2012 Forecast: The Other Social Networks

It all sounds so simple.

Create a Facebook profile, send a couple of tweets and check, social media marketing strategy complete.  At least, that is what the playbook looks like for most destination and tourism marketers.

Forecast 2012 - a look at key trends for destination marketers in 2012.But on our way to total and complete marketing reliance via the big two, a funny thing happened.  More and more, our DMO / CVB peers…especially those on the bleeding edge…are drawing away from the saturated landscape of wall posts and RTs to instead place strategic focus on a handful of other social sites.

Namely, Pinterest, Foursquare, Foodspotting and Instagram.

That’s right, new social networks.

But these other social sites might just be more relevant for your destination than Facebook or Twitter.


The Other Social Networks: Pinterest

Pinterest is, at it’s core, a bookmarking tool.

But instead of text links, the social / mobile service places a singular focus on images.  In fact, everything added to Pinterest must have an image associated with it.

While the site launched with a distinct flavor of DIY, it has since matured to include anything and everything people want to accomplish…be it food, craft or travel.  And that is where it gets interesting for destinations.

One of the first and most active DMOs on Pinterest, Experience Columbus, is experiencing growth with leisure travelers and event planners utilizing the service.

As Joe Vargo from Experience Columbus explains, Pinterest is not just a pretty memory-keeper.

Pinterest isn’t really about crafts – it’s about aspirations.  It is a reflection of what they want their lives to be like, and for those interested in travel, we are giving them reasons to come now, rather than later.

I love that idea.  Aspirations.  Is there a better word to describe the philosophy of a DMO?

Pinterest is a window into the inspiration phase of travel planning.  That mysterious, often unreachable bucket-list of locations, excursions and destinations that most of us have, but rarely share with others (at least, share effectively).

Pinterest is not just a bookmarking site, it is an opportunity to engage with potential visitors at the very top of the travel planning funnel.  And that is interesting.


The Other Social Networks: Foursquare

Old news, right?

But before you write-off the check-in crazy mobile game, take a look at what Foursquare has been doing with all of the information you left behind.

Namely, building Foursquare Explore.

Launched initially as a mobile extension of the already popular app, Foursquare Explore is now available as web version.  Essentially a search engine.  A search engine that knows exactly where, when and what your friends like to do (assuming they use Foursquare).  According to Foursquare, the Explore product represents personalized search for the real world.

For brands already using and creating content within Foursquare, such as Travel Channel, Explore means their content is now the Google equivalent of organic search results.

And considering the 1,500,000,000 (yeah, 1.5 billion, with a ‘B’) check-ins that Foursquare has received, tracked and analyzed, there is a whole lot of content to plan your next trip around.


The Other Social Networks: Foodspotting

Food is a companion to travel.

It is a reason to go and a reason to return.  It is as unique to a destination as the geography, culture or people.  And more accurately, a reflection of those influences.  For some, food is more than basic necessity, it is a passion.  And no social site presents that passion more effectively than Foodspotting.

While we have previously wrote about the unique opportunities via Foodspotting, it is worth repeating due to the strong connection between food and tourism destinations.

Simply put, if your destination has been built upon the strength of your regional fare, then you need to be active within the Foodspotting community.

Or at least finding a good, local spot for lunch.


The Other Social Networks: Instagram

Anyone can take a great photo.

At least through the lens of Instagram.

The iPhone app has struck a photo-sharing vein of popularity in the last 6 months with more than 15 million users…and counting.  Unlike other photo / effect apps, Instagram takes your photo further through a simple sharing mechanism.  Like Twitter, you have your own stream of photos and can follow the photo streams of friends, family and strangers.

If Flickr felt a bit too professional for Joe Shutterbug, Instagram has stripped away the veneer of required skill (for better or worse), allowing anyone and everyone to share photos of their vacation to Maui.

Photos that, ironically, look professional.

Instagram is mobile, instant and enables someone of any skill level to snap a photo… It is also becoming a vital part of how people share in real time.  – Amy Brock, Visit Savannah

For destinations, Instagram is quickly becoming the default service for taking and sharing photos.  Being able to tap into this community, via promotions such as LA INC.’s Photo Walk LA, is a massive opportunity to promote your region via the power of the photo.

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