If It Ain’t Broke, Break it! And Other Learnings from SoMeT 2015

Over the years I’ve been to a multitude of social media conferences. In 2012 I even hit Blogworld in Las Vegas which was the mother of all social media conferences back then with a few thousand people in attendance.

But you don’t need thousands of people to hear big ideas. In my experience, smaller gatherings can offer more creative ideas, more time to digest them and a more relaxing atmosphere for meeting people.

Which was certainly the case at this year’s Social Media Tourism Symposium (SoMeT) on the Sunshine Coast.

I sometimes feel like I’ve heard everything there is to say about social media. Or written it and said it myself.

“Be authentic” is probably the most over-used recommendation on the social media circles but I’ve heard them all.

Which makes it all the more exciting when someone offers new advice.

I’ve shared a few quotes and ideas from SoMeT speakers below but the best piece of advice came from Andrew Fraser at Tourism New Zealand and it was this:

If it’s working well then break it, and make it even better next time.

More About the ‘If It Ain’t Broke, Break it!’ Idea

If it’s working well then break it, and make it even better next time seemed like a radical idea at SoMeT until I happened upon some studies about the theory of change last week. Then I was struck by how Charles Handy’s sigmoid curve makes the same suggestion.

Used to enlighten leaders about the reinvention process Handy’s sigmoid curve shows that most organisations only realise the need for change when the path to decline is well established.

But the challenge of reinvention is to interrupt that trajectory while it’s still on the rise and create a new sigmoid curve from that point of high achievement.

The sigmoid curve is a tool that helps us see the need for change in what many people would assume is a successful model.

But it’s a radical idea. It flies in the face of our traditional “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” belief.

Charles Handy and Andrew Fraser urge us to instigate change when an organisation is thriving and avoid the decline.

Sigmoid 3 (1)

Charles Handy’s sigmoid curve. Y shows the point there most post organisations would instigate change to combat decline. X shows the point where it’s better to instigate change while the organisation is still thriving.

Sounds good? Like any ideas this theory of change can only be tested if you put it into action. So what you do with this idea is up to you.

While you think about that here are a few other ideas that stayed with me after SoMeT. Most of the ideas are focused on tourism marketing. But whatever your niche there’s a lot we can learn from what travel marketers are doing.

Charel van Dam from Amsterdam Marketing

  • Create a powerful story
  • “Destinations are the sum of all of their stories.”
  • “It’s up to us as destinations to unlock powerful stories, bring them to a wider audience.”
  • “You can also have an Amsterdam experience if you’re not there.”

Susan Sullivan, Bond University

  • “Social capital involves the strength of your connections, the strength of your relationships, how you build on those relationships, your values and how you reciprocate.”
  • “Don’t expect a social favour to give a return on your investment but hope it give you a return on your relationship.
  • “Consider the value that will accrue over time through loyalty and sharing.”
  • “Relationships are like muscle tissue, the more they’re engaged the more valuable they become.”
  • “Reputation is becoming a currency more powerful than our credit history.”
  • “Best way to build a reputation is through content creation and curation.”
  • “Social media takes effort and it takes time. Your social media presence doesn’t make you human just by being there.”

Andrew Fraser, Tourism New Zealand

  • Tourism New Zealand’s marketing budget is 90% digital. In some markets 100% digital.
  • “It’s tougher to take something that’s working well and make it better.”
  • Be strategic about who you partner with – Google and Facebook, audiences and content.
  • Use hash tags like #NZMustDo to curate visitor content

Chris Chambers, Tourism and Events Queensland

  • “DMO’s role is to extend the connection between people and place.”
  • People are influenced by what their friends share on social media when choosing their next travel destination
  • Aim to establish themselves as destination expert but use other people’s content
  • Show your personality and be cheeky
  • “For us Facebook is a media channel, Twitter and Instagram are community channels.”
  • Use digital influencers as content efficiencies that save you from creating your own content.
  • Make sure your digital influencers are well versed in using hashtags
  • Engage with influencers with a dual purpose to create content that will be shared on their channels and yours.

