Whether you’re stalking the ‘selfie’ squad, ‘braggie’ brigade or those who simply have to hashtag their way to social media heaven, visual user-generated content like photos and videos has become a powerful way to showcase destinations and tourism products and increase their brand awareness.
You’ve probably at one time or another been guilty of the odd braggie or selfie to show off your glamorous life and make your friends jealous. You know the type: “Look at me. I can see a herd of elephant from the verandah of my luxury safari villa. Bet you wish you were here…” or most likely “Bet you wish you were me.” It’s such a chore to work in travel, isn’t it?
Unsurprisingly, and understanding the draw and real-time influence visitor content such as images and reviews can have on the image of a destination or product, travel brands have jumped on to the selfie, braggie and hashtag bandwagons, throwing incentives at guests who deign to tag their lodge or destination on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms.
Marketers leveraging this trend are fuelled by the belief that personal recommendations and opinions from family, friends, peers and even locals remain among the most important drivers of destination or tourism product selection. And as most of us already know, they are incredibly powerful.
One in particular has in fact gone as far as creating a Selfie in Paris package. The Mandarin Oriental package offers guests luxurious accommodation and the chance to share their best selfies in the City of Lights. In addition to a stay at the luxury hotel, guests are given the use of a private car and driver for three hours for a personalised journey through Paris, complimentary in-car and in-room WiFi and a list of insider tips on some of the best Parisian photographic locations at which to take the perfect selfie.
Last year, the Hilton Hotels Group offered the chance of winning a two-night stay at any of its hotels worldwide if fans shared an image from their own travels tagged #HiltonStory on their social networks. And destinations have cottoned on to it too.
Sticking to its reputation for going big, Visit Dallas has provided its visitors and locals with an opportunity to showcase the destination on its behalf. The Destination Marketing Organisation has positioned giant ‘B’ and ‘G’ letters at strategic points across the city inviting people to step in and be the ‘I’. The #dallasbig hashtag is strategically placed to encourage them to share their image with their social media networks.
VisitDenmark similarly has identified 50 points of interest, or as they term it “shareable locations” across the country, providing signposts with specific hashtags that travellers can use to share their photographs and feel that they are contributing to sharing what the destination has to offer. A clever tactic, since it is this sense of sharing and contributing that fuels social media engagement.
And of course, not to be outdone by overseas counterparts, Cape Town for its part has erected giant yellow frames around the city that perfectly frame Table Mountain from well-known and unusual views, including the V&A Waterfront, Signal Hill, Eden on the Bay in Blouberg, Lookout Hill in Khayelitsha, Cape Town Station and Heritage Square in the City Bowl.
These structures provide visitors with an opportunity to smoast (yet another social ‘mediaism’ short for social media boasting) about their perfect holiday, make their pals back home green with envy and, as a side, show off the most beautiful, most iconic views of the city.
The message is clear. It is no longer up to the destination marketer or marketing manager of tourism experiences to manage the reputation of their destination or product. In the age of social media, Joe Public has usurped that role and when you get it right, they become your brand ambassadors and dynamically shape how their networks connect with and view your brand.
Today’s tourism marketers are in the inspiration business. They have to make it as attractive and easy as possible for visitors and locals to share their brand. They have to identify those perfect photo opportunities and provide the optimal environment to make it easy for travellers to share their experiences and, yes, that means free WiFi.
But that’s not all. They have to enhance that experience much like our friends at the Mandarin Oriental have and then they have to join in the conversation and engage with those who have taken time to engage with them. What are you waiting for? #getsharing