Destination Marketing in the Social Space: An Interview with Tod Maffin

What constitutes a good technology plan for destination marketers?

Foremost, two things: Senior leadership buy-in (and, ideally, a senior-leader champion) and a definition of what “success” looks like. From there, the next step is to build measurement markers into the program to determine ROI on each channel and/or campaign. Finally, roll out the tactics.

What are some of the mistakes companies make when constructing a technology plan?

I find most organizations still only work on the tactical level (get all excited by the shiny new technology) without thinking about how they’ll prove to leadership which channels are producing the best return.

What are the most important things to consider when developing a technology plan?

  1. Measure, Measure, Measure. Do you know how much money (net, after production expenses) you made from that viral video? Do you how many people on your email list actually travel to your destination? Do you know how much money they spend on average?
  2. Realistic access to skilled talent and risk mitigation in case you lose them
  3. A strategy in place for negative reaction online (a lot of work I do with organizations is to draft an in-house Social Media Policy and a Negative Response Strategy).
  4. Do you have a “keener” who has their eyes on strategic use of up-and-coming potential marketing channels (Pinterest is a great example of one of these outliers).
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How do technology plans differ from industry to industry?

Solid plans don’t really vary between industries, in my opinion — all should have leadership buy-in, a real-world way to measure ROI across all channels and campaigns, a Negative Response Strategy, and a keener to keep an eye on future marketing channels. Specific tactics, of course, will vary depending on the objectives (some organizations will exclusively use Facebook and geo-location tools while others might focus on Pinterest, a segmented email list, and a strong upselling e-commerce site).

If you were the CMO for a region or destination for a day, what change would you make.

Here’s one idea that would make a huge difference:

Facebook, using custom apps, already provides a way for organizations to tap directly into a person’s interests. If I’ve indicated an interest in Portland, as a user I’d love to connect my Facebook profile (which is full of my existing cultural, music, and travel interests) to the Tourism Portland Facebook Page and have it cull through my interests, then assemble a dynamic “customized travel dossier” of sorts that highlights activities I already like, hotels I am already loyal to, etc.

For instance, some cities spend a lot of imagery focusing on the recreational and healthy lifestyle they offers, which is great, but as an individual, that’s really not my bag. My interests include: Finding great sushi places, paddling, and bookstores. If you had a Facebook app that hooked up to my profile (this is already possible), you’d have that data. The rest is simply a database lookup to display a profile of the best sushi restaurant, a walking tour of the most unique booksellers, and a Google map showing locations of boat rentals.

The goal of all advertising is to be seen as valuable information, not just a generic pitch. Facebook’s ability to provide that information is already there. Destination marketers should use it.

Describe who you are and how your company is engaged in the technology and social media world?

Probably the most accurate description of my work is as a Digital Marketing Strategist. I’ve been in the digital marketing space professionally (almost always agency-side) for nearly 20 years. I find “digital marketing” to be a wider and more accurate description than “social media,” given that social media marketing is only one facet of digital marketing. That said, I do mostly work in the online space (and not other digital forms like terms of digital television, outdoor media, etc.)

What types of clients do you work with and what are the services that you provide?

My agency, engageQ digital, works with organizations across all sectors (private and public) to help them increase engagement and conversion among their target audiences. Currently, we are in high demand for this in relation to breaking through the noise on Facebook and Twitter, reaching real people, motivating them to take action, and providing tools and expertise on measuring the ROI on those activities.

Have you worked with tourism clients, and if so, what was the nature of that work?

Yes, in the last 12 months:

  • U.S. Travel Association
  • Association of Corporate Travel Executives
  • Thompson Okanagan Tourism
  • B.C. Ministry of Tourism
  • United States Travel Insurance Association
  • …and others

These were keynote presentations and/or workshops devoted to marketing destinations using digital communications and social media. Tactics included viral video creation, campaign ROI measurement, Facebook “Edgerank” targeting, proper email segmentation, and more.

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