VisitBritain’s Head of digital says Facebook is a marketer’s dream channel
Making appropriate use of Facebook as a national tourism agency
It was in mid-2010 when Prime Minister David Cameron highlighted that Britain is about to enter a decade of exceptional opportunity for tourism marketing.
The PM stated that Britain in the coming decade is going to be presented with an unprecedented opportunity to take the nation’s “tourism industry to a whole new level…” And the nation chose to maximize the tourism opportunities of hosting a raft of major iconic events.
Over the last 18 months or so, national tourism agency VisitBritain has been working on initiatives in order to build awareness of its attractions as a tourism destination among those who have not yet visited Britain and is also trying to encourage prior visitors to return. The agency uses a range of traditional and innovative marketing approaches and sees digital and social media, press and PR activity, and working with travel-trade intermediaries as key.
The agency is focused on maximizing the use of social media to promote Britain as a tourist destination.
“For VisitBritain, the use of our Love UK group, as well as our other social media channels, sits as part of integrated destination marketing that aims to provide inspiring content to a global audience that is relevant to their personal stage in the consideration journey,” Philip Taylor, Head of Digital, VisitBritain, told EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta in an interview.
Taylor, who is scheduled to speak at the forthcoming Travel Distribution Summit Asia 2012, to be held in Singapore (May 9-10) this year, spoke about using Facebook and overall social media strategy, and other relevant areas. Excerpts:
To what extent are travel marketers now adept at making use of Facebook and overall social media strategy?
PHILIP TAYLOR: The social media space remains an “unknown” to many travel marketers. The difference between personal social media engagement and professional engagement continues to provide challenges for many travel marketers; the challenge extends through to senior management where the desire to generate sales and meet commercial targets is seen as conflicting with the metrics social marketers track.
For VisitBritain, the use of our Love UK group, as well as our other social media channels, sits as part of integrated destination marketing that aims to provide inspiring content to a global audience that is relevant to their personal stage in the consideration journey. Social media strategy must be a core component of not only digital marketing strategy, but the organization’s overall marketing and corporate strategy.
Do you think balancing participation with ROI goals will be a key challenge for travel marketers in 2012?
TAYLOR: First and foremost, social media must be tracked and reported on. The data and insight that social media offers will guide marketing and corporate strategy; product development; and give a unique insight into the consumer, competitors, and market as a whole. With this in mind, tracking “profitable outcomes” in social media allows for the ROI model to be expanded upon far beyond the traditional linear evaluation model.
VisitBritain tracks three key areas: reach, engagement, and conversion. “Profitable outcomes” occur at all points in the user-journey and the power of engagement can be tracked through to conversion.
Instead of focusing upon the need to strike a balance with ROI and participation, VisitBritain looks at how to model the evaluation of the social media space, to ensure we deliver highly-engaging content and drive traffic through contextual offers to opportunities to convert. Participation/engagement is part of the ROI model, the two areas are not mutually exclusive.
Can you elaborate on how your organization has capitalized on new opportunities to personalize customers’ experiences and in turn build strong affiliation with a travel brand?
TAYLOR: Every time VisitBritain communicates through social media, we measure engagement levels and constantly seek opportunities to seed relevant content that resonates in our key markets. The use of social content sharing tools, such as the Social Chrome functionality we use in our partnership with Yahoo!, aims to provide social recommendations of popular content. We are also looking at integrating the social web throughout our digital presence to deliver relevant and popular content.
Can you provide an insight into how VisitBritain is using channels such as Facebook and Twitter when it comes to engaging with your customers?
TAYLOR: On Twitter, @VisitBritain has been recognized as the World’s Most Influential Tourist Board account. By using social media monitoring tools, we track the reach and engagement of our Tweets, and we have also established relationships with some of the world’s most influential travel bloggers who have massive reach on Twitter to blog and tweet VisitBritain content.
Love UK places engagement at the heart of our strategy. Using highly-engaging apps such as our Royal Wedding Predictor or Harry Potter Competition and a schedule of regular relevant posts, we strive to constantly improve our engagement levels. Engagement does not just sit on Facebook. Our Top 50 App aims to bring the Facebook check-in service into enhancing the visitor experience on mobile devices, ensuring the engagement we develop through Facebook can then be enjoyed as a part of the tourist experience.
What do you make of the usage of Facebook when it comes to meeting various marketing objectives?
TAYLOR: Facebook is a fantastic channel for a number of purposes. We can seed commercial partner offers, amplify our VisitBritain.tv videos, share amazing images, seed “buzz” content, engage with people during their time in Britain, crowdsource ideas, generate additional buzz around key events, inspire people to experience all Britain has to offer, and once they have returned home, engage with them to share their experience and hopefully return again. There is so much you can do on Facebook, it really is a marketer’s dream channel where everything is driven by user-insight and interactions.
Can you list few dos and don’ts for campaigns on Facebook?
- Respect the Facebook Terms and Conditions. Engage with Facebook to get their support and buy-in for new ideas and competitions.
- Keep it simple!
- Be prepared to spend to amplify your activity and don’t rely on agencies when it comes to sponsored stories.
- Listen, listen some more, and then engage.
What, according to you, works best to earn trust, love, and advocacy for your products and services among a new breed of savvy and fickle travel customers? How can a site like Facebook genuinely contribute to this?
TAYLOR: Listen to your audience, they will tell you what they want and when they want it. There is nothing new about the way we communicate; relevant, timely content that is simple to engage with remains the most popular content. We don’t overcomplicate the messaging and always aim to make the sharing of content as simple as possible.
For VisitBritain, we are very lucky that our products are a destination, a lifestyle, and a series of experiences. Like in any conversation, you can build trust, love, and advocacy by listening and engaging with those around you in a way that enriches their experience and knowledge. Facebook is an ideal channel to have a meaningful relationship with travel brands and destinations, but you can’t ignore the other channels around you. ECRM, brand websites, video channels, search, and the multitude of other channels and platforms available to us, all feed into the overall digital experience, and they must operate as part of integrated strategies. No channel works in isolation.