Connecticut State Tourism
Social media is playing an increasingly important role in encouraging local and regional travel. Various trends have developed that are conducive to this style of marketing, including employee advocacy, niche communities, brand connectors, and work-cations or bleisure travel. Destination marketers are also using social media, successfully employing storytelling, locals, and user-generated content to market their destination. The ILoveNY — Fall Foliage and the Unmistakably Cincinnati campaigns are examples of two social media-based marketing initiatives that paid dividends for their respective destinations.
SOCIAL MEDIA TRENDS ENCOURAGING LOCAL/REGIONAL TRAVEL
- Employee advocacy is a trend that is gaining momentum on social media and within the travel industry. The concept of employee advocacy is not new and certainly not something unique to the travel industry, but as social media has gained in popularity the benefits of employees within the travel industry advocating various destinations or promotions online has become more apparent,
- The content shared by employees in the travel industry tends to be visual, engaging, personal, and the type of content that social media users are looking for in respect of a travel brand.
- The success of this marketing strategy has resulted in a number of travel brands developing a strategic employee advocacy program. Employee advocacy is a social media trend that lends itself to local or regional travel. Often employees will have a unique perspective on these destinations.
- By leveraging the authenticity of employees' social media posts, employers can increase brand awareness, site visits, consumer engagement, and ultimately sales. The benefits associated with employee advocacy is the primary reason the trend continues to grow more popular.
- The statistics speak for themselves and comprehensively answer any lingering questions around the reason for this trend. Employee shared brand messages have a reach 561% further than the same message shared on the brand's official channel.
- A brand message, when shared by an employee, is reshared 24 times more than when shared by the brand. With 83% of people saying they trust the recommendations of family or friends, the reason for the success of the strategy becomes plain to see.
- By implementing a strategic employee advocacy program, travel brands can increase brand awareness, trust, and engagement
Examples of Employee Advocacy in Travel
- Travel Cooperation is an example of a company that has used employee advocacy to maximum effect. Its employees have generated over 450,000 content interactions and $1 million in social media value through their advocacy of the brand on social media.
Rise of Niche Communities
- One of the draw cards of social media, for many people, is the ability to stay in contact with friends and family. It also enables a connection with the brands that they favor. To date, the travel industry has worked to segment and target specific audiences. More recently, they have started trending towards the use of niche communities in an extension of market segmentation principles.
- To pull consumers in and gain momentum for their brand, travel organizations are increasingly looking to promote their messaging through opportunistic groups that have formed on social media. These communities have a common interest, travel, and discuss travel plans, travel destinations, share their experiences, and research future travel plans. As these communities evolve, they have the potential to deliver a number of new consumers into the realm of the brand.
- The reason this trend has become increasingly popular is the benefits to the brand at a relatively small cost are considerable. The people that form these niche communities are experienced and have a love for travel. Advice offered carries some weight due to their experience. It gives destinations the rare opportunity to interact with a range of different consumers and share experiences.
- Local or regional destinations are benefiting from this trend, with consumer awareness being raised through these niche communities about destinations that had previously not registered. As more people join the community awareness for the destinations increases.
- Brands are increasingly finding ways to exploit these groups to promote their own goals, even though they have little control over the content or messaging within the community. For the travel brand, these groups represent fertile grounds to market their products, providing they can find the appropriate balance between marketing and genuine interaction.
Example of a Niche Community
- "It's Orlando Time" is a niche community based in the United Kingdom. The community has followers in the 100,000s, with over 1,000 posts being made to it daily. The content, as the name suggests, is about travel to Orlando, Florida. For the travel brand, this group represents a considerable amount of people that have a common interest in traveling to Orlando. The opportunities that exist in this environment for a brand focused in this area are limitless. This is why this trend is becoming more relevant to players in the travel industry.
- The travel industry was one of the first verticals to discover and make use of influencers. As a result, there is an increasing wariness toward influencers in the industry to the extent some travel organizations have banned influencers from their facilities.
- Rather than hire an influencer that presents a carefully manicured post, there has been a trend by travel brands to focus on more relatable and authentic brand connectors. This flows on from the trend toward niche online communities. A brand connector is probably not going to have the number of followers an influencer does. Still, they represent a passionate advocate who is part of the target audience of a brand.
