Can Travel Bureaus Tweet Their Way to Travelers?

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Twitter, in case you haven't heard, is now widely considered a marketing must. All types of businesses are experimenting with the social networking site, trying to find a way to convert followers into customers and tweets into dollars. The travel industry is no exception.

Destination organizations, mostly Convention and Visitor Bureaus (CVBs), are among the strongest presences in the travel Twitterverse: Some estimates suggest that more than 300 CVBs have Twitter accounts. A new study released by destination marketing firm Development Counsellors International examined how those bureaus are using Twitter.


The study analyzed nearly 3,000 tweets from the largest CVBs in the country over a 30-day period in May. The results showed that Baltimore, Fort Lauderdale, New Orleans, San Francisco and Tampa Bay are the top U.S. destinations to market their cities via Twitter.

The study also documents what, exactly, these travel marketers are tweeting about, though not necessarily how effective those tweets are at strengthening business.

The breakdown:
*    Announcements about upcoming local events and news -- 54 percent
*    Social tweets -- 28 percent
*    Replies to followers -- 20 percent
*    Deals (both travel and non-travel related) -- 17 percent
*    Re-tweets from community partners -- 13 percent

    "If engaging your followers on Twitter is the key to using Twitter effectively, then having the most tweets or followers isn't enough," says Andy Levine, president of DCI. "Twitter must be utilized to connect on a more personal level. In social media, we don't just tell stories; we participate in storytelling."

    To that end, Levine advises building relationships with potential travelers and with fellow travel companies through direct messaging and faithful following. Our own Ruthanne Terrero recommends the very same -- after all, Twitter is the chance to engage with potential clients.

    Similarly, the study's authors suggest that marketing effectiveness goes beyond the amount of followers or updates a CVB makes. While the bureaus the study ranked as successful, or the "Tweet Elite," did have large numbers of followers and updates, they also ranked highest in connecting with potential visitors, community partners and other important constituents.

    Travel Agent recently hosted a roundtable on the potential of social networking sites to better the travel biz. Check it out below, and be sure to register for the magazine's own instructive webinar on making Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn work for you.