10 Gold Nuggets from the Social Media Tourism Symposium #SoMeT14AU

Key learnings from #SOMET14AU

We recently attended the Social Media Tourism Symposium #SoMeT14AU, a brilliant 2 days of learning where destinations and tourism business shared how they are creatively using social media to market their businesses and regions better.


Our top 10 take-aways for tourism businesses


1. Start with a great experience

“If people love you, they will promote you”, wise words we heard from Aaron Nissen, Think Social Media.

We heard from four very different tourism products doing this hugely well: East Hotel, Big 4 Bellarine, Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort and Museum of Old and New “MONA”, and will explain below how they have been doing this.

Their results? They have customers who love and rave about them online and each have a #1 TripAdvisor ranking for their business.

What you can do

  • Focus on creating the most amazing experiences for your best customers. What do they love? How can you do more of what they love?
  • From there, stand back and let your happy customers market your tourism experience for you.

2. Be clear on your goals

Before you invest any time or $ in marketing your tourism experience be really clear on what you what to achieve.

What are your goals?

What are the problem in your business you want to solve?  Increase profits? Bring in more of your best customers? Increase length of stay? Increase repeat business?

Once you are clear on your goals, then and ONLY then think about how you can use different social media platforms and tactics to help you achieve them.

Otherwise you could be wasting precious time and resources on social marketing that and not getting you the results you are after.

3. You are NOT in business for everyone

Don’t be afraid to NOT be for all people. Not everyone will love what your experience offers.

You only want to do business with customers who love you, as they are the ones who will help market your experience for you (aka #1).

When you are clear who you ARE in business for, you will stand out in a noisy, cluttered online world, and attract more of those customers who love you.


Big 4 Bellarine unashamedly say their customers are families with kids under 12.

Big 4 Bellarine - FB Timeline

Sophie Bone shared an inspiring and hilarious presentation about how she and her husband built their park out of a paddock. The park has an amazing array of kids activities and funky, fresh accommodation that keeps both parents and kids happy!

Because Sophie knows her customers are so well, she has pursued a 100% digital marketing strategy. She has learnt what influences her customers online and what makes them tick. You can see the results in their highly engaged Facebook community of raving fans.

Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort offer a laid back eco-resort experience. They don’t overpromise on what they will deliver and make it clear they are different to the traditional Great Barrier Reef 4 – 5 star island experiences.

Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort.

Mona are unapologetically controversial and interesting. They don’t care if they annoy or put off some people with their weird and wonderful exhibits (like their poo machine below!), they are only interested in customers who are interested in what they offer.

Mona - Poo Machine

East Hotel creates differences in their products that make people want to talk about them. For example their very cool kids studio rooms and lolly jars and magazine library in their foyer!

East Hotel Kids Suites

What you can do

4. Put your customers at the heart of your marketing

This was the main theme from the conference we heard from nearly all of the speakers.

“People trust people. They don’t trust advertising, brands or government.

Make fans the hero and share their content. Empower people to become brand ambassadors” Chad Wiebesek, Pure Michigan

Kaylah - Word of mouth is king

Also a good reminder from Donna Mortiz that a happy customer with a mobile in their hand is part of your marketing team.

Social Sorted Army of Marketers

How can you put your fans at the heart of your marketing?

Start with a great experience (#1), then make it as easy as possible for your customers to be come advocates for your experience.

  • Collect and share the best of your customers photos & videos on your social media pages.
  • Embrace TripAdvisor. It is a huge influencer in travellers. Think about getting a business listing. Encourage your customers to leave reviews. Let your community help curate negative comments.
  • Encourage Check-ins. Sophie Bone, Big 4 Bellarine, reminded us all to not underestimate the power of check-ins. People only check into places they like.
  • Encourage Social Sharing. Make it easy for your customers to share their experiences via social channels. Donna Moritz, Socially Sorted, shared how Ekidna Wines, Mclaren Vale asks customers very clearly where to share positive reviews on their products.
  • Make your website social sharing friendly. Eg Have a “Pin It”  button on all photos on your website and social share icons on your blog.
Ekidna Wines Mclaren Vale

Donna Mortiz, Socially Sorted, shows how Ekidna Wines ask their customers to leave TripAdvisor reviews, check in and share their social updates.

5. Your customers are mobile

Donna Moritz, Socially Sorted, shared a fantastic presentation reminding us that our customers are increasingly on mobile.

If you aren’t looking after customers on mobile, you will loose business and potentially miss out on that all important word-of-mouth marketing for your tourism experience.

Some eye-opening stats about mobile usage

  • Mobile web will overtake desktop internet by 2015
  • 46% of people wont return to your website if they have a poor experience on their mobile
  • Google is now penalising websites who aren’t mobile responsive
  • 82% of Australia’s Facebook usage is on mobile

No mobile site = low rankings

Donna share how two tourism businesses are embracing social mobile

  • 1888 Hotel is the world’s first instagram hotel.  They encourage their customers to share experiences through a selfie corner, their hotel hashtag, Imac computers in the lobby and Ipads in guest room. Wi-fi is everywhere.
  • ProDive Cairns make the most of real time customer interactions. They offer high speed free wi-fi so customers can share videos of their time living and diving on their boats.

What you can do

Make sure every step of your customers buying journey is mobile friendly.

