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Demographically Targeted Social Tourism Campaigns

Tourism marketers, rejoice! You no longer have to try to implement your strategies with blindfolds on.

When you are promoting a tourism product or a specific event you probably know that it will appeal primarily to a certain demographic segment of the public. People aged 55 or over, for example, or families or teenagers. How do you reach that target group most cost-effectively?

With traditional media you had to scatter your messages, like casting seeds on the ground blindfolded. You hoped that some of the messages would land in the right places and produce what you wanted.

Reaching Specific Audiences with Social Media

Now there is a better way. Social media websites have given destination marketing organizations a marketing tool more precise than they ever had before. Once a DMO has identified its most promising client groups it can reach those groups through social media sites designed just for them, or create a new one.

A good example of the latter is the Facebook page of Texas Family Travel. It features daily tips on travel ideas, products, destinations and deals of interest to families and has a large and active audience. A recent photo contest attracted enthusiastic participation from the site s followers – a classic way to engage a travel audience through social media and turn correspondents into influencers who will voluntarily support your marketing efforts (see Trends in Social Tourism Marketing, published March 8).

Social media sites can act as channels for delivering specifically designed travel campaigns that reach the targeted audience and don’t incur extra costs for any spillover audience. The audience can be self-defined by the campaign.

In Ontario, Canada, the Stratford Festival wanted to attract younger audiences to its classic theatre performances. The festival created a campaign on YouTube called “Play On,” offering reduced ticket prices to a defined audience of people aged 16 to 29. The campaign began in early 2009 and featured a hip-hop style video following the adventures of three young people travelling to the festival in Stratford, Ontario. To date the video has drawn almost 22,400 views.

The success of this campaign demonstrates how social media can generate expanding circles of audience engagement. The Play On campaign is entering its third year and has become not merely a campaign but a community. Subscribers have their own site where they can log in as Play On members and have access to exclusive deals on dining, shopping and accommodation at local establishments. Voila – a whole new target audience, identified, quantifiable and engaged year after year!

Reaching Social Audiences with Specific Interests

If your budget permits, you can use social media advertising as the basis for demographic campaigns. The advantage is that you can reach audiences identified by interests, not just age or location, and tightly measure their responses.

The Arizona Office of Tourism developed a successful campaign this way using Facebook Ads. In 2010 the Arizona agency made use of the “Likes and Interests” targeting filter of Facebook Ads, which is based on information that people list in their Facebook profiles such as favorite movies or music.

Arizona Tourism targeted United States residents over the age of 18 who had Chicago Cubs-related keywords in their profiles. It launched a campaign called the Chicago Cubs Spring Training Getaway, which encouraged people to enter for a chance to win two tickets to two Cubs spring training games, along with travel vouchers to help cover the cost of travel to Arizona.

In addition to the ad that ran on Facebook, the ad also drew attention to the Arizona Tourism and Travel site and specifically to a keyword rich landing page that housed detailed information about the getaway. Visitors were prompted to enter the contest and also to request an Official State Visitors Guide and also to sign up for periodic newsletters about Arizona tourism.

In two weeks this ingenious campaign reached more than 2.9 million visitors to Facebook at a cost of less than $700. It achieved double the industry average click-through rate, 27-per-cent conversion rate for Arizona Visitors Guiderequests and a 17-per-cent conversion rate for newsletter subscriptions.

The campaign demonstrated how social media sites can be utilized to reach and draw in people with specific interests, activity preferences, identified demographics or regional locations that match those of a DMO’s target audiences.

Using Existing Niche Social Sites to Reach Your Target Audience

It’s not always necessary to build your own page or website in order to launch a demographically targeted social media campaign. You can find receptive audiences using existing sites.

A surprising number of social media sites are designed to serve people with specific characteristics or interests who are clearly prepared to travel to fulfill those interests. Let’s stay with our sports theme and point out a few:

  • is a community for University of Nebraska sports fans. Users can create a profile, write in personal blogs, and discuss Husker sports. Might they also be interested in Nebraska tourism prospects?
  • gives members the ability to share user-generated content such as mobile photo uploads, skiing action videos and ski lifestyle videos. Looks like a good place to attract people to a skiing promotion on a tourism site.
  • is a social media gathering place for surfers. Could a coastal community deliver an appealing message to this audience?

You can see the potential benefits of participating in interest-specific social media sites. There are many travel-related sites, too, where you can find opportunities to deliver creative campaigns linked to your travel website and related properties.

  • has attracted more than 1.6 million travelers to share reviews, photos and blogs.
  • is a place for discovering and sharing favorite places and experiences in the Canadian cities of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
  • is a place for people who want to share their travel experiences through photos, videos and blogging with others.

How many contacts and promotional opportunities could your DMO find by investigating sites like these? And there are many, many more. You can find lists of hundreds of special interest social media sites published by aggregators such as Traffikd and Mashable.

The common advantage of participating in existing social media sites, or creating your own, is that you can devote your marketing resources to reach audiences that you know are interested in activities relevant to your community’s travel offerings. You aren’t reaching out blindly. You know who responds to you and you can effortlessly measure the results of your campaigns for purposes of continuous improvement.

To think that many of us thought a few years ago that social media was a fad. It has become a marketing tool like no other for destination marketers. It has certainly changed the game.

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