- Brand connectors can use their experiences to interact with targeted online groups (niche communities) and, in doing so, promote the brand and its offerings. Travelers and consumers no longer want a superficial recommendation from someone who, in some instances, knows less about the destination than they do. They want to hear about the complete travel experience and the authenticity that comes with it.
- Local and regional destinations lend themselves to the brand connector concept, whereas often they would have failed to even register on the radar of an influencer.
- Brand connectors are true insiders to the target audience, and their experiences carry weight without sounding forced or like an advertisement. Building a partnership with a brand connector gives a brand a unique opening with its target audience, and this is one of the reasons this trend has become so popular among travel brands.
- The travel industry stands out among all others as the one that has reaped the most benefit from social media. Influencers have worked well, but with words like experience and authenticity coming from the lips of travelers on a regular basis, it is time for the influencer trend to evolve and become more "authentic."
Example of Brand Connectors
- Visit Savannah used brand connectors as part of its process when determining how to market the destinations. A wide range of local input was sought when producing their destination video which is based solely on the recommendations of the locals. The success of this campaign is discussed
Work-cations or Bleisure Travel
- Work-cations or Bleisure travel is becoming increasingly popular, and social media is fueling it as business travelers are increasingly extending business trip stay and spending some time exploring their destination. The local and regional travel market stands to benefit considerably from this trend, given the nature of business travel.
- Travel brands are increasingly looking to tap into this trend through social media, with posts that highlight local and regional destinations, the activities and sights to see, and a range of packages that focus specifically on the business traveler staying a couple of extra days. Social media posts are increasingly highlighting, not only the leisure activities but the business and accommodation facilities at the location to promote the destination as being a good fit for this type of travel.
- The reason that more travel brands, especially local and regional destinations, are looking to promote both the business and leisure options available in their areas through social media is Millennials, with Millennials becoming the largest generation in the US, their vote counts.
- The Millennial worker is driving this trend. 75% of Millennials see business travel as a perk of the job, with 56% creating reasons to travel for work, and 39% saying they would not take a job if it did not involve business travel. 69% of Millennials traveling for business will look to extend their stay for leisure if they can.
- In the last year, 90% of Millennials have engaged in bleisure travel. Budgetary constraints are one of the main reasons, with Millennials seeing business travel as a cost-effective way to see a new destination. Travel brands are increasingly recognizing this trend and using social media to promote options that fit the travel requirements of this group.
- 83% of bleisure travelers are using the opportunity to explore a new city. On average most bleisure trips last 4 or more days. 67% of business travelers feel it is important to extend their trip.
Examples of Work-cation or Bleisure Travel on Social Media
- CheapOAir is an example of a travel company that has recognized the growing bleisure trend and is maximizing the opportunities for itself within the market. Thomas Spagnola, the company’s senior vice president of supplier relations said, “We promote heavily on our social media networks and utilize our call centers to suggest to business clients what the decrease in fare would be if they stayed over a Saturday night, or to look for options that would help best accommodate the business traveler to have a few leisure days of travel included in the trip.”
- The strategy that CheapOAir has adopted emphasizes the benefits of staying extra time at the destination, following the completion of business by focusing on the cost savings. They also work with a range of different destinations to promote activities in the area.
DESTINATION MARKETERS TRENDS
Engage with Locals
- If a brand is to survive, it must develop strong and lasting relationships with the locals at the destination. Connections with locals are an excellent foundation for any brand's social media efforts.
- Locals know the community and the destination well and are in the best position to promote both. They have unique perspectives and insights to offer insights that often can not be found anywhere else.
- With the trend toward authentic experiences by travelers, engaging with locals becomes a key part of delivering this experience. Increasingly destination marketers are looking to engage locals on their social media channels because they create authenticity.
- Locals can share aspects of the destination that are beyond the expertise of most destination marketers, so their role can grow in importance over time. Destination marketers are actively encouraging locals to be part of their social media efforts because of the benefits created in terms of trustworthiness and knowledge.
- This authenticity and knowledge that locals have is unique to them, and this is the reason why this trend has developed and will continue to be a part of destination marketing for the foreseeable feature.
Examples of Engaging With Locals
- Visit Savannah is an example of an organization that has embraced this trend. Using a range of Instagram polls orientated at the local population, they were able to gauge the most tourist-friendly sights and attractions in Savannah.
