Session 3b Lamb - Visit St. Andrews - Getting Social with our Visitors


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Social Media Conference, Glasgow for Business Week, 8/11/11

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  • When – our online activity – including social media - was launched at Easter 2010 Why – research had identified that customers were confused and unsatisfied by the huge array of online information about St Andrews. The lack of one comprehensive and responsive online presence for the destination meant that interaction with the town was time-consuming and we were confident that business was being lost because customers couldn't easily access the info they wanted. Who - St Andrews Partnership is the destination organization for the town – representing all businesses involved in the tourism sector, as well as working to improve the town for locals. Because of the umbrella nature of our org – we could justifiably be the people to develop an online portal and SM channels. We are not selling via our channels – other sites do this perfectly well – what we have done is create a fresh, engaging and visually appealing website and associated SM activity which has built a strong community of people who are passionate about St Andrews There were already several local business association websites which provided a guide to hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs, and retailers in St Andrews. Visit St Andrews’ aim was therefore not to duplicate these, but rather to create a portal which would direct visitors to these existing websites, as well as provide other useful information. We worked to create a fresh, engaging and visually-appealing website (launched in April 2010) which provided all the information a visitor would need when planning a trip to St Andrews, from transportation details to activity ideas, from information about events to downloadable walking tours.
  • I’m just going to let you see some screen shots of our online presence – this is from our website 1.14 million visitors enjoy to St Andrews each year We attract 3 times the national average of overseas visitors – the US being by far our largest O/S market – followed by Germany & Canada These international visitors are extremely important to St Andrews – their average spend is way higher than our other dominant market – Scottish StayCationers We therefore needed to identify cost effective ways to engage with these overseas markets
  • This is our FaceBook page – we’ve used our skyline branding which has been really well received Facebook has been really successful for us highlighted by the growth of active users from 700 per month in Oct 2010 to now around 5,500 per month in Oct 2011 279,691 post views interactions The majority of our FB traffic is still from the UK, however overseas traffic is growing – largest foreign markets are US, Germany & Australia.
  • This is our twitter page – with our distinctive avatar We are close to 2,500 Twitter followers and have great active engagement daily
  • This slide highlights some of our successes – *Figures from September- October 2011* consumers have become wary of brand messages and advertising. choose to trust real people; and where possible, people already within their social networks. This has made it more important than ever to engage with people who are already enthusiastic about St Andrews, to enable them to spread the word more effectively. With this in mind we set up a blog; Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube accounts to make it easier for people to talk about St Andrews in their ‘natural habitat’. Initially, we posted weekly to the blog, daily to Facebook, and a few times a day to Twitter. Using these channels, we are able to amplify the good things that people say about St Andrews, as well as to start conversations, share tips, photos and links. It is through our large user networks that we have a constant feedback loop , generating new ideas about how to improve both St Andrews, and the Visit St Andrews offerings. We also use the social media channels to identify writers who are enthusiastic about St Andrews to write guest posts for our blog. Since the Visit St Andrews blog began, we have begun to build a readership as well as a very talented base of local writers who contribute for free. Due to this engagement, we now have 2-4 new posts per week and our ultimate aim is for the blog and all our other social media channels to be self-sustaining, continuously self-generating new content. We also aim to enhance our blog by working with resident foreigners to potentially write posts in their mother tongue thus making the website more accessible to our foreign audiences. Due to these efforts with social media and blogging, Visit St Andrews has in 2011 repeatedly been ranked as one of the top 20 most influential tourist boards and destination marketing organisations in the world, and the second most influential in the UK after VisitBritain; a huge success for a very modestly-resourced venture run from a small town .
  • Our social media strategy is part of a wider St Andrews Partnership strategy. Overall we want to ramp up the quantity & quality of conversations happening about St Andrews, in order to encourage more visits, longer stays, higher spend & recommendations by visitors. And importantly we want to ensure a lasting relationship – THIS IS NOT A ONE NIGHT STAND!!! We build our community of passionate advocates by 1. By seeking them out using Twitter searches and by engaging with other Facebook pages relating to St Andrews (for example St Andrews Links – run by the famous Old Course). We have co-hosted #FridFotos with @epstinetravells an influential American travel agent who brings our core customers to Scotland & St Andrews – this got us known by his 1000’s of followers, and @visitstandrews is taking a lead role with other Scottish tourism businesses in #ScotlandHour – an hour long monthly twitter chat to improve customer knowledge of all Scotland has to offer 2. By creating content worth sharing. 3. By inviting questions and being available to answer them quickly and helpfully.
  • We have received many compliments on our tone – recently Paul Steel the influential travel blogger commented that VisitStAndrews was in his view one of the finest examples of a destination interacting with its community via social media. Therefore our Aim: no English-speakers should be excluded from the conversation with Visit St Andrews So: Visit St Andrews speaks informally, without using any shortenings, obscure colloquialisms or dialect, and with as simple a vocabulary as possible. Aim: to display St Andrews in a consistently positive light without sounding ‘salesy’ So: Visit St Andrews tries to find the bright side of any situation. For example, if it is raining, we might say “ Why not pick up a puzzle or book from J&G Innes and indulge in a lingering hot chocolate in one of the nearby cafes?” OR “ There’s something about the stonework and architecture in St Andrews that really suits this weather. Could you post us some pictures of St Andrews looking beautiful in the rain?” OR “ It’s raining, it’s pouring… what’s your favorite rainy day activity in St Andrews?”
