Tag Archives: online

6 Reasons To Think Mobile

“Because Google says so” apparently wasn’t a good enough reason for a client’s CEO to say yes to making his websites mobile-friendly.

We were reviewing a client’s web presence and one of the first things we noticed was that none of their three websites were mobile-friendly. We mentioned this to our contact and he said, “Oh I know, but our CEO will need some numbers and data to convince us to re-do our websites.”

If you or your CEO is needing additional convincing, we’ve compiled 6 data points and reasons to think mobile.

1. Because Google Said So. Remember “Mobilegeddon? The day this past spring when Google’s new mobile-friendly algorithm went into affect? The change made it easier for users to find content formatted for their devices (smartphones, pads, etc.) The change is bad news for websites that aren’t mobile-ready – ones with large text, easy-to-click links, and that resize to fit whatever screen on which they’re viewed.

Mobile-friendly sites will be ranked higher in Google search. Websites that aren’t mobile-friendly will get demoted.

“A lot of small businesses are going to be really surprised that the number of visitors to their websites has dropped significantly. This is going to affect millions of sites on the web,” said one industry expert on the verge of Mobilegeddon.

2. More Mobile than Desktop. We are now past the mobile “tipping point” as a report from comScore shows. More people are using mobile devices than desktop devices.Mobile Number of Global Users

 

3. More Mobile than Desktop 2. Mobile media time is now greater than desktop and other media. 51% of internet usage is through mobile. 42% through desktop or laptop.

Mobile Internet Usage

 

4. More Mobile than Desktop 3. The trend in mobile device usage (‘vertical screens’) compared to desktop/laptop usage shows 2.8 hours of our days are spent on mobile screens vs. 2.4 hours on desktop or laptop screens.

Mobile Time  Spent on Screens

 

5. Search Begins on Mobile. Google’s mobile path to purchase report surveyed 950 US consumers across 9 different verticals to assess how they researched purchases via mobile. A key finding is the starting point for mobile research. As might be expected search was the most common starting point, but it’s lower than desktop showing the importance of branded apps and mobile sites.

Mobile Search

6. Enhancing the Visitor Experience. What experience are visitors to your website having on their mobile device? If they are finding the desktop version on their smartphone, they are finding small text and hard-to ‘click’ links. They are enlarging and scrolling left and right, left and right. We’ve all experienced it. It’s not a pleasant experience.  Give users the best experience on the devices that they’re actually using to access your site. It should be simple for shoppers to make a purchase directly from their mobile device.

Wondering about the state of your website? Is it mobile-friendly? Could it offer visitors a better experience?

Right now we’re offering a free scan of your website. Actually we’ll run it through three scans. We’ll provide you 10 tips to improve your website. Email me today. Let me know which website you’d liked reviewed and we’ll get right on it!

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Takeaways from the Oklahoma Conference on Tourism

Another VERY informative Conference on Tourism put on by the Oklahoma Travel Industry Association. I heard many co-conference attendees exclaim, “Information Overload!” Great appreciation to Debra Bailey and the Board for putting together such a great day of education.

OTIA Conference

So what were the key takeaways? Mobile, Content and Customer Service. Let’s break them down…

Mobile – The data shared by Santiago Jaramillo should not be surprising:

  • There are more smart phones purchased each year than babies born.
  • 60% of all web traffic comes from mobile devices.
  • 2 of 3 consumers are less likely to engage further with a brand if they have a poor experience with that brand on a mobile device.

So the key question to ask is ‘what kind of experience are potential visitors having through your website?’ We’ve shared Google search is rewarding mobile-friendly websites on search. Now is the time to build a responsive design website so your potential visitors have a positive experience with your brand on their mobile device.

Content – Daniel Levine encouraged attendees to ‘put online as much information as you can about your destination, hotel or attraction.’ Jennifer Kaulkman shared potential visitors want info so give it to them. ‘Draw them in with great content.’ What is great content? Howard Tietjen said it’s storytelling. Don’t just list the facts about your attraction. Tell the story behind the exhibits. Don’t just list the menu items. Tell the story behind your Oklahoma famous chicken fried steak. The story should also connect with the reader. Answer the question ‘why do they care?’

