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Using Twitter for Tourism?

What’s new in tourism communications? The idea that, instead of just publishing or broadcasting information to people who might be interested to visit your community, you build personal relationships with them through an online information network.

This type of network concentrates on what’s happening NOW. The personal messages that go back and forth between your community’s representatives and the network of people they interact with aren’t about static information. They aren’t about last week. They are about this moment, and the number of people who are eager to capture this moment online is growing explosively around the world.

The most popular network they are using is called Twitter. This social-networking site, launched in 2006, was originally intended for individuals to send micro-blogs to their friends, on the topic of “What are you doing now?” But as so often happens, business quickly saw an opportunity and now a growing number of tourism marketing boards, in Nova Scotia, Chicago, Baltimore and Queensland, Australia, are using it to reach potentially millions of people with their messages.

The messages are delivered from one or more persons, in conversational professional tone, and they can be read by anyone searching www.twitter.com by topic or name. More importantly, they can be received and read instantly as text messages by people using computers – or more often, mobile devices – who have registered to receive the person’s “tweets.” In Twitter lingo, they have signed up to be “followers” of the message sender.

Followers like to respond to messages with comments or questions. These come right back to the message sender and also appear on the Twitter site of the sender’s tourism organization, which of course is also linked to its website.

Whoa, does this sound like a lot of work and time? Oh, yes. But there are ways you can spread the workload, by enlisting followers to help answer questions and by spacing out your informational tweets.

Nevertheless this is certainly a time-consuming information channel – but one with the potential to attract widespread interest to your community’s tourism offerings because you are part of NOW. Twitter is a social medium. Social networking is more immediate than any other form of communication. It’s growing and it is the norm for young people.

It requires dedicated resources and a willingness to be experimental and even impromptu in carrying out your tourism marketing plan.

You can begin slowly. After registering on Twitter, complete the user profile information, including a link to your tourism website and any blogs originating from it. You can even establish a home page on Twitter that mirrors the one on your site.

Start up by searching for people that you would like to have follow you and follow them. Then begin to post frequent short blog-like messages (tweets) about events, activities or new announcements related to tourism in your community. Include links to your website/blogs for more information.

Slowly at first, people will begin to register as followers because they want to receive more such information. Then you can follow them back. In most cases, they are potential visitors and could bring revenue into your community. Send new followers a genuine thank-you tweet or direct message and let them know you are available if they need trip-planning assistance.

Once you have a couple of dozen posts to your credit and a handful of followers, issue a news release telling that world that your tourism organization is using Twitter. Include it in your communications to your industry partners and database, and post a Twitter link on your website. All of these activities will attract the attention of search engines and make it more likely that your tourism website will appear prominently when people search by topic.

Did you know that Twitter has a search engine too? It is part of a new crop of start-up search engines designed to make searches faster and more personal. Using Twitter search can help you find twitterers interested in travel and event information. You can become followers of their tweets and learn more about your market. Local twitterers may be primarily interested in current information while those from remote locations might be looking for ideas, deals and help in trip planning.

What’s the long-term potential of using Twitter? How large can your network grow? These are unknowns yet, but it is easy to measure your network growth and activity, and the ROI from your investment of time. People are likely to tell you when they have visited your community as a result of information obtained via Twitter.

Twitter is a community. People build their networks by following and being followed by other people. As a tourism marketer, you need to spend time building your network but if it thrives, the network itself can be your marketer.

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One Response to “Using Twitter for Tourism?”

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