Ontario’s West Coast, Understanding and Observing Social Media Metrics to Increase Tourism

Cathy    March 5, 2018

When you have the warmth of a beautiful day, the soft sand between your toes and the stunning shores of Lake Huron, you have the perfect location and attraction to promote tourism. There is nothing better than walking on the boardwalk in Goderich, enjoying the beauty of the marina in Bayfield, touring around local food producers purchasing fresh Ontario grown food, eating at the amazing restaurants, and enjoying all the craft breweries and wineries that are scattered around Ontario’s West Coast.

The Ontario’s West Coast (OWC) tourism brand represents Huron County, along the shore of Lake Huron. The County of Huron has a population of 60,000, which soars to 800,000 in the summer months. Beautiful cottages, B&B’s, motels, hotels and campgrounds are spread throughout the shores of the West Coast. Luckily for Ontario’s West Coast they knew enough to engage in social media and add metrics to their programming and promotion of tourism many years ago. If they weren’t using social media and tracking their metrics, they would be walking blind through the process of tourism.

Huron County is home to approximately 60,000 people and a visitor destination to approximately 800,000 people a year.1 SOURCE: The County Planning and Development Department, “County of Huron Annual Tourism Report” (May 2012), 4.

Some of the important things to remember when looking at social media metrics in any industry is to track followers, understand where they’re from and what engages them most on your social media channels. Tracking the engagement on your posts to see what sort of reaction you are receiving. You should know when your followers are most active to be able to get your message across at the right time. Always monitor mentions on your page and be sure to respond when necessary. Keep track of your content and know what works and what doesn’t, what has been shared and what sort of referral traffic you have received. All these tactics can be done easily with the proper social media metrics installed. Here are a few social media tools you can use to monitor your social media metrics: HowSociable, Hootsuite, Twazzup, Likealyzer, Mention, Google Alerts and Google Analytics. There are many more out in the marketplace, but these are easy to use and free of charge.

It is essential for the economy of many small communities that relay on tourism to use the powerful tool that social media can extend to them. Ontario’s West Coast engages in social media to enhance the development of the tourism community. I was lucky enough to speak to Scott Currie, Communications and Marketing Officer of Huron County and Brittany Wise, Social Media Marketer for Ontario’s West Coast to ask them some questions about their social media metrics.

What social media platforms do you use for Ontario’s West Coast?

Although we have dabbled with various social media platforms in the past, our current primary focuses are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

How long have you been tracking your social media metrics?

We have been tracking our social media metrics since we started using these platforms over 10 years ago.

Do you find the engagement has been up over previous years?

Overall, OWC engagement has plateaued. Based on analysis of comparator performance, our observation has been that to increase our reach and engagement we need to pay to promote our campaigns. This is something we’ll be re-starting in 2018.

How do you track your return on investment (ROI)?

Really good question. Social media performance is a really powerful leading indicator of tourism economy performance, which is what we really care about. Ultimately, we need to ensure that all of the marketing (paid, earned, shared, owned) work that we’ve done actually increases sales in the local economy. So, when we measure actual ROI of marketing effort, we don’t look at social media metrics, we look at things like accommodation occupancy rates, restaurant receipts, event ticket sales/attendance, etc. If these real measures of economic performance are not going up, then our social media key performance indicators (KPI) are meaningless ‘vanity’ metrics and we need to revisit them.

What specific measurements are most helpful?

Shares. It’s not only an endorsement by the person sharing it, reflecting their personal brand, but also increases the reach of our campaign.

What content receives the most engagement?

Generally, news stories (video or articles) receive the highest engagement. Photos of the area are also popular.

Do photos or videos work best for you?

We use a combination of photos, videos and links. We NEVER post information without some sort of image attached to it because it reduces the chance of the content being seen and shared. I would say that it’s not necessarily the medium/format it’s shared in – the content is what drives the success of a post. With that being said, the Ontario’s West Coast brand hasn’t ever tried embedding their own videos onto our social media accounts (we only share video content from others) ,so it’s hard to comment on if videos work better or not. Generally speaking, the Ontario’s West Coast video content is too long for use on social media so we haven’t gone there yet. It’s something we’ll explore in 2018 and beyond.

Is there something new you would like to use for social media engagement in the future?

Social media platforms are in constant state of evolution; so too are tricks of the trade. But, content is king. Always has been, likely always will be, and so our focus is curating stories that reflect outstanding, authentic visitor experiences.

Thank you Scott Currie and Brittany Wise for your time and for letting me engage with you in this knowledgable interview on the importances of social media metrics.  

The stats on the tourism industry are staggering to see and it is obvious that you need to track and monitor all social media to make sure to entice as many travellers as possible to the area. When you look at the Ontario Tourism website  they have their own unique way to track metrics. Ontario Tourism tracks visitor spending with the use of their Tourism Regional Economic Impact Model (TREIM). TREIM makes it easier for people thinking of opening a business to find out what the economic impact would be.              

Some of the info you can gain from using TREIM would be:

  • Visitor Spending – estimates the economic impact of tourism spending in a specific region and/or for a specific event;
  • There are 17 built-in activity options, including festivals, golfing, casinos;
  • Operational Expenses – estimates the economic impact of operating an ongoing business, such as an attraction, retail business, hotel or restaurant;
  • Investment Expenditures – estimates the economic impact of investing in or building a tourism facility such as an attraction, retail business, hotel or restaurant;
  • Convention Centre Activity – estimates the economic impact of a convention, including the spending of delegates and exhibitors as well as production costs.

When you are able to use a tool like TREIM to gage activity, you can also see what sort of impact your social media has on the bottom line of the economy. When Mr. Currie tracks the ROI and sees that the economic performance measures are raising, he knows that he is making an impact on the bottom line of the economy for Ontario’s West Coast, but also for Ontario Tourism overall.

Lessons for Others

Ontario’s West Coast has been using social media metrics for the last 10 years. They have been able to gather very important information on their potential tourists. They can plan their campaigns around this information. They have been able to engage tourists to visit the area and spend time and money along the coast. With the ability to know what, when, where, how and why people travel makes their social media more effective and useful.

There are several strong tourism destinations, making it a competitive marketplace. To stand out amongst the competition and support the local tourism economy, it is crucial that brands provide consumers with the type of content and delivery they are looking for and will engage with. By using social media metrics, OWC has developed a firm understanding of what content will resonate with their target audience. As tools and algorithms change, the brand needs to adapt accordingly.

“Over the years, the way that we use social media platforms has drastically changed. We’ve had to adapt our strategies and content to align with what our audience is looking for. In 2018, we will be increasing our paid advertising and generating more original content, which we hope will result in an increase in engagement with potential visitors to the area and stimulate the local economy.” Brittany Wise, Social Media Marketer for Ontario’s West Coast

Social media tools have become an instrumental component of the tourism marketing strategy for the Ontario’s West Coast brand and has encouraged a strong economy, vibrant communities and endless amounts of activities to enjoy year round in Ontario’s West Coast.

Organization: Ontario's West Coast
Industry: Tourism
Name of Organization Contact: Scott Currie and Brittany Wise

Authored by: Cathy Bieman

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