cleveland at somet15us be yourself

The Best Takeaways from #SoMeT15US

If you’re on the destination marketing conference circuit as a DMO or CVB, you’ve likely heard of SoMeT, put on by Destination Think! It’s one of the premiere conferences for destination marketers who want to learn from world-class leaders and innovate within their industry. It’s chock-full of inspirational ideas to fill your tool chest with, and if you haven’t been before, we’d highly recommend it.

This year, we participated not only as delegates, but also as a sponsor. We had a lot of opportunities to speak with our travel partners and newly made friends, and realized that it can be overwhelming going home with so many notes, no matter how valuable they are.

We put our heads together and decided to summarize some actionable takeaways to give back to the amazing DMO community.

1. Embrace Your Cliches

Be proud of what makes your destination unique, and don’t shy away from it.

In their keynote presentation, Cleveland shared that before they started their campaign, just over 30% of Cleveland residents said they would recommend the city as a destination to travel to. Something they could have easily hid from, and kept marketing their parks, nightlife, or sporting events, but that’s not Cleveland’s style.

Instead of being shy about of it, they embraced it. Their motto became: We never followed the crowd, never listened to the jokes, and for that, you’re welcome. They focused on what made them unique, what made them Cleveland.

They created #ThisisCLE and locals/visitors embraced it, already boasting over 200,000 posts on Instagram.

The results? A recent poll found that 54% of residents would recommend Cleveland as a destination… the proof is in the pudding!

So, what does it mean for you?

Be different. Be unique. Show off your personality.

2. Define Your DNA

Find your strength, and build a DNA around it.

It’s easy to say that your destination has something for everyone, as we’d never want to lose a potential traveller. However, it’s those who make the tough decision to focus on their destination’s strengths, and define their DNA that see the greatest results.


We saw this with Dublin, Ohio who made it clear that Irish is in fact, an attitude. Being Irish is weaved into every aspect of their marketing, and is what draws new travellers to the destination.

When you visit, every experience is unmistakably Irish, from the Irish egg rolls (we’d be interested in trying one!) to the St. Patty’s day parade.

This is their DNA, and even though they’re not based in Ireland, it works!

Ask yourself, “what would the world miss if my destination disappeared?”

Once you have the answer to that, you have the building block of your DNA.

3. Prove Your Social ROI

The one language every executive speaks is ROI.

This is all great, but when the board asks “what’s the ROI on your social campaign?”, what do you do? Well, what a lot of us do, talk impressions, reach, and engagement. As William from Think! mentioned, executives don’t always speak social.

So how do we embrace our cliches, define our DNA, and make social the core of that strategy? You outfit yourself with as many tools to prove the ROI on social.

Because, let’s face it, you won’t get very far, if you don’t have executive buy-in.

Here are some strategies that we’ve seen work.

Relating Social to Word of Mouth Marketing

Social media is Word of Mouth Marketing on steroids.

The one to one conversations that travelers use to share their experiences are the most powerful way to get new travel consideration.

With social, those conversations happen every second, and are shared with every person in their network. Remind executives that by supercharging social, those conversations will reach more people, translating to more heads in beds.

Social is where people go to talk about their experience with your destination, and if you’re not there, you’re missing out.

Talking Efficiency

Because of this one to many nature of Social Media, it is one of the most efficient forms of media.

The beauty of social media is that you can keep a consistent message across all your channels with very little effort. What can be used on Facebook, can be quickly repurposed for Instagram and Twitter. Add on tools that integrate across all your channels, and you’ll have recipe for success in no time.

Remind your executives that in leveraging social for your marketing, you can save time and money, reduce duplicated work, and reach a greater audience.

Making Everything Measurable

Social media is measurable, full stop.

You can’t hide from the glanced over print ads or the tuned out radio ads here, it’s all visible. You’ll also have actionable insight into what works and what doesn’t for your destination.

Learn from your audience’s response, adapt quickly and you’ll see more click throughs and action taken on your brand.

Executives like results, so define your goals early, make a plan, and deliver.

Bringing it All Together

To sum it all up, these are the three things to put into action right now.

  1. Don’t try to be perfect. Find your uniqueness and lead with it. 
  2. Focus on what is unique about your destinations and then define your DNA based on that. Don’t try to please everyone.
  3. Get executive buy-in on social early; focus your efforts, and prove its value.

What was your favourite takeaway from SoMeT15US? Join the conversation on Twitter.

P.S. If you were sharing photos during SoMeT (we know you were!) then sit back and enjoy some nostalgic moments here!