  • To make sure we achieve optimum engagement with our 3 audiences we work hard to ensure: For VISITORS Visibility – by Placing obvious social media feeds on our sites & Educating local businesses about what we offer Inclusivity : Ensuring that our tone and content is accessible , actively seeking out visitors who haven’t met us and catering to their needs Creativity : Producing entertaining and varied content to: Keep current fans informed, engaged and interested, Encourage fans to share our content with their networks Reliability - Answering every query fully & promptly in a friendly voice Contributors are defined by us as – Our bloggers; folk who post to Flikr; our community who engage on our FB page. 1 st of all we had to seek out content by going out and searching – but since 2011 we’ve reached a tipping point – now people come to us and offer to blog – they start chats on FaceBook and local businesses have worked with us to set up and host Tweet-ups Businesses – we’ve worked hard to become credible & prove ROI – we can now state that 10,000 sites link to us and we send out 6,000 links per week We will hit 1m unique visitors this year
  • So we are busy doing stuff – but how do we know it’s making a difference? For quantatative data we use Free online analytical tools: Klout : Strongest for Twitter, Uses an array of statistics including number of retweets, @mentions, etc per tweet, ratio of engaged followers to passive followers, the Klout of those engaged followers, etc. EdgeRankChecker : used to view Facebook’s internal rating of your page, to decide the order in which updates appear on an individual’s newsfeed. : used to check the popularity of links we’ve tweeted – Live blog feedback : Facebook ‘like’ button, Tweetmeme button, and Google +1 button on each blog post gives us an idea of our most shared content. Google Analytics shows us the number of actual views of each of our blog posts; an indication of which topics people have found most interesting. For qualitative measurement we look at Achievement of specific objectives : - Is our social media activity improving the search engine ranking for Are more people using the site, for longer? Are they finding what they need (are people asking questions on our social media sites that can be answered on our website)? - Are we able to bring in new interest in blogging when we need it? When we call for ideas and tips on new topics, are people responding with quality information? Are we attracting a range of people to ‘like’ and comment on our content? How many new people are posting content to our pages/@mentioning us themselves? - When we make a recommendation, or feature an event or service, are people actually following through to trying it out for themselves?
  • So, what have we learned? Timing is everything : We haven’t yet figured out the formula, but similar sorts of posts can provoke vastly different rates of response. Part of this is a snowball viral effect, but the time at which you post, and the time between one major post and the next, are also major factors. Need to get a feel for when your own audiences are active. A picture can be worth a thousand words : In terms of sheer numbers of shares, a good picture seems to be vastly more effective than a written status update. On the other hand, if you’re looking to start a conversation, a picture is less likely to be effective than a question. Engage in ways that continue a conversation : When engaging with other peoples’/pages’ content, don’t just retweet/repost it. Add your own reaction, question or comment to it to try to strike up a longer interaction; more likely to lead to a longer-term relationship. Work with existing online communities : We started a Flickr group and were quickly contacted by another group which shared pictures of St Andrews and the East Neuk area. They were concerned that we would attempt to poach their members. After careful negotiations we agreed to close our group and promote the existing one, which changed its name to reflect the new partnership. Now we have an ally and an advocate; someone who keeps the Flickr group vibrant with minimal input from us, and it goes from strength to strength. Act, observe, evaluate, evolve : Stay on the lookout for good online analytical tools to help you gain feedback about your community’s strengths and weaknesses. Regularly step back to look at the bigger picture of your interactions; any topics/audiences/media/formats you’re overlooking/overemphasizing, etc. Explicitly ask your community for feedback and ideas for expansion occasionally Use all of this data to inform your continued actions in the community
  • Two key tensions at the heart of our strategy : How to involve, engage and appease the locals without alienating visitors, and vice versa ? -Both groups are crucial to the survival of our online community. -Tension arises when locals try to turn our page into a ‘community message board’. - Lamas Market example -Not yet found a fully satisfactory way to reconcile the two. So far we have tended to respond to the comments acknowledging their dissatisfaction and trying to return the conversation to a more positive tone. How to provide value for businesses in St Andrews, without spoon-feeding them ? -Tension arises as we try to display our influence to businesses by showing them what a recommendation from our page can do to boost engagement and business for them. -We are doing this in order to encourage businesses to engage for themselves on our page, instead of making us come to them. -However, businesses become complacent and just expect us to promote them without offering any reciprocal gestures. -This runs counter to our aim to become more and more self-sustaining through creating an optimum level of spontaneous community engagement from businesses, locals, and visitors. -We need the local businesses to support our efforts by thanking us for retweeting them, including us in their FollowFriday tweets, and @mentioning us in information they would like to see retweeted, and posting to our Facebook page themselves. -Probably need to get all the businesses in a room to set up some sort of explicit understanding with them.
