The Trip Echo Effect
A new theory for measuring the impact of visitors.
Last week, we wrote a piece for our partners at Tnooz proposing a new strategic approach for DMOs, ‘The New DMO Strategy‘ or, per the editor ‘A new destination marketing organization strategy involving the Trip Echo.‘
In the column, we talked specifically about an idea referred to as the Trip Echo, a theory that the value of a visitor does not end with the visit itself, but rather continues to create value due to the ripples or influence of their social network.
A New Way to Share Travel Experiences
Twenty years ago, a vacation to, say Hawaii, would have caused some basic social sharing interaction between the visitor and his/her friends.
Think postcards, photos, phone calls, home movies, scrapbooks and general conversation during family events. While a variety of media did exist to document the vacation experience, the way in which we shared the information was limited to a small set of friends and family.
Postcards only went to a handful of relatives, photos had to be developed, home movies were showed at home and scrapbooks of the trip were typically pulled off of the bookshelf prior to Thanksgiving dinner.
While we shared our travels with others, the group was limited.
Fast forward to the present day and update all of those communication channels.
Postcards are now digital, text or tweet. Photos are instant. Phone calls have been replaced with emails. Home movies are viewed on the same day. And the entire journey can be followed, friended and commented upon in real time.
Not only has the method of sharing a travel experience changed, but so has the community we share it with.
Social media allows us to search our updates, opinions and photos beyond our closest friends and family. Now, when we update our brother on the trip to Hawaii, we are also updating his friends and friends of friends.
Complete strangers in the real world can join us on our vacation by simply finding our blog or video stream via search. And our reviews of hotels, restaurants and attractions can break out of the confines of kitchen conversation and into the vast infinity that is the internet.
Defining the Value of the Engaged Traveler
To continue this Trip Echo theory, let’s hypothesize the effect on different traveler types.
In general, the travel industry is targeting the highest spending visitor with the majority of its marketing efforts. Studies and reports show that this boomer visitor spends more per day than the average or engaged visitor.
But, what if the value of the visitor was not only measured by daily value, but also by social value? What if the boomer visitor spent more, but had less influence or communication channels to share the experience? What if the average visitor, who spends less, communicates more?
The infographic below provides a visual explanation of this theory.
Yes, the boomer visitor spends $500 per day during vacation and the engaged visitor only $300, but the boomer visitor only influences 5 connections, while the engaged visitor is directly impacting 50.
At this point, you can begin to see the Trip Echo effect in action. The updates and messages from the engaged visitor creates a larger echo within his/her network. They have a greater influence over a larger number of potential visitors than the boomer.
Of course, while we used the boomer demo for our example, it has been a consistent source of growth within social networks.
Justifying Social Media Marketing with the Trip Echo
Most of us seem to understand the importance and potential impact of social media. As we have said several times, 500 million people in one place is bound to carry some influence.
But, for all of the gut feelings about social, we have struggled to articulately justify the opportunity cost of Twitter versus a sales call, email or print ad.
- How does all of our work on Facebook impact heads in beds?
- Does Foursquare drive traffic to the attraction?
- Are we seeing an increase in site visitation due to our YouTube channel?
That type of question should be familiar to anyone who has been tasked to develop a social media marketing strategy.
The great challenge is that social media is inherently a free form communication tool. The messages, ideas and reviews exchanged via these channels are commonly shared away from the marketer’s metric arsenal, making it difficult to correlate tweets into visitors.
While additional development and research needs to take place, in theory, could the Trip Echo effect help the tourism industry calculate the actual value of a visitor in this digital vacation age?
Could the effort placed behind your follow us on Facebook campaign be explained beyond the common answer of everyone else has one?
We know that social media influences travel planning, but we have been unable to place critical statistics behind our marketing intuition. If we know that a visitor who orders a brochure is 7x more likely to visit (for example), then why can’t we use the Trip Echo effect to determine the influence rate of a friends status update?
A destination visitor who is active on Facebook will cause an average of 3 friends / connections to also visit the destination.
How impactful would that statement be for your board, boss or CEO?
The Trip Echo Effect and your Social Strategy
Again, just a theory on our part, but one that seems to make logical sense in the context of social strategy.
In speaking with colleagues and peers, it feels like several of us within the industry have been contemplating a similar idea, but, as mentioned above, have yet to explain the power of social media marketing in clear terms.
Certainly more work needs to be done, especially on the research side, but the idea alone is enough to renew a sense of trust in our social media marketing campaigns.
The Trip Echo effect…even just as an idea…can help marketers see beyond traditional metrics and numbers viewed within a silo, to the true effect and connections that exist within these social networks.
Counting a visitor, guest or flier as a single person is no longer an accurate reflection of their influence in this digital age.
The Trip Echo expands that view to measure the total value of the visitor and their social network.