If you build it (and tweet about it) they will come – tourist attractions and social media

The Yorkshire Dales

When I first launched Words by Fiona Kyle, I contacted several local tourist attractions who weren’t yet making use of social media to let them know that I was available to help if they needed me.

I had a reply from a representative of one of them who invited me in for a chat, with the proviso: “I am rather sceptical about Facebook and Twitter”.

To ensure I didn’t waste this precious opportunity, I set about researching local tourist attractions who were using social media and also asking advice from marketing experts. What I discovered was so fascinating, I wanted to share it here.

To start with, I was given feedback by some wonderful people (all relationships forged through Twitter) working for very different Yorkshire attractions.

Jill Murray of Kilnsey Park and Trout Farm  is a relatively recent convert to Twitter and still developing a Facebook presence. However, she quickly realised the value of Twitter, saying: “We started using social media as it seemed to be an invaluable opportunity to speak to the people we want to contact. Suddenly we have a potentially huge audience of both visitors and people within the tourism industry which is amazing! We’re absolutely delighted with the results so far.”

Amy Ball, Acting Curator of Craven Museum and Gallery, added: “When our new website launched in September 2010 (with a link to our Facebook page) the referrals were high. The first four or five months, Facebook was our second most popular referral site. From a search engine optimisation point of view, having as much web presence as possible is also of obvious huge benefit. Google now searches Twitter and it was this that prompted me to set up the museum’s Twitter account.  When the museum launched our Shakespeare First Folio exhibition it was covered by BBC York. They tweet all of their news stories and because of the Shakespeare hashtag, the article link was retweeted by the Shakespeare Folger Library in Washington DC! I saw this as a new resource for connecting with other museums, similar businesses and people who did not know about the museum in Skipton.”

Most tourist attractions are now really jumping on the bandwagon – the West Midlands Safari Park, for example, rates social media so highly that they have hired a new member of staff purely to handle it for them.

So that’s the attractions themselves but what do Yorkshire’s finest marketing experts have to say about the importance of social media for the tourism industry? I posted a question on the Yorkshire Mafia’s LinkedIn discussion board to find out.

Ian Shepherd, of Graft Marketing, contacted me to say: “Marketing through social media is not about sales the following day, it’s about positioning yourself so that when people are looking for places to visit, you’re in their head. It’s all about building relationships – you can serve your visitors better by better understanding them. It is a wonderful way to get into conversations with your customers.”

Mark Longbottom, of social media consultancy Design58, agreed: “The return on investment is in the relationship and how the tourist attractions, by understanding their audience, can better understand how to serve them. I have clients who run restaurants, night clubs and creative ventures, to just touch the iceberg of who may benefit. All have had value added by being able to talk to their audience, talking is the most important aspect, not technology. Talking will go on and this is just a more effective way to converse where able.”

I have thoroughly enjoyed this exercise and met some fascinating and lovely people. I am a true believer in social media and its value as a marketing tool whatever industry you are working in. Thanks to everyone who got in touch to share their experiences.

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