I was lucky enough to attend Australia's first Social Media Tourism Symposium (SoMeT13AU) last week, as Wollongong played host to the tourism industry’s most influential social media experts from around the world.
A rich line up of social media experts such as Tourism Australia’s Jesse Desjarden, the Canadian Tourism Commission’s Kate Duffy and South Africa Tourism’s William Price presented case studies and trends in media consumption.
The trends in media consumption? Well it's no secret the world's consumption of social media is increasing at a phenomenal rate.
And what do the case studies show us? That we're more likely to choose a holiday based on the recommendation of a Facebook friend than we are by seeing an ad on TV.
More than 130 attendees networked at the event, including representatives from many of Australia’s regional tourism organisations, bloggers like YTravel Blog’s Caz and Craig Makepeace, Get in the Hot Spot’s Annabel Candy and instagrammer Lauren Bath.
What struck me most of all about this event was the spirit of generosity displayed by everyone in attendance. A wealth of knowledge was shared by presenters and delegates alike.
A dynamic and entertaining series of presentations and workshops run by some of the world’s tourism marketing leaders sparked conversations on and offline, including discussions on setting up an effective ‘instameet’, and case studies including the ground-breaking Australian Capital Tourism’s ‘Human Brochure’ digital campaign.
Hamilton Island's Sophie Baker showed us how with her inspirational "Instameet" she managed to generate millions of dollars worth of publicity with a meager budget of $25,000 and a great idea. Sophie invited influencial Instagrammers and a selection of celebrity ambassadors for a weekend of Instagramming at Hamilton Island, with spectacular results.
Rodney Payne, founder and CEO of Think! Social Media, which organises the annual SoMeT conferences in the US and now in Australia, said the standout theme for both attendees and presenters was the central and ever-evolving role social media plays in destination and tourism marketing.
“I think everyone would agree the key takeout from the conference is that social media integration needs to be at the core of, and run right throughout, a destination or tourism product’s marketing and PR strategies,” said Mr Payne.
“Being a ‘social’ organisation isn’t just a matter of managing Facebook and Twitter accounts. It’s about inspiring conversations about and advocating a product’s remarkable experiences.
“We heard for example, how panel presenter Emmanuelle Legault, Vice President of Marketing Tourism Montreal plans to have the organisation’s entire marketing strategy digital by 2014.”
Meanwhile Destination Wollongong’s General Manager Mark Sleigh said lots of fun was had around the region during the conference week as the SoMeT13AU delegates discovered Wollongong in a very social way.
“We had a supercharged day showing some of the SoMeT13AU delegates highlights from around The Gong – with everything from skydiving and seafood to Harley Davidson rides and Symbio Zoo.
“The region’s stunning natural assets combined perfectly with a wide array of quality adventure product to showcase Wollongong to the world." Mr Sleigh said.
Following the success of this year’s event, Think! is already planning an Australian conference next year. The Request for Proposal (RFP) for the hosting of the 2014 conference is due for release in September this year.
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