DMO Best Practices – Innovative Uses of Social Media

Destination Marketing Organizations around the world have realised the added value of using social media channels to market their destinations and increase awareness. There are certain examples though of DMOs that seem to have “broken the code” coming up with innovative campaigns and other uses of social media channels. Let’s have a look at a selection of best practices of DMO social media use.

The Banff Squirrel & Twitter

The fun element of destinations is definitely what social media can bring out and it should not get lost along the way. A viral sensation since 2009, the cheeky squirrel in Alberta’s Banff National Park became famous after stealing the spotlight in a tourist’s photo.

It all begun when Melissa Brandts, who was visiting from Minnesota, set up her camera on a tripod to capture her and her husband, in front of picturesque Lake Minnewanka. The little ground squirrel appeared, became intrigued with the sound of the focusing camera and popped right into the shot. The couple submitted the photo to a National Geographic contest and the magazine posted it to an online gallery on Aug. 7.

Within hours of the meme taking off, Banff Lake Louise Tourism produced “Banff Crasher Squirrel: The Movie” on YouTube and created the @Banff_Squirrel Twitter account which now has almost 7.000 followers. The squirrel has a continuously scrolling conversation with tourists via Twitter on the Real Banff page that many people find enjoyable to follow. As of April 2011, the Banff Squirrel is ranked # 4 among the 25 Most Influential Tourist Boards and DMOs Online published by

VisitPhilly, Twitter & 2-way engagement, is the official visitor website for Greater Philadelphia. Through @visitphilly, tweeter Caroline from leads lively conversations, publishes a Photo of the Day contributed by followers and encourages people to visit a branded page on Foursquare, the location-based social networking website and game. This sort of two way engagement has led the DMO to the 7th place of the 25 most influential DMOs online according to .

Many DMOs are using Facebook to promote their destination, however most are using their FB pages to promote events, throw contests and engage in short conversations. Few DMOs have used it in order to unite audience and stakeholders towards greater causes and strategic goals.

Anaheim/Orange County & Community engagement

Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau launched a Facebook sweepstakes program entitled “Share Our Sunshine” celebrating its 50th Anniversary. The basic idea behind the campaign was to involve the entire community.

Eighty of the hotel, restaurant and attraction partners of the Anaheim/Orange County bureau participated in the campaign thus extending the benefits to the entire tourism region. Another best-practice element was to target the prizes to various categories of winners: trips for men, trips for women, getaways for two and family excursions.

Visit Florida & Crisis Management

Visit Florida-the official tourism marketing corporation for the state of Florida – hosted the “Great VISIT FLORIDA Beach Walk”on November 2010 to clear up any doubts about the status of Florida’s beaches in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“One of the great elements of Florida Live was the activation of Floridians to tell the real story,” said Chris Thompson, President and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA. “We reached out to our ‘Share a Little Sunshine’ fans on Facebook and asked them to post date-stamped images of our beaches – and they proved to be great fans. Recent focus groups told us those real photos, taken by real people, were really powerful.” Studies that people who visited Florida Live were 31 percent more likely to visit Florida during and after the oil spill than those who had not been to the site.

Photos of Florida’s 825 miles of beaches appear in the “Florida Live” feature on so potential visitors can see the latest beach conditions for themselves. Florida Live was created in May 2010 to maintain consumer trust through the course of the crisis by providing real-time updates from destinations around the state, coupled with live webcams and consumer generated content. Recognized as a best practice for crisis management, Florida Live has proven to be an innovative use of technology and content to address the oil spill situation.

Toronto and integrated video technology

In Canada, the city of Toronto is using innovative video technology that taps into Facebook and other social networks via  informal “ambassadors.” Tourism Toronto in the summer of 2010 began setting up interactive video recording stations at a number of festivals and attractions and invited residents and visitors to record messages about why they love Toronto.

After each video is recorded, the technology compresses a copy and instantly attaches footage that adds music, imagery, Tourism Toronto branding and a call to action.If the consumer decides they want to share their video, the “brand wrapped” video clip is then uploaded to their Facebook page, YouTube and Twitter accounts or sent to them by email.

