Online Destination Marketing for Regional Australia (Guest Blog)

Contribution by Dana Flannery, Creative Director at Talk About Creative in Brisbane. Talk About Creative have worked with regional businesses across Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania.

Social Destination Marketing for Regional Australia

Ever felt like you’re stuck out in the sea when you’re in fact miles inland?  Event and destination marketing for regional Australian business means trying to stay afloat in a sea of aggressive competitors, all offering amazing experiences to your potential customers.  How do you compete online when gigantic pay-by-the-month directories dominate search results?  Online marketing for regional tourism and events is a tough gig, so how can you find new visitors without paying out for advertising?  Here are some DIY strategies for marketing your destination or event on the internet.

Digital Marketing in 2015 – Where to Proceed With Caution

SEO: Year by year, the SEO dream is fading for regional tourism.  Ranking number one for popular keywords is just not possible for most businesses.  The industry is dominated by big directories that spend tens of thousands a month to keep their page one position. 

Facebook: Facebook too is switching to a user pays model so it’s becoming less economical to grow a Facebook following – as you will pay (in time or by ad spend) first to grow, second to reach.

It’s vital to keep an eye on your Google Analytics data to see where your website visitors are coming from.  On the left hand menu select Acquisition/Channels/Social to see if your traffic justifies your Facebook activity.  If not, consider installing the Google ++ tool on Google Plus and bouncing your posts there to Twitter and Facebook.

How you can “juke the stats” on Social Media

Google Plus

Google is pushing for business to direct their SEO and social media efforts through their own centralised platform, Google Plus.  By encouraging tourism operators, travel agents and travel bloggers to “circle you on Google Plus” you’ll appear on the first page of their search results for Google Plus posts and also for pages on your website. 

If you have large a large following on Facebook, try sharing content to Google Plus first, then using the Google Plus link to share on other social media.  Encourage them to Circle you on Google Plus.

Check out the competition too, by finding viral content from their pages and then clicking the little arrow in the top right of the post.  Go to “Ripples” to see who has shared their content, and then begin tagging those people too.

Twitter and Hashtagging

A hashtag is a way to bring your social media content into a single stream with others discussing the same topic.  It’s perfect for events and it’s a good way to “drop in” on a conversation by a peak body or influential blogger.  To create a hashtag, simply add #toaphrasewithnospacing.  To find the best hashtags to use, check out what your industry, local partners and tourism providers are using.  Jump in!

And @tag is like a “cc” on a post.  You share the post with your audience but also @tag popular social media users.  These get the attention of the right people for your event or destination.  You simply add the @ symbol to the start of their name in your post.

Using Twitter to connect with these influencers can help you get their attention.  Twitter doesn’t filter posts the way Facebook does, so by hash tagging and @tagging influencers, you’re able to get their attention when you need it.  Twitter is also a good place to put out fast moving content such as updates on the day as hash tagging works well on Twitter.

Tourism bodies love hashtags, so check out what they’re using and join in the conversation by hashtagging your posts too.  Even on Facebook, this can help draw attention to your event among industry names and even tourists.

Source Bottle, HARO  and Twitter for Blogger Outreach

Blogger outreach is about getting bloggers and journalists to talk about you on their popular blog and on their social channels.  Usually, you’d need to offer them a free ticket or trip to get them excited.

Because Twitter is such a valuable PR resource you should be looking at the bigger travel blogger’s feeds – if they’re coming to a town near you, you can then reach out and offer them accommodation or tickets in your town in exchange for their review. 

Sourcebottle and HARO (Help a Reporter Out) are places where reporters, bloggers and agencies can request content (paid and unpaid).  Subscribe to find opportunities to write about travelling to your event or destination.

Facebook for Networking and Advertising

It’s tough to get that golden reach on Facebook these days but it’s not quite time to walk away from Facebook….yet.  Rather than fighting to get and retain every single liker, it makes more sense to tap into established markets. Go to a potential partner’s page and comment on statuses as your page (by clicking the drop down button near the comment box).  Target five good pages at first.  Comment regularly, add value and interact with the social media manager from that page.  Then, once you feel like you know each other, shoot over that important PM asking them to cross promote with you. 

Alternatively, using the down arrow at the top of your navigation bar, you can choose to “Use Facebook as your page”.  Spend some time liking potential partners as your page. Then, click home – you will now see a feed of only the network partners you’ve selected.  This way, you can log in regularly and comment, like and share directly from those pages in one central place.

Facebook also offers a cheaper alternative to Google Adwords.  If your click prices are getting out of hand on Adwords, consider setting up a few custom audiences and lookalike audiences in Facebook Power Editor.  Simply download power editor here, click Audiences under the Manage Ads menu, and then click Create Audience.  A custom audience comes from your existing mailing list (you’ll need at least 500 subscribers) and a lookalike uses your mailing list to find people with similar demographical data and online habits.  Once you have these set up (takes up to 24 hours) you can then do more targeted advertising with better click through. 

If your mailing list is set up well, you can segment by geographical location – creating highly targeted messages.

YouTube for Destination Marketing

Video marketing is pretty much essential these days.  Google Think reports that 78% of those planning a holiday will surf YouTube even before they’ve chosen a destination.  YouTube is a competitive environment so you should take care to set up and optimise your channel for maximum reach (do the one hour course here).  You can then use video content to share to other platforms.

Visual Social Media for Regional Marketers

Pinterest and Instagram are the most underutilised platforms for most marketers.  They often get overlooked because they’re not managed by tools like Hootsuite – you have to do it yourself!  Pinterest has around 90% female users and the highest click through rate of any social platform for that demographic.  Great images go great guns and you can easily grab holiday browsers by optimising your board names. 

Instagram is currently a bit of a pain for business. It’s harder to manage (you’ll need to do it directly from a mobile device or download a program to do it from desktop) and provides no linking opportunities for click through.  It is however, terribly popular!  If you’re marketing somewhere beautiful, these are good options that shouldn’t be ignored.

Google Alerts about your region

Google Alerts deliver a summary of activity on a specific phrase or topic to your inbox. Setting up Google Alerts takes less than 30 seconds.  You can input keywords to do with travel, destinations, your location or anything relevant to your event and Google will send you a summary of mentions across the web.  Here you’ll find opportunities to promote your event daily, and for free.

In 2015 online marketing for regional destinations and events will become gradually more difficult as the web becomes more competitive.  It’s about creating new channels for tourists and tour industry providers to find you and get excited about you!  Social Media remains a terrific way to reach new people but you’ll need to do some trial and error to find the right fit for you and your travellers!

About the Author:  Dana Flannery is a digital marketer who has worked extensively with rural destinations and businesses.  She runs www.talkaboutcreative.com.au