It’s all in the details: Driving social media engagement with photos

We know it’s cliché—a picture speaks 1,000 words—but it’s also true. For a DMO, photos are key to driving engagement on social media channels.

Consider this: photos on Facebook receive 53 percent more likes, 104 percent more comments and 84 percent more click-throughs than text alone according to Kissmetrics.  

On Twitter, users are engaged at a rate five times higher when a photo is included. SHIFT also found that users retweeted and replied to photo tweets two times more frequently when images were included—and the cost-per-engagement is less than half that of text-only tweets.

As a DMO, how should image-driven social media posts influence your marketing?

Here’s our tip for increasing engagement on your social media posts: try promoting interesting, fun or quirky pictures that capture the heart of your destination. We’re not talking about the main attractions either—rather the architectural details, interesting doors or doorknobs, flower pots across main street, park benches or wrought-iron fences.

And for inspiration, check out (and see if you can guess) these destinations below based on the small details or characteristic cultural elements that are featured:



red geraniumsRed geraniums in Germany

Photo courtesy of The Telegraph


A street performer on La Rambla in Barcelona


Photo courtesy of


Flat garden sand racked for moon viewing festival in Portland Japanese Garden

Sand and rock garden in Japan

Photo courtesy of


Talavera Pottery in Mexico


Photo courtesy of

Anthora_-_We_are_happy_to_serve_you2Iconic blue coffee cup in NYC


Photo courtesy of

henna2Henna in India


Photo courtesy of 



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Email Marketing Best Practices for Tourism

After waking up, what’s the first thing you do in the morning? Brush your teeth? Make coffee? If you answered check email on your phone, you’re not alone.

According to SOASTA, 67 percent of smartphone users who check apps look at email first thing in the morning. That means one of the most effective means of reaching your consumers when their mind is still fresh is through mobile-friendly emails that arrive in the early morning hours

And email marketing remains one of the tactics with the highest return-on-investment (ROI), with an ROI of $40 for every $1 spent.

ROI Email chart

Yet with so many emails, how do you stand out as a travel destination? Here are seven best email marketing practices for tourism organizations.

“It was a dark and stormy night…” Your emails should tell a compelling story. Curate content that is helpful, informative, provides advice or answers common visitor questions. For example, write about upcoming events, off the beaten path adventures, hidden gems, seasonal activities or new restaurants. South Dakota has compelling content with their featured attraction of Prairie Berry Winery and Hill City as a hub for art and wine.

South Dakota1

Sometimes a single scoop is all you need. Use single column design in your emails. For mobile-friendly optimization, one-column design or responsive design (that will auto adjust based on screen size) is best. Little Rock has a simple, single-column design with each article organized in color block rows for easy readability or scanning.

Little Rock


Candid close-ups. Incorporate strong visuals to complement your content. For each story or article, include one strong image. Choose an image that entices the reader to click; it doesn’t need to be a professional image from a photo shoot. It can however be an Instagram picture that received a lot of shares. Here are some travel photography tips:

  • Capture local people in candid moments
  • Snap photos of ordinary things in an unexpected way. Take a picture of someone buying fruit at a local market, but tilt your camera at an angle. Or take a picture of someone walking their dog, riding a bicycle, sitting on a park bench, etc.
  • Take close-ups! People love to look at interesting foods, items for sale or patterns.
  • Show architectural details like beams on the cottage ceiling or bolts in a building.

New Orleans has some colorful close-up photography in their email that really gets your attention.

New Orleans


Short & sweet. Embrace brevity and keep your emails short. Your emails should be a content teaser with links to the full articles. If your email is a newsletter format, make sure each article is no more than a two sentence teaser with a link to the full article. Or use bullet points to break up text. Visit Phoenix has just enough content to pique your interest and make you want to know more.



It’s ok to wear white after Labor Day. Remember to use whitespace. Email design should be simple with lots of whitespace. This will help the reader quickly scan the content and not be overwhelmed by too many pictures or content. Reno does an excellent job of utilizing white space.



Hook, Line & Sinker. Use creative and relevant subject lines. Limit subject lines to 50 characters or less. Subject lines should reflect the content—even newsletters should have unique subject lines. Repeating the exact same subject line for each newsletter is good for continuity but accelerates drop-off rates.

Subject Lines


MVPs for your CVB. Always feature a call-to-action or additional ways for consumers to connect or engage beyond a “Learn More” button. All your articles or teasers should have a call-to-action, but make sure travelers can also connect on social media or contact you with any questions. Explore Georgia is on an impressive amount of social channels and includes icons with links for each one.

Explore Georgia


And for inspiration outside the industry.

Although not a CVB or Tourism Department, StyleBlueprint produces our favorite email. The email is released daily at 5 AM (the first email you see when you wake up), has beautiful photography and a very small teaser. It’s also compatible on web, tablet or mobile.