The program is unique from several standpoints – the instant branding video technology has never been used before and Toronto is the first DMO to use this new technology and this kind of approach to promoting a destination. “The combination of community-based engagement, video footage and social networks wins on a number of levels,” says Clifford Ward, chief creative officer for, creator of the technology.

#InCostaBrava blog trip

Costa Brava recently organized a bloggers trip to the destination under the tagline 16 Bloggers.  7 Days.  1 Amazing Destination

#InCostaBrava brought 16 bloggers to the region for a week to sample the best experiences of the region, pulling together businesses and resources from all levels to create a major online buzz.  The event culminated with a social media workshop where bloggers and tourism providers discussed tactics and strategies as well as a reflection on the week.

According to Andy Hays, one of the invited travel bloggers , the #InCostaBrava group trip proved to be a successful model of social media tourism outreach due to the following factors:

  • The organization trusted the bloggers not just as content providers, but as “digital ambassadors”
  • They found the right people for the trip with a good mix of styles and backgrounds
  • There was a high level of teamwork in the destination, where all stakeholders, from tourism board to hotels and museums opened their doors and were on board to provide their best service
  • #InCostaBrava drove traditional PR and outreach opportunities beyond Social Media
  • The ambassadors were given what they needed in order to complete their “mission” successfully. #InCostaBrava wanted people to tweet and share photos and on-the-go coverage.  So they provided Wifi throughout the entire trip

Do you have other best practice examples in mind? Share them with us at the comments below!

5 Basic Principles (& 25 Best Practices) for DMO Websites

According to many recent studies, Destination marketing organizations (DMOs) are facing intriguing challenges to provide quality information online in an era of information overload. Insufficient knowledge of tourist’s online information preferences and search behaviour has hindered them from effective information management.
A local or regional DMO website should help to promote not only the destination as a whole, but also hotels, tourist attractions, restaurants, theatre, sports, activities in the destination itself. Ideally it would be possible to buy or reserve this through the DMO website.
However, with websites such as Tripadvisor, WAYN, Google Maps, Facebook, etc., many people question the role of DMO/NTO/CVB’s websites  in 10 years from now. Following the latest developments on the field,  it’s hard to ignore the fact that DMOs need to go where the consumer is, instead convincing the consumer to come to them.
To compete with the aforementioned commercial websites, DMO websites should be comprehensive and give visitors all the tools they need such us mash up maps, live web cams & YouTube video channels and a Flickr image gallery to capture the special elements of the destination. DMO websites also need to act as one-stop-shops for the visitors by providing a wide range of information for the destination’s product mix as well as centralized hotel & event tickets reservation systems. Moreover, DMO websites needs real time and social content to establish collaboration with people who have a personal or commercial interest in assisting potential travelers to visit a destination.


5 essential principles & 25 best practices (applications & tools) for DMO websites.

1. Look Good (=Nice & Simple)

Creative web design is all about making a website visually appealing. A visually appealing website is a site that is easy to read, easy to navigate. To create a site that visitors will not click away from immediately, follow some basic design standards, and think about the usability and accessibility of the design.




2. Content (was) is (and will be) the King!

The content on your site is your vehicle to present your message and portray your brand. And if you offer the ability to book online or at least direct customers to contact info, the content might be the last stand between you and a booking. Qualitative & diverse information, trip planning tools, attractive visual material including video & photo sharing applications, multilingual content, B2B & Press sections and efficient SEO saturation/meta-tags are all “must” elements of a successful DMO website.

Read more at:

Multilingual Content

VisitBritain_Language Selection

Trip Planners

Tourism Australia – Trip Planner

South Africa Tourism – Trip Planner


Visit Sweden – Mash Up map

LondonTown_Hotel Map

B2B web applications & tools

Visit London – Travel Trade Toolkit

Chicago Meeting Planner

VisitScotland – ScotsAgent Destination Specialist Program

Press & Media Tools

Copenhagen Pressroom

3. Engage Your Audience!

Identify your visitors’ social activities & build an on-line community to spread the word about your destination’s competitive advantage & USPs.