Content includes visuals. Kauklman encouraged “killer photography” on the website. How many pics? “As many as you can!” Budget to pay for a photographer to take quality photography. Video is probably more important than pictures. Shaun Auckland shared more than 50% of travelers search YouTube in 5 of 6 steps of the travel planning process. Put your story to video!

Customer Service – It’s not sexy. It’s not a cool, hip trend. But it’s what travelers want. Actually Levine clarified that – travelers want OUTSTANDING service! “Forget the sales. Focus on guest happiness.” Jaramillo put it this way: “If we sell a visitor, we get them for a weekend. If we help a visitor, we get them for a lifetime.” If through the website and social media and apps and videos and SEO we forget customer service, we’re forgetting that we are the destination’s brand and the service beyond expectations is what visitors will remember, tweet, post, and share with their friends! It will also be why they return!

‘sō shəl (verb) people engaging with each other – Pt. 2

“Social media” suggests that we are sociable with those that like us, follow us or connect with us. However, as we get busier and busier, we too often either use a social media management tool like Hootsuite, schedule our posts/tweets and never review them after they are posted. Or we quickly log on to Facebook, post and log off, never reviewing the interactions.

Last month I shared a few ways to engage more through Twitter. As Facebook changes their algorithms and our posts appear in less and less news feeds, we focus on Facebook and – as our new definition of social suggests – design activities in which people engage with each other for pleasure.

1. Like every comment. Simple enough. Outside of the absolutely bashing comment – “The Anywheresville Zoo is the worst ever…” – like every comment! They took the time to comment on your post so like it. Is it the most eloquent endorsement? Can you use it in your marketing materials? Maybe not. But like it! It encourages more comments. And you want “Joe commented on Anywhereville’s post” to appear in his friends’ news feeds. Gold!

Fort Worth FB

Even more so, comment yourself – “Thanks for sharing Julie!” If it’s negative – “We didn’t particularly like the zoo. A lot of walking!” Comment with “Thanks for sharing. Did you know about the tram back to the elephants?” You acknowledged their comment and provided assistance. How can you go wrong with that? Plus you showed your DMO is knowledgeable about services at attractions. (It’s that whole relevancy thing…)

2. If someone asks a question, for crying out loud, respond! Again, they took the time to ask a question. I totally understand – no one can watch the page 24/7. Glance at it every now and then – first thing in the morning, before or after lunch and right before you leave for the day.

3. Do you have a friends page? Your Facebook page isn’t really a business page. “Anywheresville” is the first name and “State” is the last name? It’s common. And really it’s to your advantage! Birthdays! A client of mine had both a friends page and a business page. I kept them both and wished all of their friends ‘happy birthday’. Numerous times I’d get replies surprised they’d get a greeting from an attraction. It’s as personal as you can get with your customers!

facebook birthday

4. Pictures! When you scroll through your news feed, what grabs your eye? A text only post or a picture? So then why don’t you use pictures for your DMO or business’ posts? “A picture is worth a thousand words.” A picture might be worth a thousand likes.

Charlottesville Picture Post

5. Start conversations. Go ahead and prime the pump. Encourage dialogue. About once a week, a local Mexican restaurant posts a conversation starter. A recent one: Imagine you can only order one thing off our menu for the rest of your life: What is it? 28 comments. Try fill in the blanks. “In one word, our quacamole goes best with _____________” Combine this with pictures and have then provide the caption. (Possibly less successful as it really requires creativity more so than one adjective or commenting with your favorite burrito but worth a try.)

6. Feature customers. Get comment cards? Post the comments. “Thanks for the kind words Julie (followed by her quote)” or just a waitress in your restaurant was just asked to take a picture of guests at a table. Take a picture yourself and post it. Get their name and say “Peter and his friends celebrating his landing a big account.”

