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Zac Gribble on Digital Analytics for Destination Marketing

Zac Gribble is a Director of Media Technology at RTO4 and won the Innovation Initiative award at the SoMeTUS conference for his work in destination marketing. We spoke with him shortly after his win about what he’s learned about storytelling for DMOs and digital analytics for destination marketing. He shared some valuable insights, which we’ve turned into five useful tips that you can take away and implement for your DMO.

Tip #1: Build a Digital Operations Dashboard

When we have increased engagement on channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram what does it mean for our bottom line?

A digital operations dashboard is a great tool for answering that question. It helps marketers to step back from day-to-day activities and get a holistic view of how efforts are contributing to the bigger picture.

Your digital operations dashboard should reflect what’s important to your DMO. For some, engagement or time on site is a key metric, for others, it’s driving traffic to local businesses.

If the idea of setting up a dashboard is intimidating, don’t worry. You can start with something as simple as a spreadsheet and eventually graduate to a more sophisticated custom tool. What matters is that you are tracking your efforts in a way that you can see what matters at a glance.

By benchmarking and paying attention to your key metrics, you can start adapting best practices around destination marketing analytics.

Tip #2: Close the Loop to Connect Digital Activities to Sales

As a DMO, you have great stories and content. They are on your site and social media channels and are highly sharable. But where do these stories lead? DMOs often think that social is only for sharing content created elsewhere. For example you might share your destination’s blog content on Twitter or tell visual stories on Instagram that help create more awareness.

For some destinations – smaller ones in particular – general awareness isn’t enough. Your social media efforts need to have a tangible impact on results like increased foot traffic or bookings. You need to close the loop and tie those social media storytelling initiatives to something you can track beyond simply sharing.

The key here to is to look for patterns. For example, what are the results of a big Instagram campaign with shared content? How much sales resulted during that period from Instagram?

“Social-to-web as a metric is a fantastic starting point and it’s easy to track. Google Analytics will tell you how much social traffic you have from all the channels you’re on. It’s a great, simple starting point.” – Zac Gribble, @ZedGee73

Tip #3: Improve Conversions by Giving Your Social Stories a Call to Action

Zac pointed out that, “Destinations usually link to a DMO site because it’s their job to have an aggregator site listing everything there is to do. But if you target a story to a highly niche audience, you should link it to the most logical and useful landing page from the visitor’s perspective. Often this means linking to a 3rd party tourism operator’s web page instead of the DMO site.”

As a DMO, you may feel like you have to treat all the local businesses and operators equally.  Zac encourages DMOs to decide which operators resonate with a particular campaign and have a unique story that corresponds.  Use a Call to Action that is specific to that story, rather than a generic one. For example, if you are doing a story on the great craftspeople in your city, link to the top 5 stores that carry handicrafts, rather than sending a link to your destination’s homepage.

“The best DMOs always think from the visitor’s perspective. What happens after the click on a social media story? Is the landing page relevant and on-message? Is it useful? Is it fun? Does it continue the conversation?” – Zac Gribble, @ZedGee73

How do you demonstrate the value of this to your local operators? Ask them what business metrics matter to them, and draw the connection between your activities and their metrics. This helps them to understand that if they participate in unique shared stories and participate in the larger destination’s common voice while telling these stories, the whole destination benefits.

Tip #4: Do Small Measured Tests

Social storytelling is typically very low cost and it is easier than you think to do small measured tests.

Start by making a list of the Top 3 results you want to drive with your digital campaigns. Then make a list of potential campaigns you could try that correspond with your key goals (this is a great activity to do with your team).

Let’s say you have a list of 10 campaigns for each result. Ask yourself how you can run a small test before investing time and resources into a full blown campaign.

For example, maybe you want to run a social media contest around waterfalls in your region. Run a small experiment by running Instagram ads for a week to see how people respond.

Zac recommends doing a $5 paid social media test to get feedback from your user groups. Go for the low hanging fruit and find a really unique story with one of your operators. Then leverage that story using a highly targeted, low-cost social media post promotion, track the results, and determine whether it makes sense to go forward with a larger scale effort.

Tip #5: Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment

DMOs should provide operators with materials to tell their own stories better. This could be photography, video and other visual assets. DMOs should also help operators to use their social media channels to try to amplify that story and track and measure what happens on those social channels and their website.

At the same time, DMOs should experiment with those materials to tell that same story but also link it back to that operator’s landing page which must be friendly and have a good call to action.

To run an experiment like this, Zac recommends that you find a progressive tourism operator with share-worthy stories who is willing to co-create content and share analytics and reporting.

At CrowdRiff, we’re here to make it easier for destinations and their visitors to find and share photos that matter so that they can tell the stories that matter. Ready to tell your story? Get in touch!

Header Image Credit: SOMET Facebook Page

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