Social Media Challenge

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!

 

Search Engine Marketing Essentials

As with digital analytics, before starting my role at Tourism Ireland I was not at all familiar with search engine optimisation or the marketing that goes along with it. The basics were covered in our Digital Marketing class, so I had some sort of idea of what it was, but it wasn’t until a few months into my job that I really understood what search engine marketing was and how it worked.

There are three sections to the Google Adwords Education site and online marketing courses, as seen below.

three bits

There are also three videos that correspond to the three steps, though as with the digital analytics course I found the written tutorials to be overall more attention grabbing and interesting.

 

The three-part course starts with a quiz to determine how effective a companies current website is. It does this with a mix of infographics and targeted questions. Already from this you are learning the basics of what makes a good, functional working website and what needs improvement.

quiz bit

The quiz includes questions such as

  • Does your website have a clear, eye-catching headline?
  • Does your website clearly list the benefits your customer will get if they purchase your product or use your service? 
  • Does your website feature images or video?
  • Is there a clear call-to-action on your site?
  • Is it easy to locate your business’ contact information on your website

  • Does your business have an online presence beyond your website, such as a free Google My Business listing or social media site?

I found these questions very interesting to keep in mind when thinking of the Tourism Ireland german website. If we look at the webpage some things are definitely covered, such as eye-catching headlines, use of video and images, and online presence are all easy to spot. However I am not sure if there is a clear call to action, or if the benefits for customers are clearly listed. This could be because we are promoting an intangible good (tourism) but nevertheless these are things that should be kept in mind.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 23.31.32.png

After covering the basics the tutorial goes into more detail on how to create a successful ad campaign and how to reach more customers. There are five steps involved in this:

  1. Choosing the right campaign settings
  2. Creating effective ads
  3. Selecting the right keywords
  4. Making sure that your ads show
  5. Finding out how your ad is doing

Each section has between four and two smaller steps, helping break up the process.Again Google makes this simple and interactive with a questions and infographics to lead you through the search engine marketing process.

Looking within choosing the right campaign setting I feel that for Tourism Ireland the goals and the campaign type steps are the most important. This is because each office is already geographically limited in the sense that they are responsible for the market/location that they in and their budget is often determined centrally, so not something that individual markets have much sway in. As Tourism Ireland is not selling something in the traditional sense, I feel that defining the marketing goals is one of the most important steps. They have to know precisely what the campaign goals and aims are before starting it, otherwise they will just be aimlessly spending money hoping for some sort of results.

When you move through the steps, you are given the option to set up an actual Google AdWords account, meaning that you can learn and then implement your learnings in real-time. Throughout the whole process Google provides useful helps and tips, making the whole thing very simple. Below we can see how Google prompts you to set up your own account and start using AdWords.

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 00.08.26

I feel that steps like this, and the overall control you have over your account makes AdWords particularly useful for small businesses. As there is no minimum spend smaller companies can still utilise search engine marketing, while working within their budgetary parameters. They keep full control over how much to spend in a given time frame, along with maintaining the flexibility to adjust their spending whenever they want. As companies only pay-per-click rather than per impression they can avoid having to make large financial commitments to an advertising campaign. Data on each campaign is collected which means companies can review, and if its required, adjust their ads. This feed back loop allows for continual improvement of ad campaigns. Companies that lack technical expertise, or a dedicated marketing team can garner experience and knowledge of what works for them before committing more of their recourses to another digital marketing campaign.

This is largely what the last section, Tracking and improving results, covers. Here you learn about conversion statistics to help measure your campaigns success, and get your overall return on investment. You can also sort by keywords to see which bring the most conversions, along with getting a search report to see what people are searching for when they find your ad. As I don’t have an AdWords account, I couldn’t actively participate with all the sections, but overall these tutorials are very well thought out and informative. It has certainly opened my eyes to see how much information is computed just for one simple Google search – and somehow has made me appreciate the process even more!

