Cape Town Tourism’s latest digital marketing campaign has garnered excellent exposure for Cape Town locally and internationally, strengthening the argument for social media marketing as a crucial part of tourism destination marketing. It also illustrated the power of mobilizing local citizens as marketers of their city.
Between July 27 and August 5, 2012, four international digital media travel influencers and bloggers were hosted by Cape Town Tourism on a media trip as part of Cape Town Tourism’s iAmbassador’s campaign. The venture forms part of Cape Town Tourism’s efforts to promote the destination across a number of focused, influential digital platforms. The campaign impacted particularly on social media platform Twitter, where the hashtag #LoveCapeTown ( https://twitter.com/#%21/search/%23lovecapetown ) measured in with over 36 million Twitter impressions in just over a week. Tweet impressions are the total number of times tweets about #LoveCapeTown were delivered to Twitter streams, or the number of overall impressions generated as measured by social measuring site www.tweetreach.com .
A virally sourced Tweet-up, held at the beginning of the bloggers’ stay, asked followers to contribute their itinerary suggestions to the travelers who were tracking the tag on Twitter, interacting and asking questions. The session resulted in 1,500 Cape Town-impassioned tweets, proving that the citizens of Cape Town are in fact the best ambassadors of their destination.
Said Cape Town Tourism CEO, Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold: “We are a new breed of travelers. Just five years ago, traveling was very different. Today’s travelers are ‘Digital Nomads’ and have a wealth of information available to them in an instant. Travelers now have the opportunity to explore vastly different experiences in a country and are not limited to what a guidebook tells them. Travel has become much more experiential – people are no longer satisfied with being spectators, but want to participate and get up close and personal with the destinations they visit. Speaking to the new storytellers of this travel age is what will keep us relevant – and these storytellers are interested in what the people of the destinations they visit are saying. They want to get off the bus and infiltrate communities and understand first-hand what it means to live here, where we’ve come from, our future plans and dreams.”
Top tweeter, Klout influencer and Cape Town iAmbassador, Melvin Boecher (@Traveldudes and www.traveldudes.org) remarked that: “The engagement of Capetonians in the #LoveCapeTown campaign was really impressive, I haven’t seen this in any other blog trip campaign so far.” All of the bloggers reported a spike in followers on their social media platforms as a result of the campaign.
While the #LoveCapeTown hashtag ultimately clocked up over 36 million Twitter impressions, it is still difficult to measure the impact of these statistics. Said Du Toit-Helmbold: “We know that this campaign was a success from many points of view. It was instant – and yet there are still many more blogs and tweets that will follow as a result to ensure maximized exposure and reach for Cape Town. It also crossed over onto many other platforms (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) as today’s social media influencer is multi-channeled. The campaign was followed with interest by traditional media, but the biggest success of this campaign was the citizen engagement it led to. For us, it proves that often we should just initiate and guide the conversation, setting up platforms where it can unfold. Cape Town knows how to sell itself!”
In terms of actual return on investment, Cape Town Tourism agrees that there is no one reliable tool to measure the value of social media, but there is no denying the importance of digital media marketing. Said Du Toit-Helmbold: “We see this campaign as one in which we piqued interest, and that was our intention. Now we have to convert that interest into a community that can help us drive more awareness and ultimately conversion and more visitors to Cape Town. People do not just arrive in a destination, they do research beforehand, and social media – as an extension of word of mouth – is influencing more and more travel decisions. We are acutely aware that word of mouth through social media is the most powerful tool for any destination marketer today, and if we can continue to mobilize more local voices to help promote Cape Town through their own online networks of friends and followers, we have a winning recipe. Our work in digital media marketing is attracting global attention, and we will be presenting case studies at the forthcoming World Travel Market in London.”
With a background in finance, Velvetescape (@velvetescape and www.velvetescape.com), Keith Jenkins, is a professional travel influencer who feels that bloggers and social media influencers can play an important and authentic role in delivering an unabridged, unscheduled version of a destination. Said Jenkins: “The Cape Town Tourism team showed a great level of flexibility (the bloggers’ itinerary changed as new ideas streamed in), dedication, and responsiveness to all parties involved.”
Having already launched a digital toolkit ( http://www.capetown.travel/toolkit ), with downloadable marketing elements that can be used by the international travel trade to “sell” Cape Town, and having grown more than 250,000 fans on their Facebook page I ♥ Cape Town ( https://www.facebook.com/CapeTown.Travel ), Cape Town Tourism is poised to spread its message further across the digital space with an exciting Facebook-based campaign due to launch in September as the conversation continues to flow.