Influencers, brand partnerships, social commerce, and algorithms bring new perks and perils to your destination’s content marketing.

Online culture keeps evolving, bringing new opportunities for destination marketers like you. And we at Destination Think are here to break down the trends.

Audience behaviour is changing as dramatically online as it is in real life. Pandemic fatigue? Meet algorithm fatigue. Zoom call in sweat pants? Meet goofy Instagram glamour. Storytelling styles are veering away from shiny influencer exteriors and toward a new definition of authenticity. The social media platforms are feeding us short-form video tailored to our precise desires, and we’re all gobbling it up even as many people get savvier about how they use social and share data.

Though platforms, mediums, and methods will always change, your DMO’s role in the content space remains the same: 

  • Support local communities and businesses by sharing their stories. 
  • Inspire the right type of visitors to connect with your destination. 
  • Help visitors at relevant stages of the customer journey.
  • Build your audience as a community of potential advocates who will share their love of your destination’s experiences with their networks. 

With that role in mind, our content marketing team has highlighted five significant trends to help you better connect with your destination’s potential visitors. 

Trend 1: Today’s influencers use fewer filters and share more candid moments

Staying true to your values and taking a stand, noted by our content team in 2021, remains vital as ever among influencers and brands online. What’s changing, though, is the reliance on a perfectly curated look. Today’s creators are using fewer filters and sharing more candid moments. Analogue photography is trending too. Audience behaviour is driving this trend as people show a greater awareness of the dangers – and potential inauthenticity – of using photo editing apps. The glamorous side of influencer life has also made way for something much friendlier and goofier. Check out trainspotter Francis Bourgeois, whose 2.2M TikTok followers are proof that sharing your true passions is what makes you interesting online.  

The takeaway for DMOs: 

In 2022, people will spend less time crafting picture-perfect posts and more time sharing honest stories and building communities around their passions. Think about how these changes in behaviour affect the content you decide to share on your channels. Consider also how this trend might change people’s stories about your destination and stories about travel in general. For example, Erin Outdoors posts honest videos about her anxiety and how it affects her ability to travel. She shares them to help others in her situation. Other influencers are vocal about the places they will or will not visit based on sustainable travel. Influencer values are more visible than ever, and DMOs have room to grow here.

Creators Rianne Meijer and Vivian Hoorn mix humour, fashion, travel and lifestyle themes with messages of body positivity, winning them millions of supporters worldwide. 

Trend 2: Platforms make it easier to partner with brands and creators  

The last few years have seen big changes in how brands use social media. TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn have all invested in tools that make it easy to connect the right creators to the right brands. Today’s partnership opportunities are also far more transparent. On Instagram, for example, creators can disclose their partnerships with brands in feed, Stories, Live, Reels and Instagram videos. These “in partnership” features allow brands to step away from their channels and hand creators the keys to driving engagement, growing engaged communities, and promoting their products. 

The takeaway for DMOs: 

Your DMO channels don’t have to host everything, and you can even work with creators on platforms where you might not maintain a presence. Think about who else can help you tell your destination’s story and promote its various offerings. For example, a U.S. destination looking to attract bird watchers could partner with an organization like the National Audubon Society. Or, your DMO could go the usual route and partner with individual influencers or creators. No matter who you choose to work with, it’s now easier to find the right candidate, collaborate, and get insights from partnerships – and that’s a win for content marketers. 

REI, a sports equipment company, partnered with Subaru and travel influencer @callmeflowerchild. The multi-video journey illustrates how to shop for outdoor gear and responsibly visit a national park. 

Trend 3: Social commerce is expanding 

Social media platforms are now serving more stages of the customer journey. Shopping tools on Instagram, Pinterest and even TikTok continue to be refined but are currently limited to the sale of products. The ability to sell tourism services and experiences will be integral to how destination marketers further embrace social commerce.

The takeaway for DMOs: 

Teach local businesses how to take advantage of shopping habits on social media – a crucial step when visits to physical locations are down. For example, help a pottery studio update their Instagram account to share their story and sell their wares in one convenient place. You could also think about partnerships between retail and non-profits in your area. For example, “buy a sweater, and we’ll donate to a local forest conservation group.” These efforts can boost business and your DMO’s positive impact when visitation is down.

Trend 4: Your potential visitors watch a lot of short-form videos

This year, TikTok and Instagram Reels will continue to feed the demand for short-form videos. As a compelling form of storytelling, video content is one of the best ways to engage and grow your online community. Instagram, for example, continues to prioritize Reels in the algorithm, which means more exposure for these types of videos above all else. 

The takeaway for DMOs: 

When planning content and budgeting in 2022, start by reviewing your content schedule and weighing the value of video on your channels. What results are you seeing? Are you better off spending the time you put into image posts brushing up on video skills and tactics? Could you shift your focus to finding short-form videos from your online community and asking permission to reshare? Consider these questions and adjust your content plans and budget accordingly.

Creating short-form video content doesn’t have to be complicated or have high production value. Keep it authentic to your destination’s identity. Share diverse perspectives as much as you can.

Travel Oregon's Instagram video shows someone sitting atop a cliff and the words "No name lake via Broken Top Mountain. Bend."

Destination BC's Instagram video shows a woman drinking a coffee looking over a railing to Vancouver's waterfront. Canada Place is on the right.

Travel Oregon and Hello BC share casual, unpolished content that reflects the identities of those places. The Oregon post is published on @leadawnhart‘s channel in partnership with the DMO.

Trend 5: Passion-based content is everywhere

As you scroll through endless videos, who decides which one appears next? One answer is that you do, indirectly, according to your interests as collected and analyzed in engagement data. The algorithms of major platforms bring you what (statistically speaking) will keep you engaged by placing your passions front and centre. 

Passion-based content is becoming a higher percentage of what you’ll tend to see on the platforms, whether you’ve asked for it in your feed or not. On Instagram, you may have noticed that content from people you follow is becoming a little harder to find as you thumb scroll. More posts in the main feed come from hashtags you follow or are recommended based on your past behaviour. Twitter’s Related Topic feature gives you the option to sort some tweets into categories whether you follow people in that niche or not. Facebook’s private groups are popular forums for people with common interests. Each platform has its method, but creators understand that passionate interests drive engagement and word of mouth.

The takeaway for DMOs: 

Strive to know the passions of your potential visitors better than the algorithms do. Study your destination’s markets anew, as they may have shifted since the pandemic began, and seek to understand what specific interests motivate your visitors. Their interests go beyond destinations (Cleveland, say) and into niche passions they seek to fulfill no matter where they go (baseball, orchestras, rock and roll).

Niche-focused creators and accounts are going to have the biggest impact on word of mouth. Gauge influencers by the trust they’ve earned within a particular passionate audience, rather than by the size of the account alone. Think about which niches your destination can serve through excellent experiences, and how those overlap with potential partners. Those experiences can become part of the positive word of mouth circulating online, whether on your channels, on a partner’s, or elsewhere. And when reporting, ditch the importance placed on “followers” and focus instead on engagement and, to a lesser extent, reach. 

To recap, we’ve written about five content marketing trends for tourism destinations:

  1. Today’s influencers use fewer filters and share more candid moments.
  2. Platforms make it easier to partner with brands and creators.  
  3. Social commerce is expanding. 
  4. Your visitors watch a lot of short-form videos.
  5. Passion-based content is everywhere.

Our team continues to watch trends like these and their opportunities for DMOs of all sizes. 

This article was written by Destination Think team members David Archer, Sara Raymond, and Katie Shriner.

To stay on top of destination marketing trends, subscribe to DMO Matters, our weekly newsletter of insights and industry best practices.


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