 

 

 

 

Digital Analytics Fundamentals

Before starting with Tourism Ireland I had never heard of digital analytics. I was vaguely aware that websites and links had some sort of measurable metrics available, but that was as far as my knowledge went. In my past six months at Tourism Ireland I have slowly been introduced to digital analytics and how it is used as method of analysis within the marketing industry. I am developing a deeper understanding of the importance of measuring brand presentation online and the different elements involved therein.

What is Digital Analytics? 

Digital analytics expert Avinash Kaushik describes it thusly:

Digital analytics is the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data from your business and the competition to drive a continual improvement of the online experience that your customers and potential customers have which translates to your desired outcomes (both online and offline)(1).

The most important part to take from this is the focus on the customer. In this digital age customers are no longer following the traditionally prescribed linear purchase funnel – instead they can partake in purchases at any point along the decision path, ultimately giving them more control. Marketers use digital analytics as one tool which helps them gauge what customers want to hear, along with where they are most likely to buy.

 

The Google Analytics course not only hones in on the technical aspects behind digital analytics, it also sets out an overarching game plan that businesses should follow when developing their digital strategy. The first and foremost thing businesses should do is to determine exactly what outcomes or objectives they want to achieve, before putting their strategy into effect. This is reiterated by industry leaders, Bhandari, Singer and van der Scheer. They state that ‘a company’s overarching strategy should ground its choice of analytical options’ (2).

There are five steps that a company should go through when developing their digital strategy. These are:

  1. Define the business objective
  2. Agree on a strategy for success
  3. Set specific key performance indicators to measure success
  4. Segment the market
  5. Set clear quantifiable targets for the key performance indicators

From my own personal experience at Tourism Ireland, I know that quantifying the effects of their marketing strategies can be difficult. While overall metrics are measured by either the CSO in the Republic and NISRA in Northern Ireland, Tourism Ireland does not have the means to directly measure the success or failure of its work. As the Tourism Ireland website does not provide a booking service there is no measurable data, or macro conversions, to see if a person will visiting Ireland or not. Instead Tourism Ireland has to measure the micro conversions, which encompass things such as time spent on a particular web page, the click-through rate, newsletter sign ups and online brochure ordering. Additionally, link tagging is used extensively throughout all social media and marketing campaigns showing the relative success or failure of each. One of the things I have implemented since joining Tourism Ireland is the tagging of links within the press e-zine. Since doing this it is much easier to track which news stories are popular, and which format of press release works the best. These things help give a general picture of both individual campaigns and how Tourism Ireland is performing overall.

I found the assignment to be quite challenging. There were things I were familiar with from my own role in Tourism Ireland, though much of it was new to me. I also did not really enjoy the video based learning, though there were transcripts available they did not follow the text completely, so to get full understanding I had to watch the video as well as read the transcripts; something which at times felt a little protracted. When I first did the test at the end of the assessment, I only scored a 16 out of 20. 16:20 copy

As most of my incorrect answers were in the latter part of the quiz, I realised I had rushed through the end sections. After going back and reviewing the material again, I was able to get a more satisfactory result.

image06

Sources:
(1) Avinash Kaushik, 2007. ‘Rethink Web Analytics: Introducing Web Analytics 2.0′
http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/rethink-web-analytics-introducing-web-analytics-20/ 

(2) Bahndari, Singer & van der Scheer, 2014. ‘Using marketing analytics to drive superior growth’, McKinsey Insights and Publications
http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/marketing_sales/using_marketing_analytics_to_drive_superior_growth

My Professional Profile

Building my Professional Profile

The aim is to build up a profile on three social media platforms. The ones I have chosen are: Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. These have been chosen for several reasons: LinkedIn seems to be the most useful for career building and professional promotion. From the readings: it has 277m+ users in 200+ countries, its use is purely professional, and should be treated like an online “CV”. I felt that it was in my best professional interest to focus most of my time and energy on this. Twitter is interesting as it allows direct contact to many companies and industry influencers. You can choose who you follow and tweet at, giving a lot more freedom than other platforms. This direct access is the main reasons that is such a useful professional tool, nowhere else would I be able to contact the companies, or people directly like this. Lastly Google+. Though it did not turn out to be the “Facebook Killer” that it was hyped up to be, I find Google+ to be very useful in the additional services it provides. With its group chat and video conferencing function it provides useful tools that easily facilitate collaboration, without the need for using an additional provider such a Skype.   

