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DMOs’ Innovative Use of YouTube

Portland, Oregon has the right kind of thing going with YouTube.

A visitor to YouTube will come away with impressions of a vibrant city that people care passionately about. Some of them care enough to argue, complain and criticize. But there’s nothing ordinary or routine about this site and that’s one thing that DMOs need to keep in mind about YouTube.

Of all social media, YouTube can be the strongest influencer to travelers if used in a way that recognizes its dual nature. Portland is a leading example.

YouTube is part professional entertainment medium and part people’s playground. Portland’s site combines both aspects of this social medium and people flock to it.

Viewers can choose from a selection of professionally produced travel videos, including one that Travel Portland calls its “love letter” to the city (you can also see it at www.travelportland.com). This video, packed with colour and energy, opens with a rip-roarin’ sound track by the MarchForth Marching Band that carries the viewer along like a water slide. It has been viewed almost 182,000 times since September 2009.

Quality counts on YouTube. There are so many amateur videos on the site that a professional production stands out and draws repeat visits. Another city that knows this is Leavenworth, Washington. It owns what Scurvypirates calls “the best tourism video ever“.

The video tells an elaborate story featuring a nutcracker named Wood Goomsba and lots of footage of the Cascade Mountains town with its Bavarian heritage. Bountiful dancers, humour and original rap-based music have drawn more than 300,000 views since the video was launched in 2010. As both Scurvypirates and Travel2.0 have observed, investing in a good story and good production values can reap an impressive amount of attention for a DMO on YouTube.

Viewers love to comment on the videos and extend their comments to the cities behind them. The comments aren’t all favorable, especially in Portland’s case. Arguments, however, seem to draw viewers by the scores of thousands. The more negative some comments are, the stronger are the raves from Portland fans, like the one who declares: “Went to Portland State for my first two years (in university), and I absolutely loved it. I’ll never forget my experiences there. Portland is an amazing, unique city.”

Here is engagement, here is influence. Tourists become influencers through social media by creating and sharing their experiences. YouTube is a compelling medium for this, as Portland and Leavenworth know well.

Cost-Effective Influence

In Canada, Tourism British Columbia has created its own team of influencers and has found a cost-effective way to make them heard and seen in many places on the web.

Since 2009 a team of freelance videographers have been travelling the province in a program called the Tourism BC Field Reporter . They have covered a wide variety of destinations on the recommendations of BC residents and travellers, as well as major events such as the 2010 Winter Olympics. Their videos, seen at BC Field Reporter, have an authentic feel and have generated several pages of enthusiastic comments from viewers. The most active videographer, Chris Wheeler, reports that he has produced 45 videos for the BC Field Reporter campaign with more than 450,000 views.

The campaign is innovative because of its low-cost, speedy production. The videos, averaging three minutes in length, are one-person productions; the host operates the camera and edits the footage. This cost-effective approach doesn’t sacrifice professional quality since the videographers are highly skilled. They frequently shoot the video footage in one day and have the edited product online the next.

They also like to write about their experiences as bloggers. This means the videos often provide double exposure for Tourism BC via Hello BC Blogs. You can catch them on the main site, too, at www.hellobc.com.

The exposure doesn’t stop there. Tourism BC encourages its stakeholders, including provincial regions and communities, to embed and share the videos. The tourism industry gets involved too. Since the videos are inexpensive to produce, a DMO or tourism operator can commission one through Tourism BC and pay only the cost of the field reporter. So the videos end up on the private industry websites as well as those of Tourism BC and YouTube. This unique campaign maximizes the investment in video marketing through collaboration.

Real Time All the Time

On May 11, 2011, an elk casually entered the Bow River and crossed to the snow-covered bank next to the 12th hole of the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course in Banff, Alberta. It was an idyllic but ephemeral natural scene that would have instantly vanished except that it was captured in a 12-second video by a videographer from Banff Lake Louise Tourism. The world could see it right away at www.youtube.com/user/banfflakelouise2.

Why is this noteworthy? Today’s travelers want to pursue the moment. They increasingly use social media for information and interaction at all times during their travel, not just in the planning stage. YouTube is particularly effective at showing travelers how to get the most out of the environment they are in, right now.

Banff Lake Louise Tourism got wind of this trend as far back as 2009. In March of that year it launched The Real Banff weekly video report. It’s one of the reasons why Banff is worth watching, but is not the only one. We have previously discussed Banff Tourism’s innovations in social media – see “DMOs’ Innovative Use of Twitter,” published April 19 – and Banff National Park has been proclaimed as Canada’s top travel destination in TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice listing for 2011.

More than 1 million views of the Real Banff videos have been recorded on YouTube. This is despite the less-than-professional quality of many of the videos; look at the one about the Ice Magic carving competition in January 2011 at the Lake Louise Inn and you’ll notice that you can hardly hear some of the dialogue due to the wind blowing in the microphone. But as the banner on the site says, these videos show “real people, real stories” and they present a continuously changing picture of vivid tourism experiences that draw rapturous comments from viewers.

Tourists want to have conversations about travel experiences and they want continuous engagement. Videos can propel visitors to go beyond what is in front of them and experience what others have seen around the corner.

Tourists are the new marketers. Sure they rely on interactive, well constructed websites, but they are truly inspired by social interaction, conversation, collaboration and the opportunity to create and show online content.

Posting videos to YouTube and related sites is one of the most effective ways to illuminate real-world experiences and inspire visitors to widen their explorations and interactions within the new environment, right here, right now.

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