7. Ask for a like, a comment or a share. Word is Facebook is tweaking their algorithm to combat ‘spammy’ posts: How many likes can we get for the new dinosaur at the museum? Or What’s your favorite ride a the waterpark? Like for lazy river, comment for raft ride, share for death drop. I believe it you ask in a subtle tone, it’s still okay. “Let’s hear what you have to say” or “you gotta like this”.

Facebook-Like-Baiting

There’s other ways to engage – contests, exclusive promotions, apps – but let’s keep it with these seven tips this month. Social media isn’t easy! It’s not just posting, checking it off your to-do list and moving to the next task. Yes, it takes time and we’re all super busy – especially in the one man/woman offices. Perhaps it’s time to consider getting some help. Please let me know if we can help in any way. At the very least, the above can help you engage with visitors and potential visitors.

We work in the NOW world

I live in Norman, Oklahoma.  There’s a small university here and the University of Oklahoma is pretty good at football.  The Sooners played Alabama in the Sugar Bowl two weeks ago.  (A Thursday evening.)  While friends were relishing the upset victory, a video starts popping up on social media.  An Alabama fan goes crazy on an OU student.  Friday afternoon a story is posted – Bama Sugar Bowl mom ‘sorry’ but would ‘do it again if I had to’.  Okay, sympathy for the mom?  Wait… have you seen this video – the Crazy Bama Mom BEFORE attacking OU student?  All of that played out through social media within 36 to 48 hours.  Anyone pay attention?  The first video has been viewed nearly 3 million times.  The Yellowhammer story has more than 2,000 comments.  Who knows how many views?  And the third video has been viewed 391,000 times.  (Warning: videos and comments contain offensive images and language.)

So what?  What if the headline is “attraction GM goes crazy on family” or “restaurant owner goes crazy on diners” or “salmonella outbreak after banquet at Yourville convention center”?  We never know what is going to set something off or when a mobile phone is recording.  What could it be that potentially embarrasses the destination?  Maybe it’s not even an embarrassing situation.  Perhaps it’s a hurricane that hits the Gulf or massive flooding in the east or ice storm just before the Super Bowl?  Welcome to your job in the NOW World!  What do you need to prepared to work in the NOW World?

Image

1. You need to be ready… ready now… ready now for anything!  You need to have an emergency public relations plan.  The next chance you get, lock yourself away with your staff and imagine the 20 worst scenarios.  Just scan the headlines: water poison, bed bugs, salmonella, tornado, hurricane, scandal… Then think of the 20 you’d never think of – Crazy Bama Mom.  Doubt the Alabama Alumni office wasn’t prepared for that one!  Talk through what your response should/would be for each situation.  Type them up and store them away.

2. You need to realize we’re not in an 8am to 5pm job any longer.  Tornadoes don’t strike during business hours.  Videos of drunk fans go viral at any time!  If you’re the PR / Communications person for your office, you need to understand that you may be called back in even though it’s after 5pm or it’s during the weekend.  And if it needs reminding, comments on Facebook don’t end at 5pm, people don’t clock out and quit posting and watching videos on YouTube, and tweets are tweeted 24/7.

3. You need to understand that you can’t be passive any longer.  We are not in control of the message any more!  They are and they can post, tweet, pin, comment anything they want – and they do.  It’s as Dan Patrick said numerous times on Sportscenter: You can’t stop him.  You can only hope to contain him.

4. For the messages you are trying to control, you need to understand social media is not posting something once a day and never going back to view the comments or looking at it the next day when you sign in to post another message.  Social media is not loading up Hootsuite on Monday and never participating in the conversation.  (And if Hootsuite is your only portal to social media, I’d suggest shutting it down now.)  Social media is monitoring 24/7 or if you’re a small office, 16 to 18/7.

