inspiration that have a “go do this” focus. Provide practical information to enable easy planning and action. This sort of content is usually updated monthly or bi-monthly.
- Blog: best engagement when written in the first person as most consumers will use it as inspiration. Give your readers an “I did this, and so can you,” takeaway. Be sure to update your blog frequently. This will help give your readers something new to learn each time they “meet” your brand.
- Social: keep feeding all of the above content through this outlet. Make sure you let your friends/followers know you have a new blog post, e-newsletter, print guide, etc. Look at all the content developed outside of social for your other media channels and use social channels to distribute your content. Repackage the content you’ve created to serve your target audiences during their Inspiration, Research and Purchasing cycle.
Working with Social Media Influencers
When distributing your key messages, think about partnering with brands or people that have a greater reach or the ideal audience for your product. Provide them with content to share. For example, social media influencers can be an asset to getting your content in front of the right audience. Influencers are people who have a large following on social channels and are considered to be a reliable inside source. These can be athletes, celebrities, bloggers, foodies or a chef.
Many companies have successfully hired influencers to take over the company’s social media accounts for a set period. The influencer will post their experiences using the company’s product and tell the company’s story. However, it’s not always better to select an influencer with the largest following. Sometimes it’s better to choose someone that is more focused on the niche as their followers will be more invested. Travel Oregon has successfully used influencers on Instagram in both the Seven Wonders campaign as well as during the Trails to Feast campaign. To see another example of using influencers, look at this Nike Fuel Band video made by hired influencer Casey Neistat. It was viewed 13.9 million times and was called the best brand story of all time. While he only mentioned product and brand once in the beginning, the underlying message and essence portrayed in the video was exactly in line with Nike’s strategic brand messaging. Due to Casey’s influence, that message reached precisely the right audience in an authentic way.
You can find influencers by tracking specific hashtag usage, Google search or social media listening tools like Keyhole. Once you have your influencer defined, set clear goals and set up benchmark tracking. Remember to track sentiment as well as hard numbers. Regardless of the influencer you choose, it is very important to put a contract in place with the influencer to protect your brand.
Maintaining a Service Culture
Once a consumer is at your business, it’s important that you have established and maintain a service culture. Great customer service can be the best free advertising. Make sure you’re giving the customer everything they’ve been promised through passion, emotion and connection. Think of this as interactional service rather than transactional service. Don’t create boundaries for your employees that inhibit interactions and be sure to encourage feedback from the consumers who visit you as this will lead to the consumer feeling valued by your business. And, should you ever get a poor review, try not to respond by getting defensive.
While sessions at the Governor’s Conference of Tourism presented innovative ideas and sparked excitement in their attendees, it was easy to feel overwhelmed by how much there is to be done when growing a brand. Brand USA and Travel Oregon partnered for a general session during the conference to discuss growing with purpose and focus. Both tourism organizations have grown in their number of target markets over the past decade. Travel Oregon focused on four markets 10 years ago whereas they now have 12.They reminded businesses to start narrow, dialing-in messaging and strategically plan for growth after seeing success in their primary market.