  • Visibility : Continue to raise awareness, engagement and buy-in from a greater number of local businesses lack of awareness around town of Visit St Andrews and what we offer, including our Smartphone app St Andrews is very switched on as far as social media friendly towns go, there is a lot of room for improvement. We want to encourage more businesses onto social media, and help those that have joined the community to use it in the most effective ways. We also need them to reciprocate when we promote them. Inclusivity : Recruit local linguists to create content that reaches outside of the English-speaking world Despite many St Andrews visitors hailing from Asia and Europe, the vast majority of our readership is from English-speaking areas. We need to widen the net and cater for more language groups, including Japanese, Chinese, German, French and Spanish. Creativity : Expand into audio and video content to make better use of our YouTube channel Good quality but authentic video content is compelling and very share-friendly, and audio/video content would be a great way to encourage more contribution from locals who shy away from writing, and engage visitors who shy away from reading. Interviews with curators about particular museum exhibitions, or with rangers about local wildlife, or just with local residents and students about their top tips in St Andrews, would open up opportunities for some great new content in a useful format. Reliability : Recruit resident ‘experts’ to monitor our channels and respond to visitor queries if we are unavailable We are also only a very small team with our own set of preferences – so while we try to be as informative and unbiased as possible, we might not give the same answer as another resident. Finding locals who would be willing to take a semi-official role in monitoring for queries and actively responding where possible would improve our chances of being both more timely and more informative, so further improving the visitor’s experience of our online community, and St Andrews in general.
  • Session 3b Lamb - Visit St. Andrews - Getting Social with our Visitors

    1. 1. Visit St Andrews " Getting social with our visitors " Our journey to creating a social place for one of Scotland's most loved tourism destinations  
    2. 2. Background <ul><li>Launched in April 2010 </li></ul><ul><li>Aim: streamline the mass of online domestic and foreign visitor traffic to high quality & engaging information & conversations about St Andrews </li></ul><ul><li>Links to (and funded by) a group of associations in St Andrews – who work under the banner St Andrews Partnership </li></ul>
    3. 6. Social Media Highlights <ul><li>Engagement: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Strong blog readership </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>20+ Talented local writers who contribute for free. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Over 5,420 monthly active Facebook fans </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Nearly 2,500 Twitter followers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Recognition: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Top 25 most influential tourist boards and destination marketing organizations in the world, often 2nd only to VisitBritain in the UK. </li></ul></ul>
    4. 7. Social Media Strategy <ul><li>Attract current St Andrews visitors to use </li></ul><ul><li>the website & social media channels </li></ul><ul><li>2. To attract new visitors to the St Andrews </li></ul><ul><li>area </li></ul><ul><li>3. To provide informal ‘customer support’ to </li></ul><ul><li>people planning visits </li></ul>
    5. 8. Our tone <ul><ul><ul><li>Aims </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Inclusivity </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Positivity </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Outcomes </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Authenticity breeds authenticity </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Positivity breeds positivity </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Negative comments quickly </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>deflected/balanced </li></ul></ul></ul>
    6. 9. Our Audiences Visitors, Contributors & local businesses <ul><li>Visibility </li></ul><ul><li>Inclusivity </li></ul><ul><li>Creativity </li></ul><ul><li>Reliability </li></ul><ul><li>Flickr </li></ul><ul><li>FB content </li></ul><ul><li>Bloggers </li></ul><ul><li>Business links </li></ul><ul><li>Credibility </li></ul><ul><li>R.O.I </li></ul>
    7. 10. Measuring our engagement <ul><li>Quantitative Analysis: free online tools: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Klout </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>EdgeRankChecker </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Blog content sharing buttons </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Google Analytics </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Qualitative Analysis: achievement of objectives: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Are we increasing awareness and use of </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are we successfully engaging new contributors? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are we gaining trust among our community? </li></ul></ul>
    8. 11. Lessons Learned <ul><li>Timing is everything </li></ul><ul><li>A picture can be worth a thousand words </li></ul><ul><li>Engage in ways that continue a conversation </li></ul><ul><li>Work with existing online communities </li></ul><ul><li>Act, observe, evaluate, evolve </li></ul>
    9. 12. Continuing Dilemmas <ul><li>How to involve, engage and appease locals without </li></ul><ul><li>alienating visitors and vice versa? </li></ul><ul><li>How to encourage a reciprocal </li></ul><ul><li>relationship of social media </li></ul><ul><li>engagement among local </li></ul><ul><li>businesses? </li></ul><ul><li>Maintaining quality with </li></ul><ul><li>limited people resource </li></ul>
    10. 13. Future Plans <ul><li>Visibility </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Awareness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Engagement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>buy-in </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Inclusivity </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Recruit local linguists </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Creativity </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Expand into audio and video content to make better use of our YouTube channel </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Reliability </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Recruit resident ‘experts’ to monitor our channels and respond to visitor queries </li></ul></ul>
    11. 14. Thank You for listening!
    12. 15.