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Written by Cian Corbett of SocialMedia.ie

Last week at an I.I.A. event hosted by at Populis’ Dublin office the SocialMedia.ie team enjoyed an informative presentation given by Brian Harte of Tourism Ireland. Recently the tourism organisation announced that they had just passed an important milestone of 9 million post impressions. Tourism Ireland’s Social Media activity is now rivaling that of their Web Activity which has earned 11.5 million visits.

Tourists who have consented to exit interviews as their holiday comes to a close have given the reassuring confirmation that they would recommend Ireland to friends and family as a holiday destination. Brian Harte asserted that Social Media Networks are the perfect medium to pass on these recommendations.

Brian Harte attributed Tourism Ireland’s success in Social Media to 5 core principles:

  • Make it “Emotivating”: Although achieving viral status is incredibly rare by ensuring content is emotive will increase the chances of moving the viewer to sharing the content.
  • Multichannel content: By not limiting the activity to one channel more demographics will view the content increasing the reach
  • Open Sourcing: Allow visitors to Ireland contribute photos, videos and stories
  • A Social Heart: Ensure there is a mechanic to share the content
  • The continuous campaign

Brian noted the change in their marketing strategy as a result of the facilitation of Social Media. The first major change has been from Campaign Model to a continuous “Asset Generation Model”. The campaign model would have been typical of Tourism Boards attracting tourists characterised by a specific set of imagery and tag lines supported by a dedicated website and display ads to attract visits. Instead the company now employ a multi-national set of Facebook page. Each of Ireland core target countries have dedicated Facebook page which can appeal to those specific cultural values. Brian light-heartedly informed the audience that US audiences love the idea of sleeping in an Irish Castle while this imagery would not appeal to UK audience who view castles as medieval. German audiences on the other hand delight in the rural concept of Ireland and thought of Irish sheep roaming the streets! Of course a combination of these images would be difficult to facilitate yet the dedicated Facebook pages can deliver this consistently. The most essential difference between the Campaign Model and the Asset Generation Model is that the former would have a start and definite end and need to be replaced with another campaign at further investment. On the other hand a Facebook page is a cumulative asset effort which grows and changes with every input considerably saving on investment costs.

As Brian speaks one gets the impression he is very much a numbers man who would not simply utilise Social Media channels under influence of the “latest marketing fad”. With businesses feeling the recessionary pressures and tabloid journalists searching for a story about a waste of government money (fuelled by reckless banking and Fás stories) Brian is quick to point out the ROI of his company’s social media efforts. This ROI is translated to upper management in the form of a Social Equivalent Advertising Value or SEAV which applies a monetary value to Social Media activity. Using expenditure methods such as “churn rate” and “customer lifetime value” Tourism Ireland have calculated their social media activity resulting in a monetary value of €95,000 per month.

Brian Harte’s message to the attendees at Populis was that Ireland needs to look to exporting as a way out of this recession and Social Media could be the lifeboat to take us out of these dangerous waters.

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