- They then used the information to create a local directed video that incorporated all the attractions. The video has been viewed more than 64,000 times. The video was shared across multiple social media platforms.
- The team that came up with the idea relied on research that showed 500 million people daily look to audience directed videos to inform their decisions.
Destination Social Media Story-Telling
- One trend that is gaining momentum is the use of storytelling on social media to promote a destination. One of the advantages of this approach is that it gives the destination the opportunity to create a narrative that maximizes the benefits to it.
- Storytelling allows the destination to tap into the human elements that make it so special and unique. Social media lends itself superbly to this type of marketing and allows the user to form a genuine connection with the destination, which may not be so easily established using other forms of marketing.
- One of the reasons that this type of destination marketing has gained traction is because it plays into the experience that has become an increasingly common expectation, especially among the Millennial generation. There is significant research that shows this generation prefers experiences over material goods.
- Given the Millennial population is now the largest generational group in the US, having overtaken the Babyboomers, it would seem likely this trend will continue to grow in the foreseeable future.
Example of Storytelling in Destination Marketing
- Travel Oregon is an example of a destination that has embraced the storytelling concept. In the last two years, they have used storytelling to convey a picture of beauty in the mind of the consumer. The second-year campaign builds from where the first left off.
- Animation is used to convey the emotional experience of visiting Oregon. The campaign sues the surreal, magic, and even a mythical beast to convey the image of Oregon as a place of beauty. Even though it is animated, it cleverly manages to convey this beauty. The campaign has become a social media favorite.
User Generated Content
- Destination marketers are using increasing amounts of user-generated content in their social media channels in what is becoming a popular trend. Users or travelers offer a unique perspective on a destination, often a perspective that others have not seen, which gives the content they create considerable value when showcasing a destination.
- It doesn't matter how much high-quality content a destination marketer includes on their social media channels; it will always come across as lacking without input from the travelers themselves. The realization that the user has a role to play in marketing the destination is contributing to this trend.
- Including user content gives the destination marketing credibility; after all, 70% of consumers trust the opinions of others when making purchasing decisions, making this content compelling. Sharing photographs from those who have enjoyed the destination can have a snowball effect. The social media account acts as a beacon for others to share their own experiences at the destination.
- User-generated content is a significant trend that will continue into the future because it creates "authenticity" for the destination. The images (and words) are not those of marketers but the general public. They, therefore, carry weight.
- The reason this is an ongoing trend is that marketers have realized this type of content is essential in legitimizing the brand posts.
Examples of User Content in Destination Marketing
- Explore Georgia is a destination that has used user content to its full potential. They focused on the Millennial pet owner and encouraged them to share photos of their pets at some of Georgia's most well-known locations. As part of the campaign, they sourced local pet tips, pet-friendly accommodation, and other pet relevant information so that travelers had all the information they needed to feel confident taking their pets with them to Georgia.
- The hashtag #Exploregeorgiapup has 3,000 uses in the year and led to an additional 14,000 visitors to their website.
INSIGHTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCERS
Backpacking Kitty @backpackingkitty
- Simon Yosh is a cat. He is also known as @backpackingkitty. Both Simon and his owner, JJ Yosh, are keen mountaineers and climbers, with Simon accompanying JJ Yosh on many of his domestic trips.
- @jjyosh has 375,000 Instagram followers, while @backpackingkitty has 288,000 Instagram followers.
- Both come from Colorado and have been used to promote regional tourism in the area. Due to the nature of his travel companion, JJ has had a focus in this area.
- They have also partnered with a range of brands. Some of the brands that Simon the Adventure Cat (as @backpackingkitty is also known as) has partnered with include Fresh Patch and Tide, while JJ Yosh has partnered with Icelandic Provisions, Garage Smart, Starkist and Hello Fresh.
Joah Spearman @joahspearman
- Joah Spearman is the founder of the travel app Localeur. He is also one of the top destination influencers targeting the Millennial market.
- Localeur can provide travelers to the best places in 120 different cities around the world, based on what the locals have to say about the cities attractions and sights.
- Spearman has accrued 3,273 Instagram followers, while his app Localeur has more than 7,000 Instagram followers.
- Localeur has partnered with several brands, including match.com and Jetblue. Both of these brands feature Localeur on their websites.