  • On a smartphone, check all your customer touch points. Your website (use screenfly), social media content and emails updates. How do they look on mobile? How easy are they to read and navigate?
  • Get a mobile responsive website (and booking system!) at the top of your to-do list!
  • Create visual content that is suitable for viewing on mobile. Use free tools like Canva to help you do this 
  • Consider offering free wi-fi for guests. No free wifi = no content sharing!

6. Take risks in your marketing

“Risks are worth taking in marketing. Especially if they are calculated”. Great advice from Mike Hauser of Mona Museum. It was another very common theme in many of the presentations.


Phil Sandford shared how South Australian Tourism Commission bravely handed over the reigns of their brand to local filmmakers for their  “Through Local Eyes” YouTube Campaign. The results of being brave? Really emotional, highly shared and authentic videos that cost very little to produce.

Phil Sanford - Be Brave

Averlea Burgess of Christchurch Canterbury Tourism shared their hilarious campaign to encourage Aussie’s back to Christchurch after the devastating 2011 earthquake. Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker fronted an integrated campaign, which upset many locals, but was hugely successful because they were prepared to be fearless.

Hans Pette Aalmo of Innovate Norway shared three innovative campaigns they used to increase brand awareness and demand for Norway by stepping away from being completely on brand. Scream Campaign, Best of Norway Photo Competition and the fun and sharable Ski Jumping game

All the campaign results? Massive consumer engagement, media coverage, content sharing by customers and increase in visitation.

What you can do

  • Think outside the square on how you can take some risks in marketing your business to help you achieve your goals.
  • Can you get a local creative photographer or videographer on board to create some amazing content for your business?

7. Put emotion into your marketing

If you make your customers laugh, feel inspired or feel understood, then you will stand out from the crowd. You will more likely have your content shared, which is that important word of mouth marketing, and stay top of mind with customers for when they are ready to book.

Create snackable content


Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort inspires customers on social media with beautiful photos of their products, which just makes you want to head there tomorrow!

Lady Elliot - share beautiful photos

Big 4 Bellarine have build a engaged FB community by sharing creative and emotional content on their FB page which connect with their customers who are parents of young kids. When offering a sale promotion, their engaging lead up content builds demand and has huge organic reach. Then when they then offer an awesome time sensitive deal to their Facebook community, the deals are snapped up!

Big4 Bellarine - Funny FB Content

SATC  “Through local eyes” videos pulls the heartstrings, Christchurch Reimagined makes you laugh and Inspire Norway’s Ski Game is fun. And as a result of using emotion cleverly, they had brilliant results with content sharing, increased website visits and increase in travellers.

What you can do

  • Share inspiring content. Beautiful photos of your product are what you want to focus on here. Post images consistently. Others will share.  Get your staff on board  to share their photos too to help spread the load. Share inspiring photos from your customers. Also share behind the scenes images of you and your staff , as people LOVE behind the scenes content.
  • Share helpful content. Solve a customer’s problems and you get a lots of happy customers as they will feel you understand them! Think about sharing helpful advice visually such as how to advice, quotes, tips, checklists and infographics.
Create helpful content

Donna Moritz, Social Sorted, shares ideas on helpful visual mobile content.

8. Care about your customers

Happy customers will become advocates for your business, as we learnt in #1, #3 & #4!

End of the day, if you put customers at the heart of your experience it means going the extra mile to look after them.


Big 4 Bellarine. To Sophie it means getting up middle of night to sort out customer issues that they were alerted to via a customer’s social media update.

East Hotel. To them it means getting to know their repeat customers travel preferences and personalising their experience when they stay with them, such as taking weetbix out of a guest’s room because they don’t like it!

Tourism Queensland. For them it is keeping an ear out for what their potential customers are saying about them on Twitter. Kaylah Buckman shared their “Surprise and delight” program where TQ monitor what customers are saying around specific key words (eg “holiday in cairns”). They jump into the conversation and offered the customers help and a little surprise, such a little gift to help make their stay better (eg free thongs, sunscreen, artpacks) depending what the they found out about that person through gentle social stalking!

Kaylay, social listening

What you can do

  • Think about how you can surprise and delight your potential or current customers?
  • If you have the staff & resources, investigate social listening software to help you monitor what customers are saying about your experience online.

9. Look after your staff

Your staff can be your biggest brand advocates for your business, and are the ones at the coalface of looking after your customers and making your product amazing (eg #1)


Mona offer their staff yoga, fund personal development and a whole host of other amazing support and training.

East Hotel brings their staff board with their goals and objectives makes sure they celebrate wins with staff.

What you can do

  • Think about how can you bring your staff on board with your goals.
  • What can you do to look after your staff?

10. Measure what matters

Finally, and very importantly, with any of your social media don’t focus on trying to get more fans or creating more noise.

Focus on attracting customers who love you. They will hopefully become raving fans for your tourism experience, who will do your marketing for you. Simple as that.

How to do this?

  • Use the tips in this blog post, and you will be on track to achieve!
  • If you have a larger online communities, use the Net Promotor Score to measure your results. This is a measure of how likely your customers are to recommend your experience to others


In a nutshell…

Here’s our top 10 take-aways in a nutshell, feel free to share with your colleagues and likers on Facebook, Twitter and Linked In!

Top 10 Tips for Tourism Businesses from #SoMeT14AU



Over to you!

What’s one thing you can take away from #SoMeT14AU you can apply in your tourism experience today?

About the author, Rebecca White

Rebecca is the co-director of Tourism eSchool, and she loves helping tourism businesses grow their bookings and profits by marketing smarter, not harder. She also helps destinations get more bang for their marketing buck with strategic marketing planning.

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