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Do hashtags work in tourism marketing?

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Thursday 20 June 2013
Do hashtags work in tourism marketing?

Travel Perspective

If you have been in London recently, the chances are that you will have seen a new outdoor campaign for the Italian region of Puglia. The region has invested in large posters at various Tube stations and on the backs of London's buses and it is backed up by a multilingual website at www.weareinpuglia.it

The campaign is interesting from a social media perspective because its tagline is #weareinpuglia as can be seen from the graphic at the top of this post. The hashtag and the contraction of the words shows that the destination marketing organisation behind the campaign is squarely taregting it at social media users. The recent decision by Facebook to support hashtags, which we wrote about last week here:Facebook joins the #hashtag frenzy  - means that the campaign is very timely indeed.

The cross-over of hashtags from the online world to the offline is a relatively recent trend.

A good example of where this has worked is the mobile phone network Three's famous dancing pony television advert. Viewers of the advert were encouraged to mash up their own dancing Pony videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/three/theponymixer and then share them using the #danceponydance hashtag.

Another good example is the #MarkeItWork hashatg used by the US fashion design reality TV series Project Runway, which you can read about on Mashable.

A hashtag used successfully across channels is a marketer's dream. If used well, it means an offline campaign can be tracked using the online measurement tools that make digital marketing so compelling.

Where it seems to work best is in the world of television, where many people are using their tablets and smartphones at the same time as they are watching a programme on another screen.

So will it work for Puglia? The images used in the campaign are very compelling but I do wonder how people are expected to use the hashtag if they see a poster in London. A tweet saying "Poster makes we want to go to Italy #WeareinPuglia" perhaps?

Recollection of the hashtag from the outdoor campaign if you actually go there is unlikely to be strong either. " Puglia is really beautiful #madeuphashtagaboutPuglia WTF!" instead perhaps. The hashtag seems not to have penetrated very far yet but perhaps it will come the summer.

We talked on this blog a while back about the #incostabrava hashtag used consistently by the region's tourism board in various campaigns, including in its Instagram efforts - see Costa Brava and the Instagram experience

I thought I would do a rough and ready comparison using Tweetreach.com, a useful tool for measuring the effectiveness of hashtags. Using the free version, you can analyse 50 recent tweets containing a particular hashtag and I compared the two. You can see the results below.

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The headline figures are fairly clear but what is more interesting is looking at the breakdown of the use of those hashtags. In Puglia's case, it is the marketing organisations themselves that are using the hashtag most. In Costa Brava's case, it is other people.

It's still early days for Puglia so things may change. I'll look again in a few weeks and report back.

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