EcDev Journal

Trends in Social Tourism Marketing

Posted on Tuesday March 08, 2011

Destination marketing organizations all over North America are using social media as their creative playground and are doing some amazing things!

Have you been to the YouTube site for the Pure Michigan campaign? The videos make you want to drop everything, put aside all of your daily pressures and go dog sledding or canoeing or skiing, or just sit and watch the sunrise. If you want to take a journey of discovery into social tourism marketing, as the slogan says, "Your trip begins at"

Let's take a closer look at this campaign: The YouTube videos posted by Michigan Travel had 597,325 upload views between the end of April 2007 and the end of February 2010. According to Fluency Media, which manages the online portion of the campaign, Pure Michigan has a community of more than 190,000 on Facebook, and more than 10,000 Twitter followers.

The ads combine serene images of Michigan with powerful words read by actor Tim Allen, a Michigan native. Among several awards it has received, the campaign achieved first place in Gammet Interactive’s ranking, "How Social is your DMO?" in the fourth quarter of 2010, the seventh time it has won the top spot (Colorado came in second, followed by Virginia, Oregon and Florida).

The State of Michigan gave renewed funding for the campaign in December. For every dollar of state funds used to market Michigan as a travel destination, the Pure Michigan campaign generates an estimated $2.94 in new state taxes from new tourists visiting the state, studies show.

The success of Pure Michigan points to several trends in social tourism marketing. One is that the numbers keep climbing. Figures compiled by Royal Pingdom show that at the end of 2010 there were 600 million people worldwide on Facebook, a leap of 250 million people in the year. There were 152 million blogs. There were 175 million people on Twitter as of September 2010.

Social Media Increases

Nielson Company released a report in July 2010 showing that 22 per cent of time spent online in the US was attributed to social networking sites. Average usage on social media sites was six hours and 13 minutes a month – up from three hours and 31 minutes a year earlier.

In February of this year comScore Inc.'s report The 2010 US Digital Year in Review showed that nine out of every 10 US Internet users now visit a social media site in any given month. Almost one out of every eight minutes online is spent on Facebook.

Social Media and Travelers

And travellers? A survey conducted late last year by StudyLogic for Sheraton Hotels & Resorts found that 72.7 per cent of US social media users accessed the sites at least daily while they were travelling.

Social media are not the dominant influence in travelers' decision-making – those remain travel websites, travel review sites and traditional media – but the trend is upward. A study in Britain by World Travel Market, released in November 2010, found that among 1,000 UK residents who took a holiday during 2010, one in three consulted some form of social media during the planning phase of their trip. And 35 per cent of the social media users changed their hotel after browsing.

Providing New Tools for Travelers

With social media travel sites gaining more attention, they are also becoming more innovative in providing easy-to-use services. TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, has teamed up with Facebook to let users get advice and reviews from friends when planning trips. A user can zoom into any area of the map on TripAdvisor and see pushpins showing where the user's participating Facebook friends have travelled.

Innovation is also a hallmark of many campaigns by destination marketing organizations using social media, and this series of articles will illustrate some of them. Where the Pure Michigan campaign stands out is in encouraging the creativity of its viewers to draw them into personal involvement.

At Pure Michigan Connect, the state's travel and tourism blog, a feature called Link Roundup pulls together videos, images and stories that viewers have shared via Facebook and Twitter. Viewers can even create their own Pure Michigan ads! There is a large collection of them, and they can all be shared via the viewer's choice of social-media services.

What's the advantage of such techniques? They turn viewers into influencers.

Social Influencers

George Zimmermann, vice president of Travel Michigan, a business unit of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, notes on the Fluency Media site, "Our fans are sharing their favorite vacation spots and experiences, which we believe helps influence interest and travel decision making in Michigan’s favor."

A customer satisfaction survey in 2010 showed that almost three-quarters of the Pure Michigan Facebook fans learned about places and activities in Michigan they did not know about. One-third of those fans were influenced to travel to or within Michigan after reading the posts.

The importance of travel influencers is growing. In fact some of them are almost achieving professional status. At you can find a ranking of the Top 50 Independent Influencers in Travel and another of the Top 50 Corporate Influencers in Travel, both based on measurements from Klout

Some travel destinations are beginning to offer special perks to entice well-known influencers to come and visit. But ordinary people everywhere can be influencers if they are encouraged to share their personal experiences through social media, as the Pure Michigan campaign has demonstrated.

A Brave New Social World for Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs)

Today's web is more about connecting with people and creating and exchanging information than it is about simply looking for things. This is having a great impact on online travel, and DMOs need to understand how the words and images found in social media are changing how travelers think and act. Connecting with web users through social media is an essential part of the business now.

To do this successfully requires careful planning to set goals and measurement criteria, and the commitment of sufficient resources to get the job done right. A well-planned and properly executed social media marketing campaign will enhance your travel region’s reputation and community of interest, and can encourage the involvement of people to the point where they become influencers and help promote you for the fun of it.


Yfactor Inc.
phone: 416-977-9724 x 509