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Indicating the importance of social media, the first ever English Tourism Social Media Index was released last week. This league table of social media engagement is intended to give an indication of the efficacy of regional tourism bodies throughout the United Kingdom. In total, 126 regional tourist boards have been ranked by the DMO’s study, with assessment based on the social media performance that tourist bodies have achieved via their official channels.

Visit Wilshire Beats the Competition

According to the results of this index, the north of the United Kingdom has a bit of catching up to do if it is to compete with some of the southern counties. Top of the tree in this initial Survey was VisitWiltshire, with the Wiltshire tourist board ranking above all other counties in a wide range of performance metrics.

Alongside Wiltshire were Visit Cornwall and VisitLondon. Neither of these names would be considered particularly surprising, as both Cornwall and London are traditional tourist destinations in the United Kingdom. London is obviously resplendent with sightseeing opportunities and historical spots of interest, while Cornwall is one of the most attractive counties in the United Kingdom, and has always attracted visitors due to its beauty, tranquillity and unique Cornish culture.

Other traditionally strong tourist areas also present within the top 10 included the Dartmoor Partnership, Visit Forest of Dean & Wye Valley and Visit Peak District & Derbyshire. But there were also some surprise names in the top 10, most notably Destination Milton Keynes.

New Town Success

The Buckinghamshire ‘new town’ is not exactly considered a glamorous or characterful place. But massive efforts have been made over the last few decades to develop the area, and clearly the local tourist board is playing a central role in communicating less.

The rankings and scores for the top ten local tourist boards in the UK in the English Tourism Social Media Index were as follows:

1. VisitWiltshire 74.2

2. Visit Cornwall 73.4

3. VisitLondon 73.1

4. Dartmoor Partnership 70.9

5. Visit Thanet 70.3

6. Visit Norfolk 69.6

7. Destination Milton Keynes 67.5

8. Visit Peak District & Derbyshire 67.4

9. Visit Forest of Dean & Wye Valley 66.6

10. Visit Greenwich 66.4

The index naturally reflects the importance of communicating destination identity via social media, but this survey is also being particularly promoted at the moment in order to coincide with English Tourism Week. This celebration of holidaying and tourism in the largest country in the United Kingdom ran until Sunday, 22nd March, and indicated the determination of UK destination marketers to maintain the viability of Britain as a travel location.

Social Media Diversity

One of the interesting aspects of the index to note is that the social media performance of each organisation assessed by the survey was not based on algorithms alone. Additionally, a team of five people were assigned to assess a wide range of social networks utilised by the local tourist broads And it is particularly important to note that nine different social networks were assessed; succinctly underlining the plurality and diversity involved in social media today.

The days of merely focusing on Twitter and Facebook are well and truly over. Of course, these successful pioneers in the social media sphere remain incredibly important, but they should certainly not receive attention at the expense of other important developing platforms. Perhaps the most obvious of these is Instagram, which has achieved a massive reputation in a short period of time, and delivers the sort photo-centric content which is particularly popular with young people and millennials.

Data acquired by the survey was also analysed by a panel of industry judges, who ultimately created the league table which has been released into the public domain. VisitWiltshire profited due to the breadth of the social channels that the tourist board uses to communicate, the higher level of engagement that it achieves across a diverse range of social platforms, and the direct responsiveness to social media communities.

Digital Marketing Takeaways

The VisitWilshire approach has once more emphasised the importance of creating a community around social media engagement. This is a distinct and explicit way in which destination marketing is changing at the start of the 21st century. Although creating absorbing and convincing content remains important, it is now equally critical, if not more so, to engage an audience actively, and encourage them to participate in social media campaigns. Interactivity is now an absolute byword for the industry. Responding directly and appropriately to your community is also vital.

With this in mind, it is noticeable that VisitWiltshire was commended for displaying a diverse range of content, from the creation of their own videos, to the sharing of bespoke images, and links to third party content. A #timeforwiltshire hashtag was also prominently promoted across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and this helped obtain shareable, user-generated images and content; a key facet of contemporary destination marketing campaigns.

Aside from VisitWilshire, the regional winners of the survey were as follows:

North East – Visit Northumberland
North West – Visit Manchester
Yorkshire & The Humber – Visit Leeds
East Midlands – Visit Peak District & Derbyshire
West Midlands – Visit Forest of Dean & Wye Valley
East of England – Visit Norfolk
London – Visit London
South West – VisitWiltshire

Digital marketers can learn lessons from the Wiltshire campaign with regard to social engagement, creating a community feel, and encouraging user-generated content and interaction. This has perpetually proved to be a successful way of marketing destinations in the 21st century.

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