Keep in mind the following stats.
– 57% of DMO website users read travel written reviews
– 32% of DMO site users post ratings and reviews
– 43% of users visit travel-related forums

Social Media

Visit London’s Blog

Austria – Home Page Facebook Widget

Visit London – Trip Advisor Content Integration Application

Vienna Tourism Board – Expedia Content Integration

Tailor Made Web Tools & Services

Anchorage, Alaska – On-line Visitors Information Centre

Customized Enviroment – Build Your Vegas Experience on-line

Campaigns & Competitions


Destination DC “Date Nights” Campaign


Colorado’s Snow at First Sight Competition

Philadelphia’s “With Love” Campaign

Paris “What Kind of Shopping Addict Are you” Competition

4. Don’t Forget SEO

In search engine marketing, travel business is a well known category which is vast with a big competition in online marketing. From bookings of flights to hotel reservations, it is estimated that 70% of all flights are booked online through websites. So, we can easily assume this big on line competition. There are many DMOs and travel companies having websites on web offering online travel deals and holiday offers. Every website has its own unique range of products, services & travel solutions and likes to be in top search engine placements with their offers.

There is a big challenge here for an SEO as searches on travel related keywords and phrases are very high, even a small travel key phrase has a big amount of search counts on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Msn (Live). So, a travel website requires more hard work, good strategy and regular implementations for getting high search engines rankings.

Your SEO Strategy:

Identify your audience and goals…
Firstly you must consider the market and type of users you are looking to attract to the site, Google provides the following travel search marketing tips to consider:

  • What is the end objective for your business – transactions, branding, lead generation? Your approach may differ based on the decided outcome.
  • Determine the success metric in advance. What cost per transaction is acceptable? What is your target gross/net ROI?
  • Have a clearly defined target market or user in mind. Are you primarily interested in attracting leisure or business travelers and/or discount, mid-scale, or luxury travelers?


Research your keywords…
Google’s research showed that catching the user at an early stage of a buying cycle can still result in a sale 40% of the time. This is very interesting and creates a strong argument for capturing users early into their search for a holiday. However the main difference between targeting keywords for paid, as opposed to organic search, is the volume of keywords you can target. PPC allows you to have flexibility over the keywords which generate traffic and is very much about refining keyword selection and continually changing key targets based upon performance and seasonality.

With SEO you’re unlikely to get that luxury and have little margin for error when selecting keywords with high-conversion potential.  I would highly recommend using the pay-per-click data you have collected to help identify the top converting keywords. After all if six months after optimising for “When to go on holiday to Cancun” you finally generate enough clickthrough data to realise this has a 0.1% conversion rate, it’s then very difficult to re-adjust and target “luxury holidays in Cancun Mexico” instead.

Test, test and test again…
Despite targeting the early stages of the buying cycle proving to be more successful than expected, I would still recommend targeting more specific queries as this is more likely to generate targeted visits from users who have a clearer idea about what they are looking for. For example, someone searching for a “long-weekend city break in New York” is more likely to complete a sale than a user performing an informational query such as “places to visit in New York”. At this stage the user is also likely to be narrowing down the number of websites they are looking to shortlist for completing a sale, so the competition should be fewer than a more generic search.

read more at: Travel SEO – How to Target Searchers at the Right Stage of the Buying Cycle

5. Convert!

Conversion strategies are the plans needed to convert a looker into a buyer! Your Website Design & Content, the Use of Social Media and your SEO strategy should all be part of your overall on-line marketing strategy. Without one, the typical conversion rate for a website is about 2% of visitors. This is not only about selling hotels, tickets to cultural events, tourist attractions, museums, sport activities etc but to sell your own products as well (city pass, walking tours, souvenirs etc).

Visit Manchester on-line shop

Turisme Barcelona On-line Shop