5. You need to understand you don’t have a private life any longer.  Can you cringe with me just imagining if that Crazy Bama Fan was your employee?  No, this isn’t a case of bad press is good press!  The press would love to run “Executive Director of CVB is Crazy Bama Fan”.  And your personal social media accounts aren’t personal either.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask Justine Sacco.  We have a cool job that allows us to experience a lot of cool things but the bad news is we don’t have a private life any longer.

Those are my initial thoughts of our working now in a NOW World.  Did I miss one or two?  Leave your comments below and thanks for reading!

Kansas Tourism Conference Summary

Tourism-Conference-logo-2013

The Kansas Tourism Conference theme was Capitalizing on Tourism.  (The conference was held in the Kansas capital Topeka.)  The sub-theme might as well have been Getting Back to Basics.  Roger Brooks opened the conference with a two-part full morning general session sharing Deadly Sins and the New Age of Tourism, Jerry Henry provided guidance on doing research on a shoestring budget, representatives from the state revenue office gave a transient guest (hotel/motel/bed) tax 101, and the state tourism office shared their research and strategy the next fiscal year.

No fireworks.  No glamour.  “Just” a back to basic conference packed with information.  The top nuggets are offered in this month’s 5 in Five:

1. Arguably Roger Brooks’ key takeaway was the command to “jettison the generic”.   All too often we want to present our destinations as attractive to every audience – young, old, rich, poor, family, single, etc.  What we wind up with is a very generic ad that doesn’t attract anyone.  While he didn’t present them, I reflected on Roger’s 40 Overused Words and Phrases to Avoid in Destination Marketing.  Review the list here and then count how many of them are in your ads and publications.

2. Roger suggested 80% of people use the internet before they buy.  While I have seen that number as low as 60% and as high as 95%, regardless it’s a reminder that consumers are using the internet more and more.  Based on that, Roger suggests 45% of a destination marketing budget should be spent on the web/digital/social.  (In case you’re wondering about the other 55% – 20, PR/media; 20, traditional advertising; 10 collateral; and 5 outdoor or trade shows.)

3. Did you know 70% of all spending takes place after 6pm?  I’ve never heard this but Roger sharing it opened a lot of eyes and changed a lot of paradigms as we were challenged to thing about how we should create – or reschedule – events to after 5pm.  Sure it means retail outlets and workers of the events don’t get home to 9pm or later, but want to attract the most spenders?  Start after 5pm.  Our communities’ farmer’s markets are Wednesday mornings.  Yep, a lot of people working at that time.

4. Clearly a testament to the quality of Roger Brook’s presentations when four of the five aha’s are from him, but I appreciated when he stated cities and towns should not hang their hat on a festival or event.  What about the other 364 days (or 51 weekends) of the year?  I reflected on a time I was driving to a meeting in beautiful southwest Oklahoma.  Outside Idabel was a billboard welcoming travelers to the Home of the Dogwood Festival.  The festival is the first Saturday of April.  I was passing through weeks after.  I instantly thought “there isn’t any other reason to visit for the next 50 weeks!?”  (When in fact there is a lot to do in Idabel and McCurtain County.)

5. The last takeaway isn’t going to help your marketing plan or provide any ROI.  It’s merely professional development.  Developer Jack DeBoer welcomed the attendees at the Statehouse and provided sage advise from his book Risk Only Money.  The best was he shared if he had it to do all over again, he would listen more.

Thanks for reading.

Five Things You Should Be Doing on Social Media But Aren’t

Social media… the marketing world never paid attention to it in the late 90s when GeoCities and SixDegrees were starting.  We didn’t engage with MySpace in the early 2000s.  But then Facebook happened.  It hit 200 million users.  Then 400 million.  (Now 900 million.)  YouTube became the second largest search engine.  Twitter reports 1 billion tweets.  Okay, you’ve got marketer’s attention!

Conferences began offering breakout sessions on social media.  Then keynote speakers.  Now full conferences.  (How Dave Serino’s SoMeT didn’t make the list I’ll never know.)  Books, consultants, reporting standards, even it’s own awards.

