Tripping Through Social Media

When your city has world-class art museums, lush boardwalk beaches or one-of-a-kind historical attractions, you expect those outside the state to take notice. But what if they don’t?

Two years ago, Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s office invited social media thought leader Chris Brogan to address strengthening Delaware via networks such as Facebook and Twitter. After Chris had left for his flight, the remaining audience discussed Delaware’s limited visibility. I suggested that we utilize social networks to raise awareness of the State’s advantages for vacations, meetings, conventions and sports events.

Response from the Delaware Social Media Initiative was enthusiastic, and the Wilmington News Journal and WDEL helped pass the word. Later, I presented a synopsis at the Governor’s Entrepreneurial Conference.

More recently, the State has published more experiential biennial Travel Guides (print and online); filled its tourism blog with up-to-the-minute content; and utilized the Governor’s many national appearances to communicate Delaware’s natural beauty and variety of destinations.

And yes, Delawareans’ posts are paying off – Wilmington, the State’s largest city, ranked #22 in the 2011 Men’s Health list of “most socially networked” cities, in the company of much larger and better-known communities.

Other states have launched similar marketing efforts. For example, North Dakota, another often-overlooked destination, has promoted its “Legendary” theme for over a decade, but now also publishes a “Social Media Cheat Sheet” for ND destinations.

Myriad potential uses of social media in tourism include crowdsourcing last-minute room/table/package inventory, integrating booking/ticketing engines with customers’ networks, creating personalized offers for loyalty program customers from social data, aggregating traveler tips on site, and more. Of course, to design and evaluate such programs, you’ll need to monitor conversations and other user-generated content about your location.

ORC’s public sector practice, located in Seattle (#5 on the networked cities list, BTW), helps cities and counties create and maintain “community equity” – which includes everything from voting to food truck location tweets.

2012 is an ideal year to evaluate your community’s networks in every sense of the word, and strengthen the links that drive its economy, now and in the future.

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Categories: Public Sector, Travel

Author:Laurie Gelb

Laurie is a Vice President in ORC International's Public Sector Practice, serving government, health care, transportation and utility clients. Projects focus on performance measurement, service development, infrastructure enhancement and constituent communication.


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