In 2013, a lot of tourist boards worldwide have taken advantage of digital technologies and platforms to plan and execute creative campaigns that markets a creative idea and campaign that the individual tourist board has carried out. With many platforms growing dramatically, and new digital platforms being introduced, many destinations worldwide did take advantage of creating campaigns based on users creating content on these newly established networks. However, the creative campaigns category also saw completely new ideas by destinations with regards to the traditional blog trip - hence the destination winning this year's Digital Tourism Think Tank Award in the creative campaigns category is Bologna Welcome with their Social Media Free Trip (DTTT Awards 2013).
Social Media Free Trip is a project by the Municipality of Bologna and Bologna Congress within the context of tourist promotion. It aims to promote Bologna as a destination at an international level, creating word of mouth, social and viral advertising based on tourists’ direct experiences. It is addressed to social media users with a wide network of followers and friends who become an advertising vehicle of the content related to the city. Social Media Free Trip can be very powerful in spreading content, especially with regards to the fact that consumers trust user-generated content a lot more than content provided by a tourism destination or organisation. It is therefore a very smart way of taking advantage of consumers’ passion for social media and is a response to the need for user-generated content to inspire potential travellers to Bologna. The focus is on the emotional experiences through social media storytelling.
Interestingly, in the case of the Social Media Free Trip anybody could apply for a specific weekend, making it not only open for regular bloggers but also to users that produce content on a regular basis, sharing that with their friends and followers as part of their overall passion for a specific topic. Therefore, Bologna Welcome almost revolutionised the way in which content is normally produced by destinations which is more based on organising a blog trip or asking the network within a contest to share content in order to win. Enabling consumers worldwide to follow the Social Media Free Trip through social media channels made it possible for anybody in the world to imagine what a weekend or a couple of days in Bologna could be like. Due to the individual winner's passion for specific topics, it was also very easy for consumers to relate to them in a better way and also to inspire people to come to Bologna and experience it for themselves.
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