Stephanie Giesinger @stephaniegiesinger
- Stephanie Giesinger has 3.8 million Instagram followers. She has been used as a regional destination influencer on several occasions.
- Last year she partnered with Coachella and Airbnb to promote the Music Festival. She has also worked with the Lakes District in the United Kingdom and Käsivarrentie.
- Giesinger is a model by trade, and most of her influencing work is related to the fashion industry.
- The Instagram forecaster predicts that within the next month, she will have 3,829,533 followers.
Janeivy Hilario @neivy
- Janeivy Hilario is a Connecticut based influencer. He has 16,800 Instagram followers.
- Hilario is a photographer who combines his love of poetry in his Instagram material.
- His Instagram posts include a range of regional destinations around the US.
REGIONAL SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGNS
I Love NY — Fall Foliage Campaign
- The simplicity of I Love NY — Fall Foliage Campaign was ultimately the reason for its success. Given the sights and attractions on offer in New York state, the expectation would be that any destination campaign would focus on them. This campaign instead focused on something free and readily available across New York State in fall, the changing colors of the foliage.
- Using weekly updates of photographs and logs from its "Leaf Peepers," a crew of 65 volunteers, they created a series of beautiful images they aimed to etch into the minds of the consumer. The campaign gained strength from the user-generated content that highlighted even further the beauty of the changing season in New York.
- Complementing this were three blog posts from influencers detailing the best places in the state to see the changing foliage. Videos were shared on social media of the changing seasons from these locations.
- The campaign ran across three social media channels, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Results of I Love NY — Fall Foliage Campaign
- On Twitter, the campaign was associated with the hashtag #NYLovesFall, which had an estimated 32.8 million impressions, received 3,426 mentions, by 1,908 users.
- The Instagram campaign resulted in 4,800 posts using the #NYLovesFall hashtag.
- Facebook engagement peaked throughout August and September. All three social media channels saw increased reaction in August in the form of likes, retweets, and comments.
- The content shared by users was key in generating momentum for the campaign, with a massive response to the photographs and chatter generated by this group.
- The blog, which detailed the places to see the fall foliage, generated 56,000 views. A 387% increase in year over year visits was recorded throughout the campaign, during the fall. A 579% year over year increase was recorded in relation to the site overall. The social conversation that was generated by this campaign resulted in an 828% year over year increase in blog visits.
- The campaign was nominated for an Internet Shorty Award due to its success.
Unmistakably Cincinnati Campaign
- The Regional Tourism Network and the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau combined their efforts in an attempt to get people to fall in love with Cincinnati. The campaign was based on interviews with stakeholders and leveraged against research to gain a comprehensive overview of different perspectives on Cincinnati from both inside and outside of the area.
- The information gathered was compared to other regional campaigns on a global level to determine where Cincinnati sat. This was also used to determine the mediums that would be most receptive to the campaign.
- What the destination marketers uncovered was a set of unique elements like food, architecture, characters, and events that cannot be found anywhere else. They are Uniquely Cincinnati.
- A series of digital banners and digital advertisement were released on social media orientated toward the target audience, the seasonal traveler. All marketing effort focused on emphasizing what was Uniquely Cincinnati, describing it as "an urban oasis."
Results of Unmistakably Cinincinnati Campaign
- Website traffic increased by 50% in response to the Unmistakably Cinncinati Campaign.
- The total number of visitors increased to a record-high 26.6 million, up 4% from the previous year. The majority of the visitors came from other regional markets like Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Lexington, along with some from areas like Chicago, New York, and Nashville.
- There was a 3.5% increase in the number of jobs in the industry, taking the total number to an estimated 80,000.
- Linda Antus, president and CEO of the Cincinnati USA Regional Tourism Network, said in a statement. "When tourism spending is strong and growing, new restaurants, attractions, hotels and shops continue to invest, creating more jobs, expanding our tax base and adding new vibrancy to the visitor experience."
- Following the campaign, $1.2 billion in tax revenue was raised due to increased income to employees in the industry made. The total income for those in the industry increased 5.1% to 2.7 billion.
To determine the social media trends around local or regional travel and the destination marketing trends, we reviewed a range of industry publications, expert opinions, and media articles. We were able to identify several relevant trends. We determined something to be a trend if considerable discussion had been generated regarding it, expert opinion was in agreement, and there were examples of key players in the industry taking up the trend.