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Salma Jafri

9 Content Marketing Lessons From Tourism Australia

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Most of us think about marketing our businesses or our clients’ business, but how do you content market an entire country? That was the question facing Australia back in 2010 when they embarked on their ambitious “There’s nothing like Australia” campaign.

Now in 2013, Tourism Australia has the most popular destination page on Facebook, with more than 4 million loyal and highly engaged fans. According to Andrew McEvoy, Managing Director of Tourism Australia, Australia was 2012's most popular travel destination on Facebook, Google+, and Instagram. This year’s “6 Best Jobs in the World” campaign by Tourism Australia has so far drawn in over half a million applications worldwide.

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When you think of the travel and tourism industry, you typically don't think of the most innovative content marketers. Contests and giveaways are the primary tools of the trade.

And digital is proving harder than ever to conquer. Just recently, the BBC sold Lonely Planet at a perceived loss. And Google, which had acquired travel behemoth Frommers in August 2012, has recently sold the popular travel guidebook company back to its founder.

So in this climate of economic uncertainty and risk-averse marketing, how did Tourism Australia manage to pull such wins from their sun hats?

The answer lies in their carefully constructed social media plan of attack and consistent execution.

According to their SlideShare presentation called “The World’s Biggest Social Media Team”, here is how they did it.

1. In-House Social Media Team

Even though their core social media team consists of just three people, these three are the brains behind the social strategy and its vision. 

“Ultimately, we want our four million Facebook fans, the 23 million Australians who live here and the 6.1 million people who visited last year to become part of the world's biggest social media team and ambassadors for our country," according to Nick Baker, executive general manager of consumer marketing for Tourism Australia.

To enable this massive online effort, the in-house team curates thousands of images of Australia sent to them by Australians who currently live there and by foreigners who’ve visited in the past. Therefore, Tourism Australia has turned over content creation to its community by heavily investing in …

2. User-Generated Content

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Fans are invited to submit images of Australia via the Photoboard app on Facebook. These images are then added to the roster of Friday Fan Photos, the best of which are republished on Facebook and Instagram.

The Tourism Australia social media team decided to use the fact that Australia is a naturally scenic destination and this scenery is foremost conveyed via images. Fans post photos with the understanding that Tourism Australia may use these images for promotion. Thus, their …

3. Fans Become Brand Ambassadors

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A single photo may get thousands of likes, shares, and comments and gives the photographers (both amateur and professional) a chance to showcase their work, and the fans to share their holiday pics. In doing so, both become experts on their destination content and are happy to …

4. Engage in Word of Mouth Marketing

Tourism Australia believes that travel decisions are largely made via word of mouth and sees all its fans, citizens, and visitors as brand advocates. People typically book trips once or twice a year and put a lot of thought into it so consistency and social sharing matters a lot in brand recall.

To keep your brand front and center, people need to stay engaged with your brand all year long to eventually buy from you. Tourism Australia is consistent in its approach because it knows that …

5. The Customer is the Hero of the Story

In a "Star Wars" analogy, the Tourism Australia team views itself as the wise Yoda whispering into the ears of its fans (Luke Skywalker), who are the hero of their story throughout. Turning over the power of story-telling to its fans is what gives Tourism Australia its marketing wings and allows it to soar. It curates 95 percent of its content and believes in letting its …

6. Fans Own Their Content

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Turning over their Facebook page to the fans was their single biggest turning point, resulting in massive levels of engagement. When Facebook unveiled its new Timeline in 2011, Tourism Australia invited its fans to share images from way-back-when in time resulting in a timeline filled with iconic pictures taken by travelers as far back as 1910! They also …

7. Newsjack When Possible

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According to David Meerman Scott, newsjacking is a “process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business.”

Tourism Australia promotes specific stories which it sees are gaining traction on its social media sites and piggybacks on general interest stories from around the world – such as the end of the world “event” predicted by the Mayans on Dec. 21, 2012. By not taking itself too seriously, they know how to …

8. Let a Story Develop Its Own Legs

Social sharing is a key part of Tourism Australia’s strategy. When fans share images, they are also reaching out to their network of friends and saying “look, we’ve done this and you can too”, thus extending the reach and virality of each story.

In order to facilitate story-telling, Tourism Australia allows you to find places in Australia that your friends have visited using the Discover app on Facebook. Using the app you can see locations that your friends recommend and view pictures of them “being there, doin’ that”. Tourism Australia constantly tests stories and reactions, knowing that …

9. Every Social Platform Has Its Own Rules

When Tourism Australia launched their Google+ page they continued their Facebook success formula of posting fan images. But an experimentation with posting interesting facts about Australia saw engagement levels increase exponentially, leading them to understand that each platform needs its own testing and validation.

Content Marketing Keys to Success

The kind of success that Tourism Australia has seen with its social media initiatives has so far been unparalleled in the travel industry. This social media success has played a large part in attracting 6.1 million visitors to Australia in 2012 – an increase of 4.1 percent compared to 2011.

In my view, Tourism Australia had three main goals in the execution of this strategy, which formed the basis of their success.

These goals were:

  • A deliberate decision to move away from one-way broadcast-type messages and instead embrace the participatory nature of social media.
  • To focus away from marketing to foreigners who hadn’t yet visited Australia and instead focus on building up Aussies who lived there or foreigners who had already visited to become their brand ambassadors.
  • To rely on citizens and past visitors to share their stories and own their content, thus building up a natural level of pride in Australia.

In keeping with Tourism Australia’s goal to build the world’s largest social media team, they are currently training close to a million people working in Australia’s tourism sector to become brand advocates for the country by empowering them with the tools and know-how marketing

One of the key takeaways for social media marketers from Tourism Australia’s story: don't be afraid to test and experiment on social media. A lot of times, marketers get fearful about testing and tweaking and don’t want to fix what isn’t broke.

Tourism Australia has shown us the importance of testing constantly to find what works best for your niche, your business, and your customers. Making mistakes and being transparent just adds to the social experience!


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