Social media is central to Tourism Ireland’s marketing activities. They were one of the early adapters using social media as a tool for reaching consumers. This innovative approach has paid off, using 2015 figures Tourism Ireland has over 3 million Facebook fans, is the second most popular tourist board in the world on Facebook and with over 300k  followers it is also second most popular on Twitter (1). Incredibly these figures have continued to increase throughout 2016. Keeping up to date with the latest in social media trends Tourism Ireland also now has an Instagram account with almost 100k followers, Pinterest, Weibo  and is planning on developing a Snapchat account. As a relatively small tourist board with limited resources, Tourism Ireland uses social media to reach large numbers of people a lot more cost effectively than traditional advertising would be. Fans of the agency’s different accounts help to spread the message about Ireland as a tourist destination by liking, sharing, commenting on and re-tweeting posts.

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 22.36.39Tourism Ireland’s social media presence.
Source: Tourism Ireland Marketing Plans 2014-2016

What is interesting is how social media usage changes from market to market. I am in the German market which has a very strong focus on Facebook. Compared to global figures, Twitter does not have a very strong presence in the German market. Tourism Ireland undertakes social media research which helps it target its limited resources to where they make the most impact – and in Germany this is Facebook. The Tourism Ireland has also done other smaller, quirky social media projects such as Instagram collaborations,  along with being the first tourist board to work with Samsung to provide immersive virtual reality pictures and videos.

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 22.33.08Facebook usage in Germany.
Source: Facebook Ads Workshop Irland Information – Tourism Ireland

While I am not directly involved in managing the Facebook page for Germany, through my role in the Tourism Ireland office I have gained a much better understanding into how Facebook is used as a marketing tool. Specific groups of people can be targeted with advertising and posts can be timed in order to maximise their reach. By interacting with fans on the page, Tourism Ireland is able to build up relationships with people in the hope that they will help to spread the word among their friends and family too.

Tourism Ireland German Page and fan interaction.

As shown above, one clever thing that Facebook fan interaction is used for is linking people back to the ireland.com website. As many key performance indicators for Tourism Ireland are based on website useage this is one simple and easy way to increase numbers and improve metrics.

I play a more active role my market’s Twitter account. Unlike other markets, the consumer and the media accounts are not separated. As Twitter is still developing in the German market, it was felt that two accounts would be superfluous. My role is to interact with journalists, bloggers and members of the media that travel to Ireland, promoting their tweets and being on hand to answer any questions that they may have. Though our Twitter account does not yet have so many followers it is still interesting to see how useful Twitter can be, especially for direct consumer to company communication.

twitter snip endeckte ireland
Entdecke Irland: Twitter account Tourism Ireland in Germany

One of the biggest positives from social media is the immediate connection and access that consumers have to companies and brands. Not only does this open up lines of communication, but it also hold companies more accountable for their actions – for fear of being named and shamed on social media. For us in the German market, one very important recent development was the opening of a new Berlin to Belfast route, the first direct route into Northern Ireland from Germany. I used this opportunity to interact with both Belfast International Airport (on Facebook) and Belfast City (Twitter) to get direct information about travelling between Germany and Northern Ireland.

Social Media Facebook and Twitter interactions

I was a little wary about using my Facebook to contact a company as this was not something I had ever done before, but I was impressed with how easy it was, and how quickly they got back to me.  Twitter also went very well, though one small complaint was that the account is only monitored during normal working hours so if there is a crisis during the weekend/evenings it is not so useful. Though (sadly) I did not get the news that there would be a new Frankfurt-Belfast route opening up, I was very impressed overall with how simple yet helpful such social media interaction will be. This has encouraged me to think that the next time I need an answer from a company I will skip Google, and go directly to the source instead!

 

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