The case for Canada: emotional engagement helps drive customers to purchase


Canada is a vast and beautiful country, but why go there when you could go to California or the Caribbean? Pamela Whitby hears how the country’s national tourism commission has set about convincing travelers that Canada should be top of their list.

As the world has shrunk and people become more adventurous with their travel, national tourism authorities face a challenge: how do I get the travel consumer to choose my destination over another? Today tourism agencies must work with a wide range of partners, from airlines to hotel chains, online travel agents, film producers, and, of course, social media platforms, too.

An early adopter of social media, the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) was one of the first tourism organizations to use user-generated video content in creative broadcast spots. Kate Duffy, CTC’s Manager for Social Media, says the organization understands only too well the importance of social media and the role it plays as a key contributor in moving consumers down the path to purchase. “From our CEO down, we have widespread support for the work we do in social media,” she says. Here she shares some of CTC’s successes and secrets with

EyeforTravel: Tell me about some of your recent and most successful social media initiatives.

Kate Duffy: In the summer of 2012, we developed a new broadcast asset that would emotionally engage international travelers to choose Canada. Instead of producing the typical high-end production tourism video, we asked Canadians to pick up their cameras and share their own personal favorite Canadian travel experiences. The response was overwhelming. We received more than 8,000 entries and 65 hours of footage. This was edited down to just 2 minutes and set to a soundtrack from Canadian band, Yukon Blonde. The final video is rolling out across our international markets and has over 2.5 million YouTube views globally.

EFT: That is great, but how do ensure you are delivering that all-important return on investment? And how do you measure it?

KD: I think it starts with being clear on why you’re in the social space to begin with and understanding what role social media best plays in helping achieve your overall marketing communications goals. As a National Tourism Marketing Organization, we focus our social media efforts on identifying advocates and motivating them to share their satisfaction with Canada, in order to influence new travelers to come to Canada. We have established a range of social media measures that help us monitor and optimize our efforts, aligned to three key objectives: awareness, advocacy, and conversion.

EFT: Where will you be focusing your energy in 2013?

KD: We’re developing our strategies solely around the role that social media plays along the consumers’ path to purchase. We’ll be focusing on incorporating social media directly into our core marketing communications strategy and looking at how to use the power of Canadians and influencers, as well as the “recently returned from Canada” traveler and their abilities to advocate for the country as a tourism destination.

EFT: Which platforms do you think work best in driving customer engagement and how?

KD: Any platform where people with a shared passion are able to connect is great for driving customer engagement. We’ve had a lot of success with Instagram in terms of increasing customer engagement. Our Instagram strategy focuses on sharing user-generated content to build advocacy for Canada, as opposed to tapping into our own brand image library. We encourage travelers to tag their photos with #ExploreCanada and then share our favorites via our @ExploreCanada account.

EFT: What are your top five tips for other tourism organizations?

1. Product – work with your industry operators to develop the best possible tourism experiences for travelers. If you don’t have these, your job in social media is going to be tough.

2. Listen and engage – people are speaking and sharing online about the experiences they’re having in your destination, so you need to be listening in order to be aware and share.

3. Be human – don’t push out one-way self-promotion.

4. Measure and analyze – measure the impact of your efforts so you can take those learnings forward and optimize your future activities.

5. Be nimble – jump on opportunities to maximize impact for your destination.

Kate Duffy, Manager, Social Media, Canadian Tourism Commission, will speaking at EyeforTravel’s Social Media & Mobile Strategies for Travel 2013 in San Francisco, March 18-19.