Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Travel is about telling stories: the use of social media

During the ITB exhibition in Berlin last week, we had the chance to attend the conference “How to seduce your consumers to your destination”. Keith Bellows, the editor-in-chief of the National Geographic, shared his experience about the influence of social media and called attention to the content provided by a destination. He said that a destination should offer slow, deep, personal and alternative messages to seduce consumers. Indeed, today it is not sufficient to deliver content. The aim, now, is to bring content that tells a story, like the article of Michael Cohn highlighting: http://rethinkingsocialmedia.com/content-that-tells-a-story.

To be effective, a business should be persuasive and build trust with its consumers according to the article, “the success of your business using social media is based on the relationships that you develop and maintain”. Best businesses’ contents are those that tell stories. Stories can illustrate businesses’ point of view by setting the testimony of a lambda customer with whom readers could easily identify. In other words, by offering high-quality, excitement, creativity, educational content, a business could have the opportunity to convince people. The goal here is to touch the audience by “enhancing, sharing, internalizing, understanding, engaging” content. Words, images, videos, events are such tools which allow to bring sense at a personal level and tell a story.

What are the implications for the use of social media in the travel industry? Airlines, tour-operators, hotels and DMOs are continuously looking for enhancing their content. Each actors of the sector want to attract people attention, seduce new consumers, etc. They compete on the way they provide content, without really know how to succeed in. Social media has to be used to be closer to consumers, to develop and create lasting relationship with readers.

To promote themselves, some destinations even use bloggers or social media influencers to communicate in a more personal way. Most of the time, they are invited to visit a particular destination, and then, they have the ability to tell their own story, share their own experience, putting the reader at the same level. Thanks to bloggers’ intermediaries the destination is talking with travelers and not talking at them. The advantages of this methods are numerous: since they are already established on the web, bloggers have more facility to touch the audience (Caroline Makepeace, through http://www.bloggingstandards.com/travel-industry-bloggers), their messages are authentic and the destination save money (running a blog is a work you can do everywhere you have internet access and doesn’t cost a lot). Of course, this way of communication doesn’t replace the marketing work done by a destination but it can complement it very well.

This clever use of social media gives more credibility to the destination and can lead to a better integration of the local population. Who can better talk about a destination if not its inhabitants? Blogs offer a place of interaction for travelers and locals that can lead to meetings and a better understanding of the local cultures. Social media can contribute to the principles of sustainable tourism by creating a positive experience for both travelers and inhabitants.

So tell us a story and involve people!

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