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The Tweet that Started it All

Have you been following the Super Bowl-bound Broncos recently?  If you have, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear how Broncos Quarterback Peyton Manning’s famous snap call of “Omaha” has garnered national media attention and interest in Omaha, Neb. as a city.

And while Peyton’s snap call has announcers speculating what plays he’s calling, the mystery we’re most interested in is how, with one simple tweet, the nation has become enamored with the idea of visiting Omaha, Neb.

You don’t have to be Sherlock to deduce the answer. What it comes down to is simple: Visit Omaha took advantage of real-time marketing to create one of the most effective Twitter-based place marketing campaigns to date.

“We’ve always based our strategy around one goal: showcase Omaha as a tourism destination,” said Deborah Ward, director of marketing communications of the Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Every post, tweet or share goes back to that goal.  To accomplish this, we make a point of listening and engaging across all networks to get our message out.”

The Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau has a small marketing team of three people with one full-time employee dedicated to social media.

“What was meant as a genuine Twitter shout out turned into this phenomenal viral experience for the city –and it’s allowed us to share Omaha’s story with a whole new audience,” Ward noted.

One minute after the tweet went out, it had been retweeted 500 times and favorited by hundreds of users.  In less than two hours the tweet was trending in Denver, Indianapolis, Chicago and Washington D.C., with tweets highlighting an interest in Omaha.

original omaha tweet take 2

Here’s just a sampling of tweets that highlighted the benefit of visiting Omaha:

  • “I gotta go to Omaha, it must be a great place.”
  • “I’ll admit I googled Omaha tonight to learn more during the game, maybe I’ll attend CWS this year.”
  • “Next vacation spot?”
  • “I’ve been to Omaha once while traveling back to Utah from Iowa and Missouri, one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever seen.”

The fervor for Omaha provided the entire city an opportunity to spread the word in a variety of ways. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo named a baby penguin after Manning and eight local companies donate $100 to Manning’s foundation each time he says, “Omaha.”

The campaign has been covered by national media including NPR, Forbes, ESPN, Time and stories about Omaha as a travel destination have appeared in online outlets including Travel Smart Blog and  In addition, even Denver-based Frontier Airlines hopped on the Omaha fan wagon by offering   one-way special to Omaha for as low as $48.

For a city that had a simple strategy, they sure scored a game winning touchdown. Are you a DMO who wants to take advantage of real-time marketing? Here are some key social media takeaways from Visit Omaha’s campaign:

  1. Be authentic: What was brilliant about Visit Omaha’s tweet was that it was genuine and real.
  2. Be useful: Provide relevant and helpful information for travelers or potential consumers who may travel to your destination. This makes your social media a resource.
  3. Be Responsive: If someone asks a question, respond in real-time. If Visit Omaha had sent a tweet out a day after the game, the relevance would have been lost. Remember, with social media it’s about what’s happening now.
  4. Listen to trending topics: One of the most effective ways to engage in real-time marketing is to listen to what topics are trending and if you have a voice or opinion to add to the mix in a relevant way, than make sure you get your message in there.
  5. Empower your social media employees. Don’t get caught up in the approval process. If you  have a strong social media policy in place, give your staff the freedom to react quickly. If all your tweets have a lengthy approval process, your opportunity could be lost.


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Top Social Media Conferences for 2014

Did you just miss NMX (originally BlogWorld) or are you looking for more robust and innovative social media conferences to attend in 2014?

Here are our ‘Best in Show’ awards for digital and social media conferences for DMOs and CVBS:

And the winners are…

SoMeT- Best for showcasing CVB and DMO case studies: Social Media Tourism Symposium (SoMeT).

SoMeT14EU (Europe).  April 9-10, 2014. Amsterdam. Early Bird €499.00
SoMeT14AU (Australia). July 16-17, 2014.

Cost $750.00

  • SoMeT is an annual conference hosted by Think! Social Media. Sessions at SoMeT offer successful case study examples with actionable takeaways.
  • Some of the CVB case studies represented in 2013 included Visit Saint Paul, Kansas City CVB, Experience Grand Rapids, Rockford Area CVB, Travel Oregon and Tourism Montreal.
  • Last year’s presentations are available to download here.

etourism2 Best place to see C-Suite social media speakers from the big four: Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube: eTourism Summit.

October 8-9, 2014. San Francisco. 

Cost for DMOs $1,395

Cost for Non-DMOs $1,995

  • eTourism Summit focuses on digital technology for the travel and tourism industry and features top level speakers. This conference helps traditional marketers understand the entire tourism marketing ecosystem.
  • CVBs and DMOs who have already registered for 2014 include Greater Des Moines Convention & Visitors Bureau, Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau, Visit Rochester and Wyoming Office of Tourism.
  • Different tracks: socialize, mobilize (marketing to always connected tourists), monetize (quest for ROI and accountability) and general session
  • Don’t miss this session: Innocent Bystanders. A consumer panel is assembled from four different generations to discuss how they use travel websites, social media and mobile phones for travel.
eye for travel Best for travel analytics: Smart Travel Analytics North America 2014.

