Written by Jacqueline Wolven
Years ago (think when the dinosaurs roamed), travel marketing consisted of ads in magazines, visitor guides, TV commercials, rack cards and billboards. This was 10 years ago. These things are still done, because both the marketers and some of the visitors are of an age bracket where they are used to seeing these things. For the rest of us, we get our entire travel plan-making done via social media. Towns big and tiny have to harness the power of social to attract the visitor.
Most states, cities, and areas use the hashtag #VisitYourDestinationName. It has become a best practice in the travel industry, but that doesn’t limit your location to having just that hashtag. Think about what you have in your city and how you want people to find you and start sharing that hashtag along with the visit hashtag. You can start to build a following that is specific to your location.
You have to let people know what the hashtags are though. Have a page on your city, Chamber, Main Street, or other destination website that lists the popular hashtags for your location. If you, as a blogger, frequently blog about your town, make a page yourself to help visitors know what the locals are using and how they can plug in.
Most visitors, to any region, want to do what the locals do and know what the cool things that the locals know. That is how they get to really know a city. On that page you created with the hashtags, list some local bloggers, Instagram users, Twitter profiles and links to Facebook pages that locals frequent. This gives a huge boost to inviting the visitor into your community.
Our community is working with our local high school’s trades class to create a giant hashtag in painted plywood on wheels for us to cart around our downtown district. You won’t miss this red art piece and we have our fingers crossed that it amplifies the hashtag, gets photographed and shared.
At your city events and festivals make sure that you have signage that has the appropriate hashtags, Twitter profiles and Instagram accounts to follow. If you are going to post photos of the event on your Facebook Page, give out that information so they can look for their friends and family after the event. People will scroll through and tag hundreds of photos of an event.
Our town is very small, but it wouldn’t matter if we were working in some of the largest destinations in the world. We believe letting staff, volunteers and guests take control of our Instagram or Twitter accounts for a day (or more) allows for new and interesting perspectives. If only one voice is being shown you are missing out on all the ways that people love and visit your town. Having someone take over your Instagram for a day might show you and the visitors a whole new idea of what happens in your destination.
There is nothing more frustrating then wondering what profile I am looking at. It is a best practice to have the same branding across all platforms. Don’t try to be clever, just use your logo or symbol of your location and use that everywhere.
Folks are using Pinterest to plan their entire vacation. Destinations have this amazing opportunity to create maps of interesting aspects of their town. You just add the location to the pins that you pin for your destination. Think about having a pub crawl, kid friendly attractions, places to take dogs, live entertainment venues, and the list just goes on and on. You can have boards and boards that not only have great information – create an actual itinerary for your destination.
Every destination (doesn’t matter how big or small) can offer a day or more of interest to a travel blogger or just bloggers that love your location. As a destination, you can put the call out on your website that you host bloggers, put that out on social media, or start to make connections with bloggers in your region or state. It isn’t integral that you offer lodging, although it is appreciated. Post some blogger friendly locations and attractions on your website with their contact information – allowing the blogger to do the legwork. You can also create blogger days or itineraries that they can apply for to work with your location.
Being blogger friendly for destinations allows the power of social to work in a way that transcends what you are doing as a destination. They have their own networks and blog posts about destinations, shared by the destination on Facebook and Twitter, receive hundreds of shares and thousands of views. Be open to the possibility of expanding your idea of the travel writer and tap into this powerful social world that we are now living in.
About the Author: Jacqueline Wolven, an AARP speaker, Huffington Post writer, and Main Street Director for Eureka Springs, Arkansas, is the author of her own life and maybe someday an actual published book. She writes about living simply and doing good work with relentless authenticity (her current projects include small town marketing, personal branding, small business marketing, entrepreneur coaching and keeping those around her accountable with the #30DayChallenge). She is available for consulting with your organization and speaking nationwide. Follow her on Twitter @jackiewolven, on Facebook at Jackie Wolven and at http://jacquelinewolven.com.