Survive the Facebook algorithm and thrive with timeless destination marketing strategy

David Archer

16 February 2018

“… you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups. As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.”
-Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO at Facebook

In January 2018, Facebook announced a significant change to its News Feed algorithm. The social media company says it will begin showing more posts from friends and family and less from business pages, while encouraging meaningful interactions.

Some brands worry they will no longer be able to effectively reach their slice of Facebook’s almost 2 billion users.

Is your destination’s Facebook audience destined to die out without a strategic intervention?

Chasing the Facebook algorithm will lead you to the wrong metrics.

Facebook is reacting to a tough year. The company has acted in response to fake news, people who game the system to get web traffic, political pressure, clickbait headlines, bad PR – the list goes on.

Savvy content marketers are watching the news and the data. With each algorithm change or major announcement, they adapt their tactics to optimize their output and get the best results possible within the limitations of the medium.

But don’t let your destination’s overall marketing success depend on Facebook’s generosity with organic reach. You will become distracted by the wrong metrics. Increasing your Facebook marketing KPIs won’t necessarily affect visitation by itself.

It’s time to flip the script.

Instead of reacting to Facebook, examine your destination marketing strategy.

As our Chief Strategist William Bakker likes to remind us, the question is: WHY?

Why is your destination using social media? Why are you on Facebook?

Social media is about two-way conversation. It is not about buying attention and getting bigger reach. It is there to help you talk to visitors and visitors-to-be. Besides, the recent Facebook algorithm changes are meant to emphasize quality and authenticity, which is exactly what your destination marketing organization (DMO) should be striving for.

What Facebook provides, better than any other medium, is a tool that lets you connect with your destination’s biggest fans.

Those fans and followers can also help you share your brand widely by word of mouth – one of the transformational opportunities available to DMOs today. (Don’t take our word for it, read the DestinationNEXT reports from 2014 and 2017.)

Your social media followers are more than an audience; they’re passionate advocates.

Nurture those advocates, and they will keep talking about your destination on Facebook, at work, at a family reunion or at the hair salon. The marketing term for those conversations is earned media, which is incredibly valuable. Why?

  • People trust personal recommendations more than ads and brand messages. (Nielsen survey)
  • It doesn’t matter whether those positive conversations happen on your Facebook page or not. They might happen elsewhere on the web, like TripAdvisor or Reddit or in a mountain biking forum. Understanding your destination’s complete earned media picture can help you understand your advocates even better. (This is why we offer sentiment analysis research to our clients.) Even if your Facebook page’s numbers go down because of a new algorithm – especially reach, perhaps the most meaningless metric in terms of impact on visitation – it’s no indication that visitors aren’t talking about you.

Improving word of mouth is all that matters.

Why? Word of mouth influences visitors, so it should matter to your DMO. It doesn’t matter where the conversations happen.

Think about it from the traveller’s point of view:

  • Planning the right trip is complicated,
  • Travel is a huge investment of time and money,
  • Travellers are most likely to act on personal recommendations,
  • Once they choose a destination, travellers can easily research the visitor experience through reviews, forums, photos, videos and more,
  • Visitors share stories during their visit and after they get home, which helps the next visitor, and the next.

Positive word of mouth and meaningful earned media will affect the way people travel.

Is your DMO set up for success through word of mouth?

When destinations place word of mouth and earned media at the centre of their strategy, they will find success no matter what Facebook decides to do.

The DMO Facebook pages we manage are prepared to both handle algorithm changes and link their Facebook performance with the larger destination marketing strategy.

Here’s an example from one of our clients, Visit Flanders. To build the best kind of tourism for its communities and its visitors, the destination focuses on developing a few key experiences, including Belgian beer, chocolatiers, art from the Flemish Masters, cycling and Flanders Fields.

The DMO is able to boost word of mouth by serving the passionate advocates of each of those niche experiences. Our team manages their Facebook page called Flanders Fields 1914-18. This Page serves a devoted following of World War One history buffs who use Facebook to learn about important sites in Flanders and to have truly meaningful conversations.

Word of mouth on the Flanders Fields 1914-18 Facebook page

These posts from Visit Flanders Flanders Fields 1914-18 Facebook page generated word of mouth and meaningful interactions.

For example, the post on the left has been shared almost 2,000 times. Comments like “I never heard the name Edith Cavell before now…” and “I was in a Paris suburb last weekend and saw this road named after Edith Cavell,” with a photo and the ensuing replies indicate how strongly this content is resonating. The quality of conversation is high.

The video shown on the right has now been viewed more than two million times, thanks to the thousands of shares and comments from armchair historians and those with ancestors who participated in the history of World War One, and of Flanders.

The quality of engagement on this page comes from content tailored to a specific, passionate group of advocates. We have no doubt that they would keep talking about Flanders if Facebook didn’t exist. But for now, they are here.

Your destination will win by enabling its entire industry to excel at boosting word of mouth.

DMOs can provide leadership and lift word of mouth across the entire destination by helping operators gain the right skills to tell the destination’s story.

Tourism and Events Queensland Content Framework

Click to view Queensland’s Content Framework.

At Destination Think, we have helped our DMO clients do this in many ways, including programs to develop shareable experiences, and a host of other education for operators, including webinar coaching and guidance on best practices.

For example, we developed this Content Framework for Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ), which will help TEQ’s tourism stakeholders shine online and boost word of mouth recommendations for Queensland and their own businesses, no matter where the conversations happen.

Through education and collaboration like this, tourism operators can also contribute to the strategy that will outlast algorithms.

Don’t let Facebook’s algorithm changes take your DMO’s focus away from its visitors, their interests, and most of all, their stories.

Does your DMO need a strategy reset, help with content marketing, or a best practices guide for its staff and industry? Destination Think can help.

1 Comment

  1. john

    Thanks for sharing.keep up the good work.


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