A new conference series began last week to focus on helping travel marketers get the most from their efforts. Destination Accelerator, the brainchild of marketers David Friedman, Ethan Gelber and Roni Weiss, kicked off it’s first event on Monday, September 24 for a group of travel marketing executives from around the world.
While the conference focused on the broader marketing story, with expert presentations on a variety of subjects and channels, I specifically had the privilege to sit on the social media panel with Liz Borod Wright, publisher of Travelogged.com and Mashable Lifestyle Channel Editor, Andrea Smith.
As for me, beside being a deliciously witty and somewhat irreverent travel writer for this blog, I am a marketing consultant by trade and host of the BeanCast podcast. The panel was led by the founder of RW Social, conference-lead Ronni Weiss, and discussed many of the key aspect of how to build a successful social media program.
For an hour and thirty minutes we debated some of the many sacred cows of social marketing for travel. Travel marketing is often more relational than other types of marketing, simply because so much of a person’s emotions are invested in the act of destination travel.
Yet often marketers in the space try to use social media as either a push-marketing channel or a reactive damage control mechanism. The marketers on this panel painted a much different picture.
“I love when conversations happen in the comment threads of our stories,” Andrea Smith said. To which I quickly added, “This is where the real magic of social media happens — when your customers are no longer having a discussion with you, but rather having a discussion with each other. That’s a true social media win.”
Liz Wright added, “You need to pay attention to the conversations. They’ll help guide every response.”
This focus on listening and inspiring conversation rather than directly generating it ourselves, is an important distinction.
Social marketing is at its best when customers recommend us to their friends. While this is a high bar for many product marketers, it is a natural part of the travel experience. People talk about destinations in a much different way than they do about products.
They feel ownership in the place, having explored it, so a obvious extension of marketing a destination is to encourage these natural inclinations.
Other sessions included discussions about segmenting and analysis, advertising, promotions and much more.
While there are lots of marketing conferences to choose from, I highly recommend you consider this new conference track if you are in the travel and destination space.
It surfaced many great ideas worth considering, and judging from the first one, it’s bound to continue it’s great content curriculum.