Friday, March 20, 2009

Being Interactive at SXSW

Our PR Director Lindsay Vidrine and I spent a few days this past week at the Interactive Segment of the South By Southwest Festival in Austin. (Albeit painful, we left before the music part of the festival started.) For five days, we celebrated our inner geek and joined thousands of web developers and tech companies, PR practitioners, marketers, media reps and bloggers to learn about the latest and greatest in social media and interactive marketing. Wow - it was great. It was the first conference I ever attended where texting, Tweeting and e-mailing were encouraged during the sessions. Between the two of us, we attended more than 40 sessions where we learned how to venture into new media for tourism and travel promotion.

Some big picture conclusions we brought back are: Consumer marketing is becoming so segmented that traditional media (television, radio, print) is no longer enough to support your brand. Social media allows you to talk directly to your customers and build a personal relationship with them. Social media marketing can be very labor intensive - so find out if it works for your audience before you invest time and resources . . . it's ok to enter slowly. Mobile technology -Web sites for mobile phones and other applications - holds great potential for reaching customers.

If you are thinking about dipping your marketing toe into the tidal wave of blogging and Twitter, here are a few takeaways from the SXSW conference:

  • Spend some time reading and studying blogs before you jump into blogging yourself.
  • Learn what appeals to bloggers and how their needs are different from journalists in traditional media. Usually, bloggers focus on the smaller details of a place - no big, multi-day itineraries. It's all about the experience. Make sure you offer plenty of photo/video opportunities and give many story options.
  • Look at the audience you want to reach and find the bloggers for that audience. Is it moms, baby boomers, RVers, tour operators, seniors?
  • When you respond or comment on a blog - be real. Full disclosure is best. Always identify yourself if you are commenting on behalf of your company or attraction.
  • If you want travel bloggers to know about you, learn about them first. Some places to start: TravelBlog Exchange, BlogHer, or visit Google blog search.

Here's a great article that provides some insight into the world of travel blogging.

In an upcoming post, we will talk about the phenomenon of Twitter and the opportunities it brings to travel promotion.

How is our division incorporating social media into our marketing mix as we promote the state? The newly designed TravelOK will feature six experts on different Oklahoma travel subjects. They will blog on our new site as will our own travel counselors and staff to share experiences when they visit attractions and events. There will also be opportunities for visitors to to leave comments on the site and and rate attractions - so we will offer plenty of opportunities for interaction. We also plan to eventually build a mobile And, our PR staff is working on a strategy to find the best ways to incorporate the blogosphere and Twitter into our messaging plan.

Thanks for reading!

Submitted by Sandy Pantlik, Travel & Tourism Director, Okla. Tourism & Recreation Dept.

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