Jessica Quinlan, TripAdvisor

  • TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel site because people love talking about their experiences.
  • Many people will decide if they go to a destination based on photos only.
  • 91% of people use a mobile phone while travelling and 60% are looking for a restaurant or dining experience.
  • 32% read reviews for 15 minutes. They’re looking for things to do.
  • Thailand, China, Brazil, Indonesia are huge users of mobile phones.
  • 77% of travellers want free WiFi
  • 67% of travellers book online and many book using mobile apps.
  • Mobile is still growing
  • Mobile is used on vacation for phoning or texting, maps, email, social networking, finding restaurants and things to do.
  • Offering a mobile friendly website is essential and mobile booking is even more important.

Emma Judd, Tourism and Events Queensland

  • Aim to get people taking about your event and the destination.
  • Optimal time for promoting events is from three weeks prior to event.
  • Most content is generated during an event but people may share top quality content in the months after the event.
  • Help people imagine themselves at the event though bringing the event to them through social media.

David Willcox, Common Ground

  • “There’s always someone out there who’s interested in your product, it’s just a question of reaching them.”
  • “Turning people into vocal advocates for niche products provides better marketing than any advertising.”
  • Tap into the extreme enthusiast and leisure market.
  • Go deeper than the typical eat, drink experience.
  • Offer unique experiences.
  • Listen, engage, research and you’ll be able to find brand advocates who will be essential to your marketing strategy or plan.

Lauren Bath, Professional Instagrammer

  • “Everyone knows the value of Instagram and what a fun platform it is.”
  • Instagram can make a destination real and increase its popularity.
  • Instagram is great for sharing things people don’t know about a destination.
  • Instagram starts at a ground level with local people.
  • Influencers with a big following should be offered incentives to use hashtags.
  • Operators are a key part of the puzzle. It’s important to educate them about the importance of social media and Instagram.
  • Influencers can create destination awareness,  social media content and traffic.
  • An influencer brings an established audience, a unique photography style, their own brand and audience invested in their personal story, an on-going conversation, fun, repartee and banter.

Frank Cuypers, Visit Flanders

  • “Don’t think your destination will be sold on what you think others will like.”
  • Prefers the idea conversation management to marketing management. It’s about connection. Connection should be personal, warm.
  • “It’s not about followers it’s about engagement. The emotional content of your posts is what’s important, not how many people like or share it.”
  • “Communities are about rhythm, not about rules.”

Caz Makpeace, Ytravel Blog

  • Deliverables bloggers can offer: live social media updates, blog posts and shared content for the product blog – photos or posts.
  • Constantly listening on social media and direct people to the information they need.
  • Choose local influencers or influencers who are already coming to your area because:
    Less on the ground cost.
    More flexibility and time.
    No need for hosts.
    Long-term relationships save you money.
    Relevant activities avoid wastage and give greater exposure.

Christine Retschlag, The Global Godess

  • Travel writers are like your average traveller on speed. They will tell 5,000 people about their experiences, not just five friends.
  • Sell the experience (a marine life encounter) not the product (a reef tour).
  • Turn negatives into positives
  • Start thinking about what the locals do and do that

Cory Gale, Tourism NT

  • Select the right influencer.
  • Capture assets that can be leveraged across multiple platforms.
  • Curate engaging and shareable content that aligns with existing campaigns.
  • Select the right operators.
  • Leverage key partnerships.
  • Align popular content – astrophotography, sunset, sunrises with experiences your average traveller can do.
  • Provide key messaging brief but let the influencer work to their audience as well”

Rebecca White, Tourism eSchool

  • “Your email database is your most valuable asset.”

If something’s working well would you dare to break it?

Find out more about the Social Media Tourism Symposium which hosts events in Australia, the USA and Europe.

During the conference event I stayed at my favourite accommodation in Caloundra – the Rumba Resort. It works just as well for a solo business trip as it does for a family break.