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Lelde Benke

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Lelde Benke is a media and marketing project manager at the Tourism department of the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA). She works closely with Lina Ivanova, the digital marketing project manager on projects involving bloggers and social media influencers. 

We admit we were late to join the social media party but we are playing catch up. Our latest Instagram experiment has proven to be a great success and the motivation we need to keep investing in the development of our social media strategy.

The background

The entire Latvian tourist board currently comprises of 12 staff members split into two teams – Marketing and Product Development. We don’t have a full time social media manager, let alone a dedicated social media team. We manage the @enjoylatvia account on Instagram and are partially involved in developing content for /IfYouLikeLatviaLatviaLikesYou on Facebook which is managed by the Latvian Institute. You won’t find us on Twitter, Google+, VK, Weibo, Snapchat or any other social channels.

A lot of what we’re able to do on social media is thanks to the many outsourcing opportunities available to us in this day and age, from agencies to individual influencers. Yet, in early 2016 we decided to move management of the @enjoylatvia account in-house, for now.

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Why we decided to go in-house

Due to later than expected arrival of funding, we didn’t have the means to continue working with an agency. But, rather than panicking, we decided to use the opportunity to get to know Instagram better ourselves. So far, we’ve taken on the role of content curator rather than content creator. The more we learn, the more we feel like keeping the account in-house because of all the insight we’ve gained.

What we hope to achieve

Until now all our efforts have been organic and we are yet to venture into Instagram advertising territory. Due to this and our late arrival on the scene, we can’t boast a huge number of followers yet.

We have set certain quantitative goals, such as the number of followers from our target markets, however, our key focus remains quality. We want to keep the content pure and authentic, and showcase what makes Latvia a destination that’s “best enjoyed slowly”.

Comments, feedback and other users’ posts reveal that people have been inspired to visit certain places or attractions as a result of our work.

The birth of #InstatripLV

One quote is all it takes to inspire great ideas. For us it was “the web is full of stars”, a quote from the guys at DTTT Italia during 2015’s Digital Tourism Innovation Campus. We took it very literally and immediately began to brainstorm how we could use these stars to our advantage without even looking outside Latvia. #InstatripLV was born.

The idea is very simple – we invited a number of Latvia’s prime Instagrammers to take part in a one-day trip outside the capital with the aim of building a joint photo story.

It took some persuasion to get everyone on board. Some participants couldn’t quite believe this was a legit opportunity to take part in a fully funded day trip! We approached everyone via DM on Instagram and continued our communication by email. One by one, they accepted the invitations and boarded the bus one fine day in April to help us tell the story of Latvia through their lenses.

Feedback was essential to us and, fortunately, it was honest, detailed and encouraging. Most importantly, we were thanked for the opportunity to take part and asked to keep up the good work, so we did. In August, we hosted a two-day #InstatripLV.

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The results of #InstatripLV

  • The first #InstatripLV saw a 10% increase in the number of followers and the second trip saw a 4% increase.
  • The joint number of participants’ followers during the first trip was 17 000 which grew to 18 000 for the second trip.
  • Considering the quantitative and qualitative results of the trip, the costs were very low.
  • The participants of #InstatripLV have become unofficial digital ambassadors for Latvia. By opening their eyes to what lies on their own doorstep, we’ve reminded them of how much there is to see and do in Latvia which comes hand in hand with potential for amazing content. It’s wonderful to be able to rely on local resources for permanent quality as we can’t guarantee a constant flow of excellent photos by visiting travellers, especially during the low season.

Our keys to success

  • Passionate staff who understand that social media strategy is an intrinsic part of any destination’s marketing plan in the 21st century, are willing to fight the comfort of tradition and make a case for it. They are enthusiastic, new knowledge and challenges keep them motivated and thinking outside the box.
  • Combining forces. We don’t have separate PR, digital and marketing teams so we all share one budget and collaborate on a daily basis, pooling together a range of skill sets from data analysis to local knowledge.
  • Tapping into the right community at the right time which was partially down to luck. Although we had carefully researched the local Instagram community, we couldn’t have known that some of the members were already engaged in active dialogue via DM. #InstatripLV gave them the chance to meet in person, exchange tips and ideas for collaboration.

Future plans

Now that we have a strong initial collection of images and videos on @enjoylatvia, a follower base and constant love rate of around 10%, we are keen to increase the number of followers and plan to take the leap into paid acquisition via Instagram ad solutions.

We will continue working with the local influencer community and may be opening future #InstatripLV events to participants from our key incoming markets.

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