Little or no planning can quickly hinder your destination’s social media efforts. Worse yet, it can produce negative results. For this very reason, we strongly suggest putting together a social media action plan for your DMO. Read time: 7 minutes
Social media has now been around for more than 10 years, an eternity in the digital age. Despite this, there are many DMOs that still don’t have a social media action plan to help guide their content strategy. Conducting a social media audit of existing and potential channels and how they contribute to the overall goals of your DMO is integral to maximizing the potential of your digital reach. To ensure the most effective outcome, we put together a Social Media Assessment Worksheet and guide to help you evaluate your efforts. Below, we have outlined the steps we take to guide DMOs in the development of their social media action plans using examples from an assignment for the Greater Portland Area CVB to guide their efforts to draw visitors to Portland, Maine.
Market Research & Analytics
We begin our process by evaluating market research and website analytics to determine who is looking at the content the client has already generated. While this can be a time-consuming step, it’s important to establish the audience that’s already engaging with your DMO’s content efforts. Partnering with a good research firm can help deliver results that have the greatest potential for demographic insight because of their custom reporting abilities. While working with the Greater Portland Area CVB on their project, we were fortunate to be able to dive into research reports already provided to the CVB. These reports proved invaluable as they presented a very clear picture of the types of individuals who were interested in visiting the area and who would, by extension, be interested in hearing more about Portland, Maine in the digital space. Website analytics provide a different sort of window to your audience. They identify what these "virtual visitors" to the digital destination you’ve provided (your DMO's website) are looking at when they arrive and can also provide insight into how they are finding your content. As you develop your paid and unpaid social strategy to drive website traffic going forward, consider using multiple landing pages related specifically to the message you are "promoting". This will allow you to direct visitors to exactly what you are promoting to them AND help when measuring the effectiveness of specific social campaigns.
After the above process and several discussions with the client, we begin digging into the people we have “met.” As usual in this stage of the process, certain patterns of behavior begin to emerge. Using these insights, we create small persona groupings that display their own set of desires, habits and travel tendencies. A degree of overlap among groups and traits is to be expected, although you want to be sure they’re distinctive enough to warrant their own persona. Next, we determine which of these personas we could reasonably expect to engage. An older traveler, for example, might rely more on visitor guides, phone calls and conversations with their friends, whereas a younger traveler might comb through a destination’s Facebook page, Instagram feed or TripAdvisor listing to aid in their travel planning decisions.
In the early days of social media, most people thought you needed to be active on every available social platform to maximize your presence. But today we know (that is impossible and) the only viable strategy is to focus your efforts on a few select channels. So, once potential audience groups (personas) have been determined, we then identify the social channels that will deliver the content most effectively to those groups. For DMOs that have great imagery potential, platforms like Instagram and Facebook are nearly always at the top of the list. For Portland, Maine, it was recommended that they lean into efforts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest while leaning away from channels like YouTube, which was being primarily used by Portland as a tool for communicating specific information to meeting planners. With the social channels identified for Portland, it was time to begin development of the content plan.
A social media calendar will provide a process for keeping content balanced among personas and visitor interests as well as providing a tool to measure your DMO's social media efforts.
In order to execute a well-planned social media strategy, we provide a sharable social media planning resource that the agency and client team members can access and collaborate on using Google Sheets. Within the color-coded calendar portion of this resource, we designate a different persona on each day and list them consecutively on a recurring basis. For Portland, we identified the: Arts Lover, New Englander, Foodie, Bucketlister, and Meeting Planner. Each persona cell within this sheet links to a tab with a detailed description of the personas (this defines who we are writing to that day). Then we add a content category on each day of the month based on what we know about the interests of the personas and list them consecutively on a recurring basis (this defines what we are writing about/featuring that day). For Portland (and many DMO clients) we use Food, Libations, Arts, Music, Excursions, and Shopping (dubbed FLAMES). We also add fun and relevant holidays where applicable, including major holidays and quirky ones like National Ice Cream Day as well as other details that will be related to that day's post. Each category cell on this calendar is linked to a tab that has every day of the month listed in order with the persona, category, content details, links, etc. as well as four recurring times of day for suggested posting times. Below are screen grabs from the linked tab with these daily post details.
The post details sheet allows you to cross-reference the calendar with more specific post details.
- Column A indicates the date
- Column B references the Persona/FLAMES (ex. Meeting Planner/Excursions)
- Column C indicates the suggested time of day to schedule your posts (8:00, 10:00, 12:00, 2:00, etc.)
- Column D contains the caption or message for the post
- Column E includes any links that need to be included in the posts, such as a link to a related article, a related landing page or stakeholder website, etc.
- Column F can contain file paths or links to an image, etc. that will be posted. As all social strategists know, a visual is crucial for engagement and viewership in general. Because Google Sheets doesn’t allow for a convenient way to include images, we used links to direct collaborators to the appropriate visuals on their internal server or the internet.
Four recurring times of day, five recurring personas and six recurring interests applied to a calendar (made up of seven-day weeks) create a matrix that ensures there is a balance in the content, the audience, the day of the week, and the time of day posts are made. This matrix is also used to perform a content audit and evaluation of a client's social media efforts for the previous month. During this evaluation, post grading includes relevance related to the calendar prescription as well as evaluation of post quality, reach and engagement metrics.
We suggest that the team follow a crowdsourcing methodology consisting of several people with a content team leader acting as the content curator and main point of contact. This way, the project doesn’t fall on the shoulders of just one person. The editorial calendar and the advance planning that these process forces are very helpful when divvying up duties. For example, different days can be assigned to team members (in advance) so that each member knows which date/day of the week they are responsible for. The content team leader can then go through what has been submitted and match it to the correct day. Since the content is planned in advance, there is plenty of time to make changes to the message or the visual if needed.
Plan, evaluate, plan, evaluate, and plan some more! We understand that as a DMO time is of the essence, so the more you can do ahead of time the better. We suggest that clients continue to update their editorial calendar with post details to remain 3 months ahead of schedule and that they evaluate and grade their efforts on a monthly basis. With these resources, you can certainly create and evaluate your ongoing social media strategy in-house. For the Portland, Maine example noted above, Stamp performed the initial evaluation and facilitated the persona and category development. We then consulted monthly with the Greater Portland CVB staff on monthly plan development and followed up by performing an evaluation and grading of the previous month based on the previously approved plan to offer feedback. This engagement and evaluation by Stamp can provide an "outsiders" objectivity and adds perspective to the social media efforts of the DMO clients that continue to have Stamp engaged at this level.