February 11-12, 2014. New York City.

Standard Rates range from $1,895 to $3,095

Travel Company Rates from $1,795 to $2,995

  • This conference takes a deep dive into analytics for revenue management, CRM, profit optimization and customer retention. Sessions are targeted towards hotels, airlines and OTAs with booking transactions, but you can learn some good techniques for analyzing and making sense of big data.
Digital-Travel-Summit Best for E-commerce: Digital Travel Summit.

April 1-3, 2014. Las Vegas.

Cost $2599 to $3199

  • For those looking to replicate the e-commerce success of retail—this conference is for you. With a special focus on how travel, hospitality and leisure companies can embrace digital strategies and harness tech to optimize operations and build better customer loyalty.

Speakers are from global travel brands including Hilton Worldwide, Alaska Airlines, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, and Travelocity.

PRSA_HD_0 Best for crisis communication on digital platforms: PRSA 2014 Digital Impact Conference.

TBD. New York.

PRSA Member $999

Non-member $1,099

  • Last June, PRSA hosted its first Digital Impact Conference. The conference focuses on high-level digital topics with an emphasis on crisis communication.  Last year’s conference included three different tracks: social business, strategy and innovations, or HyperConnections. This is good for CVB communicators just getting started on social platforms.
social media marketing world Best all-up social media conference: Social Media Marketing World.

March 26-28, 2014. San Diego, California

Cost $1297

  • With 2,000 attendees—this is one of the biggest social media conferences. Social Media Examiner hosts this 3-day event. The conference has four different tracks, so you can really focus on your industry: Social Tactics, Social Strategy, Community Management and Content Marketing. Sessions include a deep dive into Pinterest, YouTube, Inbound/Outbound marketing, content creation, podcasts mobile and more.
social media fresh Best for networking and innovative knowledge: Social Fresh Conference.

East in the spring; West in the fall. 

Cost $797

  • Social Fresh is a small, intimate conference with less than 400 attendees. The content is fresh, relevant and innovative. Presentations are short 30-minute, snack-bites of effective information. Last year, the audience competed in different teams to make a social media campaign that was implemented by a specific nonprofit.
  • Past companies of interest for DMOs include:  Chipotle, Coca Cola, Hilton, InterContinental Hotels, Olive Garden, Omni Hotels and Southwest Airlines.


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Why Mobile Matters for DMOs: 6 Tips

TNOOZ recently posted this infographic about how travelers are increasingly using mobile devices when researching, buying and experiencing a travel destination. In fact, these days, 88% of leisure travelers identify their smartphones as the top must-have device when on vacation! What does this mean for DMOs? Mobile has transformed into an integral travel marketing platform […]

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Be Prepared for 2014: How To Align Your Travel Marketing Programs With 2014 Travel Trends

It’s true – 2014 is almost here and the travel trends for the New Year are already being touted! During this week’s Public Relations Society of America Travel & Tourism webinar,’s Jason Clampet, co-founder of leading travel industry news website, shared his travel forecast for 2014. Based on his insight, here are three steps that Destination […]

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New Digital Summit For Destination Marketers Provides A Digital Reality Check

The KEEN digital summit is a dynamic new conference which delves into topics relevant for destination marketers. This three-day event connects social influencers, public relations professionals, journalists, bloggers, start-ups and small businesses who share best practices and key learnings. Here is a recap of three KEEN sessions relevant to DMOs: 1. Placing your Products on […]

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What’s In and What’s Out for Travel Keywords

What’s In? What’s Out?   Move over Regis, hotels are starting to provide businesses with workspaces on demand. With the rise of 24-hour business travelers, hotels are accommodating this new target audience—even if just for a day. Perhaps hotels will become the ‘offices of the future.’ Been there, done that. Eco-friendly resorts are on the […]

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Will New Nielsen Twitter-driven TV Ratings Help DMOs?

Travel and food TV shows have always had an avid following – the Amazing Race, Bizarre Foods, Globe Trekker, Travels to the Edge with Art Wolfe, the classics like Rick Steves – and my personal favorite House Hunters International. There’s really a travel show for everyone! So perhaps you got excited when you saw the […]

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5 SEO Tips for DMOs to Thrive on Hummingbird

A few weeks ago Google announced the launch of their new search algorithm—Hummingbird. Aptly named, the algorithm is better, faster and more precise. Unlike the minor previous updates such as Panda and Penguin, Hummingbird is an engine that adapts to evolving devices such as tablet and mobile. It also has more advanced conversational search features. […]

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