David Meerman Scott Tourism Rally

“The smart phone in your pocket is the second most important communications revolution in human history,” according to David Meerman Scott, an internationally acclaimed advocate for social media marketing. Only the invention of the Guttenberg press ranks higher on his scale.

At the June 19 Manitoba Tourism Rally, David urged travel businesses to grab this once-in-a-millennium opportunity without delay. For those who haven’t embraced these new marketing tools, he offered one simple piece of advice: “Get over your fear and stop making excuses!”

David says anyone can master social media marketing, but they may have to let go of the old rules ingrained in traditional advertising and PR. Social media is essentially about telling your story directly to an interested market, so the key is self-publishing truly noteworthy web content that people will want to share.

He said it’s important to focus on what’s happening right now – not yesterday or sometime in the distant future – and to create a trigger that will get people talking.

One way to do this is to master what David calls “news jacking” – the art of jumping onto timely happenings that can be used to your advantage. To illustrate his point, he described how one guitar manufacturer capitalized on the “United Breaks Guitars” viral video phenomenon by posting a video about how to protect guitars when traveling. The informative, no-frills video generated more than 690,000 views on YouTube at virtually no cost to the guitar manufacturer.

Here’s a sampling of other tips covered in his high-energy presentation:

  • Don’t be too aggressive in hyping your product and generating sales leads. Instead, focus on solving people’s problems and sharing interesting, helpful information.
  • Before you create any content, take the time to really understand your market. Who are they and what problems do they want you to solve? What is interesting to them about you and your organization?
  • “Being found” is one of the biggest challenges. Think about where and how you can connect with your market. Get involved in the online communities of people who will actively share your content.
  • Forget about search engine optimization technologies. Excellent content is what really boosts search engine rankings.
  • If you need help creating content, considering hiring people with a journalism background. They may have a better sense of what is new or interesting than traditional marketing people.
  • Try not to strictly control the message, but DO react when a serious issue arises.

David peppered his presentation with real-life examples of travel organizations that are doing many of these things extremely well. His local example was the website of The Forks, which engages visitors on multiple levels with its webcam, Twitter feed, blog and invitations to share stories and memories.

He also gave props to Quark Expeditions, a Canadian provider of polar adventures. Quark’s website foregoes the hard sell and instead provides plenty of helpful information wildlife, what to wear and how to pack…even seasickness.

Another of David’s favourites is Ocean Frontiers, a Cayman Island dive shop and tour company. In addition to creating a content-packed website with live reef cam, Ocean Frontiers has “game-ified” the diving experience by creating the Green Short Challenge for divers who log all 55 sites within its zone. Those who complete the challenge are inducted into the Green Short Dive Tribe – an accomplishment commemorated with a bronze plaque, dock party, special edition green shorts and gold medal…plus plenty of social media exposure.

David practices what he preaches by sharing his own knowledge online. His free e-books include “World Wide Rave,” which features 39 examples of how global buzz was created through ingenious use of social media and viral marketing.

You can find him at DavidMeermanScott.com and on Twitter. His blog is WebInkNow.