Marketing departments and DMOs are hiring New Media Managers.  We’re cutting out print ’cause we can post and tweet for free.  Some are doing it well, some are, well, doing it.  While I don’t profess to have the silver bullet to conquering social media, might I suggest Five Things You Should Be Doing on Social Media… But Aren’t:

1. Using LinkedIn… while LinkedIn’s 225 million users pales in comparison to Facebook’s 900 million, LinkedIn is still nothing to push aside.  Most conference sessions tend to discuss Facebook, YouTube and Twitter for attracting the leisure visitor but LinkedIn can be valuable at attracting conferences and meetings.  I have more than 850 LinkedIn connections compared to nearly 500 Facebook “friends”.  Professionals on LinkedIn tend to connect quicker than those on Facebook so you’re able to grow your network quicker.

How do you use it?  Post.  Your office probably has a company LinkedIn page but do you ever post?  If a DMO, post new features or the TripAdvisor rankings of your convention center or a new hotel.  Sales person has a new certification?  An attractions’ new exhibits.  (Off site functions remember?)

Engage… comment on posts so meeting planners keep seeing Joe Gesortenflort, VisitAnywhereville.  Join groups and again, comment on posts.  When you finally call that meeting professional, they’ll be familiar having seen your name numerous times.

If you have significant news, personal message your connections.  We’re focusing on Facebook and not using LinkedIn.  Try it.

2. Monitoring… what are meeting planners and visitors saying about your destination?  Here’s an idea – create a dummy account on Facebook.  Like the association pages.  Then monitor the dialogue.  “Oh crap!  We’re going back to Anywhereville!?  The 2010 conference sucked!”  Engage your PR department and manage a poor perception.  See what the meeting planners are posting about working with caterers, convention centers, or, gasp – your staff!  Social media allows us the opportunity to hear the chatter!

3. Prospecting… Just went on Twitter.  Typed in “Oklahoma Conference” and before the song on the radio ended, I identified 15 conferences that someone could target.  “Association”, “Convention”, “Summit”, “Conclave”, prospect other states business… search LinkedIn too.

4. Engaging… Social media is not a ‘to-do’ each day.  “Posted on Facebook.  Next task.”  Never to look at Facebook again until the next day when you post again.  (Or worse, you use Hootsuite and schedule all of your posts for the week and never look at Facebook.)  If your posts are truly engaging, people are commenting and asking questions.  They’re posting on your wall and sending personal messages.  All which needs to be responded to in a timely manner.

5. Monitoring (2)… especially on weekends.  An office posted about a parade one Saturday morning.  A prospective attendee inquired about the time.  The account wasn’t being monitored and thus, wasn’t seen until Monday morning.

In an experiment, I picked on the Des Moines and Wisconsin Dells CVBs and the Wisconsin state tourism office this July while on vacation.  While driving through Des Moines my tweet inquired about lunch options.  Albeit it was a short time frame, but I didn’t get a response until after lunch (and we had found some awesome BBQ.)  I tweeted over and over about the water slides, cheese and week in Wisconsin.  The Wisconsin Dells CVB and state tourism office only responded once.  “Looks like you had a good week.”  No alternative suggestions, no engagement, no customer service.

Social media isn’t easy.  But it isn’t overbearing either.  These are but five things you should be doing on social media but aren’t.  Is there a sixth or seventh?  What successes are you having?  Comment below and let me know.

Thanks for reading!

Secret Shopping Visitor Guides

It really simply started as a curiosity about what other destinations were doing with their Visitor Guides.  But then as co-workers will tell you, my ideas get bigger and bigger!  How are other DMO’s Visitor Guide request processes?  How long does it take Guides to arrive?  Are they sent first class or bulk?  What size are they?   And then to the original question, what features are destinations including in the Guides?

Where else does one get the answers but to ‘secret shop’ Visitor Guides.  So we sent off – or attempted to send off for 60 Guides.  Major destinations.  Smaller destinations but primarily ‘benchmark’ destinations – University cities or cities of 100,000 in population.  The results?

