Tag Archives: travel and tourism

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!

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.

‘sō shəl (verb) people engaging with each other

We all know the social media statistics: 198 google billion posts on Facebook, 55 quaple million tweets, 127.4 hoople billion pics on Instagram, and more pins than all of Oklahoma and Iowa’s wrestling programs combined. Social media is today what websites were in the 90s meaning if you’re not on social media, well, you’re not in business. But social media is, well, social.

Social Media

Try this: ‘sō shəl (verb) to design activities in which people engage with each other for pleasure – or in your situation – commerce! You won’t find that in Websters but we should. I have noticed a few practices or in some cases, lack of practices, that really doesn’t help social media be social. Bottom line – we’re not engaging! Here’s some thoughts on engaging through Twitter. (Next month, Facebook.)

– If someone comes into your welcome center or business, you greet them right? You thank them for visiting and/or becoming a new customer, yes? When someone follows you on Twitter, thank them!

“@traveler123 – Thanks for following us @VisitAnywheresville.” Keep it simple!

Toss in the hash tag #loveourcustomers for added appeal. If you’re a destination, perhaps use #loveourvisitors.

– Someone mention you on Twitter? Favorite the tweet! If someone took the time to search for @VisitAnywheresville and mention you in their tweet, you have to, HAVE TO, HAVE TO acknowledge them and engage!

I am shocked at how many times I mention someone, some place or some entity and don’t get a favorite. I went to the OKC Energy (semi-pro soccer) game a week ago. Took a picture and mentioned @OKCEnergy. Nothing. Crickets. You think I want to do that again? You think I believe they care that I attended and want me back? Not so much.

I’ll pick on my friends in Branson. We visited Branson over spring break. Seven tweets about our activities. Mentioned @ExploreBranson each time. Only one was favorited.

The mentions should be easy to know about. Log into Twitter and check your notifications. If you’re mentioned, it’s there. Hash tags require a little more searching but if you’re promoting a hashtag and someone uses it, a favorite is required. I only run in Saucony shoes. Every ad of theirs includes #findyourstrong. As I come back from a hamstring injury and begin running again, when I tweet about a run and include #findyourstrong, I’m surprised, nay, shocked Saucony doesn’t favorite the tweet to encourage me to keep using the hashtag and their shoes.

– Don’t just favorite a tweet, reply.

“Really enjoyed the @AnyZoo in @VisitAnywheresville! The monkeys were especially lively.”

Reply:

“@traveler123 Glad you enjoyed your visit to @AnyZoo and @VisitAnywheresville. See you again soon!”

Heck, suggest another attraction to them.

“@traveler123 Glad you enjoyed your visit to @AnyZoo. If you like animals, you may like the @AnyPettingZoo.”

Or (dare I say) send them to your website

“Find out information about @AnyPettingZoo at http://www.VisitAnywheresville.com/AnyPettingZoo”

If I ever get the chance to hike I do. I hiked my fourth location in the state. Tweeted “Hiked Roman Nose, Beaver’s Bend, Wichita, Quartz Mtns & T-bird. What’s next @TravelOK.” They responded with a link to their webpage describing five beginner, five intermediate and five expert hikes in Oklahoma. Just added 15 more destinations to my list!

Hey social media isn’t easy! It’s not just posting or tweeting something, 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!

The Fifth P of Marketing

A colleague at a recent tourism function was sharing how her DMO was getting in a “turf war” between the City and the Chamber – both trying to take over the management of the organization. She concluded by sharing ‘I’m staying out of it. I’m not in politics.’ A few of the glancing looks from others at the table communicated that we were thinking the same thing, “Oh yes you are like it or not!”  (And you’d better engage now or you may find yourself in a place you aren’t going to like!)

 

I thought going from a DMO to an attraction I’d find less politics. Boy was I wrong. On the heels of her statement above, I thought I’d dust off this post from April, 2011. Still as timely today! 

 

Remember the Four Ps of Marketing?  Product – Price – Placement and Promotion.  It’s Marketing 101. It’s the core of what we do – destination development (Product), drive hotel rates (Price), advise on the location of the attractions (Placement), and of course advertising and media relations (Promotion.)  But the longer I spend in destination marketing, the more I realize there is indeed a fifth P of marketing.  That fifth P is Politics.

 

I once read that destination marketing professionals are “politicians with marketing skills”.  And while I don’t like to consider myself a politician, I recognize more and more frequently that we do a lot of politic-ing.  Consider that…

 

– The CVB was active in recent City Council elections.  We assisted with candidate profiles and submitted questions for the candidate forums.

 

– Recently we’ve monitored and spoke on City issues related to business lighting and storm water runoff.  Further back, we took a stance on a state education issue and supported both a parks master plan and funding for a business park. (Following this post, we monitored and spoke on high density housing near a popular shopping district and engaged in the passage of a bond issue to improve one of the main corridors into the destination.)

 

– I accompanied our Chamber of Commerce on a ‘fly-in’ to DC to meet with our five representatives and Senators. We also met with NOAA as weather is big business in Norman! (Delighted to see my successor continued the practice!)

 

– In the near future we’ll discuss raising the transient guest tax and the split of that tax to maximize it’s economic impact on the local economy. (It passed increasing the DMO budget by $250,000.)

 

US Travel Association has long recognized the fifth P of destination marketing.  DMAI is engaging more and more in advocacy.  A committee is developing a tool kit for a community to utilize.  Not soon enough as we spend less and less time on the Promotion side of our jobs and more time on the Politics of our job. Update: that tool kit has been developed. It and many other resources can be found here.

 

It’s not the customer interaction we crave. It’s not the full conference hall corridors we like to see. And it’s not the dynamic new advertising creative we like reviewing but politicking has become a vital part of our jobs. Again, like it or not.

 

I’d love to hear success stories or best practices.  Please share those below.

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.