By: Andrew Miller
Digital marketing has changed the way we all send and receive information. Whether you’re a consumer, motorcoach operator, tour operator, or destination marketing organization (DMO), the amount of digital information available can be overwhelming—and keeping up with it can be exhausting. User-generated information found on the various social media channels provides instant feedback that allows us to monitor the temperature of our target audiences. Let’s walk through the basics on how tour operators can use social media to help plan their group tours.
The first step is to identify the area or region where you’d like to plan a group tour. Your destination could be affected by such factors as geography—day trip vs. overnight trip—or season, if you’re looking to focus your trip on events.
Next, secure the name of the DMO of your desired destination. If making an overnight trip with frequent stops, be sure to identify the various DMOs that represent all of the stops along your intended journey.
Once you secure the name of your DMO, search out its social media sources, focusing first on Facebook, and then expand to others such as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube. Once you’ve found these sites, be sure to follow their feeds to stay on top of new posts, events, and information. An important point to remember about DMOs is that the majority of events and promotions are cyclical—they repeat every year during specific seasons. If you suddenly find an event or item of interest that would be perfect for your group tour but it’s coming up too soon for you to plan a trip, simply note that item for a future trip as it will more than likely occur the following year.
When you visit a DMO’s Facebook page, the most valuable information you will discover is under its Events section, where you can view a list of its upcoming events. Again, keep in mind that the events you find may not be as far in advance as you like, but you’ll get a strong idea about the activities that are held annually in that destination. Note all the events that you feel would be of interest to you or group tour enthusiasts. What you do next may be your most valuable tool: Pick up the phone and call the DMO and ask to speak to the person who posts events on Facebook to see how well these events trend with viewers. First and foremost, this establishes a relationship between you and the DMO—one that most DMOs warmly welcome—and second, you’ll get behind-the-scenes data about those events that can help you plan upcoming group tours. Ask your new DMO contact for data associated with the event of interest: reach, responses, clicks, and shares. If the event in which you’re interested has positive feedback from Facebook followers, it’s logical to assume that it has consumer appeal and may be a good idea for your next group tour.
Data from Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube works similarly, with the number of “hearts” and positive feedback providing key insights to how the consumer views the post. YouTube video hotlinks can be copied and pasted on your website or shared with your group tour customers to build buzz about your upcoming trip. In these cases, no calls to DMO staff would be required. However, if you’ve found an event and secured positive data from your new DMO best friend that the event is popular with consumers, you may as well ask about other events or attractions in the destination that would create an even more enjoyable experience for your group tour.
Your next new trip may be just a click away.
Andrew Miller is executive director of the Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau in Lewisburg, Pa.