Delivery Of 60 attempts, twice we were unable to even find an ability to request a guide online.  Two more fulfillment pages were broken.  Eight only offered online versions and we weren’t able to order a printed Guide.  So we were only able to order 48 Guides.  Surprisingly, we have only received 39.  Nine requests for Visitor Guides have gone unfulfilled.  Sure there’s got to be some explanation but perhaps that’s the next study – my asking the nine why they never sent a Guide. 

Delivery II The average Guide took 6 days for delivery.  Thus the challenge to our staff – 5 days or less!  Matter of fact, I have a side anecdotal story below about the importance of a speedy delivery!

Delivery III Only one Guide was not sent First Class.  Explains the average six day delivery.

Annual or Multiple Issues per Year We experimented printing three issues per year.  For too many reasons we’ve decided to return to an annual.  We’re right in line as only seven destinations don’t print an annual and those seven – the larger destinations – each printed twice a year.

Size Apparently out is the adage that Guides need to be small, pocket-sized for the visitor to put in their back pocket or purse.  23 of the 39 were magazine sized 8.5 X 11 (or a close size to that, 7.5 X 11.)  12 were digest size (5 X 8 or a close size to that, 4 X 9.)  The other three were 8 X 8, 7 X 9 and 4 X 7.

Length All over the board!  The smallest Guide was 10 pages.  Lengthiest – Orlando’s 233 pager.

Inserts / Enclosures A handful of destinations included a detailed Calendar of Events.  Six enclosed a thank you letter for requesting the guide.  And one destination hand wrote a note and dropped it in the envelope with the Guide!

Content –  Social Media meets print  There are numerous instances in which destinations have included Social Media content in the Visitor Guide.  Detroit’s is the most prevalent.  Detroit includes these “Travel Tips” throughout the Guide which the content is pulled from social media.

Detroit Travel Tip

They even go full-page with the social:

Detroit Social Page

Durham has similar features throughout their Guide:

Durham Fan Favorites

But Detroit keeps pulling from social media and nicely promotes the online world through their “Depict the D” page.  Click here to see the page.

Content – Use of QR Code While I bashed QR Code use last month, I will hand it to Columbia and Grand Rapids for both utilizing QR Codes to bring the online world to the print world.  Columbia offers the reader a chance to scan and have a walking tour of their downtown:

Columbia Walking Tour

Grand Rapids provides a map of their smart phone tour.  The page from the Guide has 10 QR Codes that a visitor can scan and learn more about the public art.

Content – Research back to Detroit where they point blank say ‘We Need Your Help’ and give you a QR Code to scan so you can answer a few questions about their Guide.

Detroit Survey

If you ever wanted to benchmark your Visitors Guide with others, there you go.  That’s a rough summary of what Visitor Guides are looking like today.  Thanks for reading.

Oh, by the way, here’s that story…

In the midst of our Visitor Guide research above, our family is planning our three family vacation next summer.  Thanksgiving Day my brother and I discussed three destinations.  I perused three destination websites.  My wife is still a printed piece person and heck, I being in the industry doing the above research thought here’s two more that I can test.  So, I requested three Visitor Guides.
Tuesday after Thanksgiving, the first one arrived.  (That’s TUESDAY after Thanksgiving it ARRIVES!  Standing O for someone or their mail house working on Friday or Saturday to get that Guide out!)  Wednesday my wife flipped through it while my daughter practiced.  My wife started texting me ads and pictures from the Guide.  She gets home and starts showing the family pages that were dog-eared.  When my son asked ‘can we go there.’  My wife declared, ‘Yes.  This is where we’re going next summer!’
But, what, um, uh, we have two more Guides on the way!  We have two more options!
Not in my wife’s mind.  Destination 1 beat the other two to the mailbox.  She’s already studied the Guide.  She liked what she saw.  She’s made up her mind!
Destination 2’s Guide arrived two days later.  She hasn’t even looked at it.  Destination 3’s Guide is yet to arrive.  Doesn’t matter.  Game over.