I did not choose to focus on Facebook or YouTube for two reasons. Firstly, Facebook is much more social network, and to be used for non work related reasons. I have a profile on it, but would like to keep it strictly personal and private. YouTube, though an interesting platform, does not really help me develop my professional profile in any way. That is not to say that it isn’t a useful tool, but at this juncture in my career the three most useful platforms for building my professional profile are LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+. LinkedIn and Twitter are especially useful for building an online presence, while Google+ is great for the professional tools it provides. Additionally, this blog is also a medium through which I can build my professional presence, though it should serve as a means to tie all my information together rather than being a stand alone feature. Now to examine each platform in turn:

LinkedIn

From reading the notes and general knowledge, I felt that the most important part of building a professional profile was to focus on my LinkedIn account. I already had a LinkedIn page which I set up to help with my job search after university, though it was not particularly eye-catching or noteworthy. The picture below shows what my profile looked like before I overhauled it. There is some general information there but my new position at Tourism Ireland is not included, the picture is old, and I have not yet connected with many of my new work colleagues. Overall the profile, while not terrible, is unremarkable and unmemorable – two things that I definitely do not want to be associated with when building my professional profile. 

Snip Linked in Profile now
Old LinkedIn Profile

I overhauled my LinkedIn profile to include my current position, my areas of skill and expertise, and to better reflect my overall professional status.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 12.57.14
New and Improved LinkedIn Profile

Changes include a more recent photo, a completed summary, an eye-catching and job relevant background photo and more job specific connections. I have also updated my skills and expertise, and included my current position in the experience section. My profile strength now shows as All Star, really highlighting the positive changes I have made.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 13.19.06

See my LinkedIn Profile here 

Twitter

I created a Twitter account in 2009 but was never an active user. However my new role in Tourism Ireland includes helping to manage the Twitter account for the German market. This has not only given me an insight into how Twitter is used by companies, but also shown me how it can be a useful tool personally and professionally. Though I am still not a very active tweeter, I now use Twitter daily to get news and updates related to my field of work. While my Twitter feed is not solely for work purposes, I am particularly careful about the content that I like or re-tweet as my profile is public. Below is my Twitter before I updated it. I have no picture, am only following 15 people and have two followers. Again, it is uninspiring and unremarkable and does not accurately represent the professional online presence that I want to show.

twitter bits

I really want to use my twitter as place to garner information about tourism and marketing industries, so I set about following relevant companies and people in the industry.

following twitter

I added a photo of myself working at a trade fair, as well as a relevant background image. Both these are tied to my job, and help me boost my professional profile. I am now following 143 people, and have 24 followers. This is still not a huge amount but my Twitter feed is now full of job relevant news, tips and industry insights.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 14.12.46

My updated Twitter profile not only accurately reflects my professional life, but helps me keep abreast of all the latest industry news and developments. To further advance my professional online presence my next step with Twitter is to actively start tweeting, rather than only using it as a news source.

See my Twitter profile here

Google+

As mentioned above, I find Google+ to be especially useful in the services it offers. I used it a lot when doing group work for my studies, as it provided a quick and easy way communicate with others through group chats and free conference calling. Though my presence on it is not huge, its usefulness as a professional tool should not be overlooked. Having Google+ as a communication tool allows me to keep other methods such as my Skype account purely for personal use. In addition to the easy communication Google+ is also a good tool for sharing information and creating communities of like-minded people.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 14.30.51

See my Google+ profile here 

Overall I feel that I now have a very strong professional presence. LinkedIn gives me access to industry peers and other professionals, along with showcasing my own profile, Twitter keeps me updated with all the latest news and developments, and Google+ provides me with the tools necessary to communicate easily, effectively and professionally.