Zeitgeist Consulting
1 December 2010 by Bill Geist

Yesterday, Ypartnership released its November edition of Insights...and not a day too soon! ;)

Entitled Friends, Fans or Advisors: Do Social Media Influence Choice?,” this is sure to be intel that Destination Marketing professionals will hold up to prove or disprove the strategies that are in play at their DMOs. But, we caution our subscribers to read the report twice three times (as Bill Cosby used to say). Because, at first blush, one could certainly be excused if they came away thinking Social Media is an overhyped, overblown strategy with marginal ROI.

In the piece, Peter Yesawich states, “fewer than one in ten active travelers has reported that the content to which they have been exposed on social sites has had any significant influence on their final choice of a destination.” That line alone likely sent shivers down the back of every marketer that has embraced Social Media as a primary destination promotion strategy. And, I’m sure there were several DMO CEOs that gave their Social Media mavens an arched eyebrow in the hall yesterday.

But, read the quote again. There’s that pesky phrase “significant influence.” Do any of us really expect consumers to be “significantly” influenced by our tweets? Is it a surprise that they’re not?

Later in the piece, we learn that only 19% of travelers express confidence in travel information obtained through Facebook and Twitter. Again...surprise?

Instead, I think this is a case of using old school research question phrasing that doesn’t consider that today’s consumer utilizes a plethora of means to arrive at a decision. No longer can a traditional media placement be depended upon to close the sale. Everyone follows up online to ensure that their initial interest is warranted. Part of that is through DMO, Travel review and OTA sites. And, part of the final decision is running the potential trip past friends and family.

That’s where this study gets it right...because it shows that fully 4 out of 5 of us do have confidence in friend and family recommendations. And, ummm....that’s where Facebook and Twitter come in, as consumers can run their ideas past more friends and family through Social Media faster and more efficiently than any other tactic.

To be fair, Peter does close his analysis by suggesting that Social Media may become more influential in the future...as it surely will. But, for anybody that doesn’t think it is already having a huge effect on destination perception and intent to travel, check out the video grab on DMOpro from the recently completed SoMeT Symposium in Loudoun County.

Converse Digital’s Tom Martin shared his story of how he alone, armed with an iPhone and a Twitter account, tweeting from Mardi Gras, “significantly” changed the perception of the event for over 1,300 followers. Many of them now consider Mardi Gras safe for their kids (which everyone in New Orleans already knows). No traditional media ad buy could EVER do that.

Don’t let anybody pull you away from the promise of Social Media based on this study. Instead, forward Tom’s experience to anyone who tells you otherwise.

Oh, yeah...and be sure to put money for the 2011 edition of SoMeT in your budget. Hands down, one of the best conferences of the year. Don't believe me? Check out the video testimonials posted today on their Facebook page. And, watch for more to come in the A/V Room at DMOpro.

Til next time,


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