Evolving digital trends affect how travelers learn about new destinations, gather inspiration for their next trip and make decisions. To ensure that your destination is not overshadowed by bigger DMOs with budgets to match, it’s imperative to understand technical capabilities across the digital landscape and make smart decisions about how to deploy your marketing dollars for maximum impact. The following digital marketing tips can help you maximize your reach and make the most of your budget.
#1 Utilize social media.
This tip is about as far from being news as possible, but we’re continually surprised by how much it needs to be said: social media is one of the most effective tools to have in your belt. Beyond its capability for brand-building or even as a place to engage with consumers, social media is experiencing a transformational shift and in the process becoming a powerful driver of travel commerce. One of the coolest things we’ve seen across platforms is the ability to translate interest into commitment without navigating a user away from their newsfeed—for example, giving them the option to swipe right on a photo of a curated experience to make a booking.
But it’s not as simple as just uploading cool photos of your destination. According to a recent report put out by Skift on digital advertising trends, Facebook estimates that users only spend 2.5 seconds on a piece of content while browsing on a desktop and just 1.7 seconds when doing so on their smartphones. With these decreased attention spans (remember when 8 seconds was the norm?), it’s imperative that your content is strategic, concise, relevant, timely, and supported by compelling imagery. In other words, it needs to grab the user’s attention instantly.
Social media is where many travelers go for trip inspiration, information, special offers, and peer reviews—and it’s a place your DMO needs to be. And social platforms themselves have recognized this. Facebook, for example, created a Travel Ads service to help you serve up ads with real-time availability and pricing to potential travelers based on where and when they want to go. And with the surging success of micro-influencers and Facebook’s numerous tools to help you make the most of your content, strategically positioning yourself on social media is one of the smartest—and most affordable—things your DMO can do to reach potential visitors. And it can be scaled to reflect the size of your team and budget.
To learn how to build a social media editorial calendar, watch this short video.
#2 Data is your friend.
Google Analytics. Social media analytics. Cookies. Tracking pixels. Retargeting pixels. There are so many ways to capture and analyze user data to help you track the consumer journey and understand, predict and direct the decisions of potential visitors. So many ways, in fact, that you can easily end up with an overwhelming amount of information and no idea where to begin. But so long as you have clearly-identified goals, you are better equipped to select the right metrics to measure and achieve success.
To get the most out of the data that is abundantly available, focus on what’s worth collecting—data that positively impacts your marketing strategy and aligns closely with your goals. You can start by tapping different members of your team on what types of data they create and consume, and then move on to collecting information on your target markets, competitors, visitors, potential visitors, and people who have engaged with your website, social channels and email newsletter (if you have one). Analyze this data each month and use what it tells you about the consumer journey to inform your marketing strategy. How are travelers hearing about your destination? How often do they engage with you on social media? At what point in the travel-planning process do they visit your website—or do they visit your website at all? What digital resources do they use to evaluate how well your destination will meet their needs and expectations?
Answering questions like these can help you refine your content marketing strategy. Experiment with various kinds of content and keep track of what’s getting the most engagement—images? GIFS? Videos? Text? Some combination of these? Data-driven marketing isn’t an exact science, but with some trial and error, you can determine how to best engage with your target markets and drive them to take desired actions—like spending a night or two in your city.
#3 Personalize your content.
As we inch closer to 2020, a key objective for many DMOs will be figuring out ways to get more sophisticated with their personalization efforts, using data they’ve collected to continuously refine their marketing techniques. The modern traveler expects their interactions with DMOs and travel brands to be personalized to their interests—and if you’re not meeting this expectation, you’re falling behind the curve.
But broad-based personalization is no longer enough. Your objective should be to deliver a personally curated travel experience for each visitor along every touchpoint on their trip.This means understanding what travelers want in the moment, not just at the time they’re dreaming up or planning for their next trip. The good news is that travelers will likely research your destination and visit your website and social channels multiple times before they travel. The nature of their searches and the content they engage with can provide a window into the why of their trip, better equipping you to curate the most personalized experience for them while they are in-market.
Another way to personalize the visitor experience is by leveraging location-based technology like geo-fencing to provide suggestions on what to do based on a visitor’s location. These suggestions can be delivered in the form of targeted social ads, banner ads or branded Snapchat filters.
#4 Think Mobile-First.
I’m sure you know all about what it means to be mobile-friendly. But what about being mobile-first? People are now accessing information on mobile devices more than any other electronic device. And for the past few years, a paradigm shift towards building websites utilizing mobile first methodologies has followed this data consumption statistic. Doing so requires creative design that prioritizes small screens and short text to capture and retain the attention of users. So rather than engineering your website to scale accordingly as screen size fluctuates (mobile responsiveness), begin design from the mobile perspective first (which has more restrictions), and then expand its features to accommodate tablets and desktops.
Fully embracing a mobile-first mentality goes beyond a laser-focus on social content and mobile ads. It extends to your entire digital marketing and brand-building strategy through to your website. We understand what it takes to build a website from the ground up—it takes a lot of time and planning to do right. But as screens get smaller and affect how, when and where people access information, formulate plans and make purchases, the best way to communicate that you care about the user experience is by designing your website to thrive in a mobile-first world. After all, what’s the point of leveraging social media, gathering data and personalizing content if it drives users to a website that’s difficult to use?
#5 Remember—Location, Location, Location.
With consumers near universal use of mobile mapping applications, directions and “Near Me” search results have visitors increasingly dependent on mobile technology to help guide them to the best your destination has to offer. So, as part of your DMO’s role in curating your destination, ensure that all of your most important stakeholders are listed accurately on Google, other search engines, and listing and review sites. This especially includes their street address and hours of operation. This is a great opportunity to leverage an intern program and have them do an annual audit of your stakeholders and complete scorecards based on their information presence online. You can use the results of this effort to reach out to specific stakeholders who will have the most impact on your success.
At 1,300 words, I should probably stop writing. But there’s just so much to be said about digital marketing and how to make it work for your DMO. For more tips and tricks on how to make the most of your digital marketing strategy and identify the right tools and techniques to reach your goals, contact me here.