How Holland builds and executes its social media strategy: Tips for destinations of any size

Sara Raymond de Booy

31 January 2017

Ever wonder how other destinations do it?

During Destination Think’s 2015 Social Media Tourism Symposium in Amsterdam, Tessa Dirks from NBTC Holland Marketing outlined her day-to-day challenges and triumphs as the organization’s international Social Media Manager. From having limited budget to working with a team of international ambassadors and reporting on the value of her work, Tessa outlined her approach in the presentation below:

Strategy First

Valuing transparency, Tessa shared that Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions (NBTC)’s 2015 budget was $85,000 for social media activities to speak to tourists around the world. This budget has to account for building communities, managing the pages, managing freelancers, and running any campaigns. At the time she started working with NBTC, her first step toward working with this budget including creating the organization’s first social media strategy. This focused on engagement.

Tessa Dirks, NBTC Holland Marketing

Tessa Dirks, Social Media Manager at NBTC Holland Marketing, speaks at Social Media Tourism Symposium 2015

Dirks explained the three pillars she relies on to determine the success of her efforts: engagement, growth, and value. One of these pillars can’t give context to the health of her strategy as a whole, but the combined data gives her a good sense of how well her team is doing.

To assess value, NBCT uses Tourism Ireland’s SEAV (Social Equivalent Advertising Value) metric that uses an algorithm to give different value to different types of engagement. These combined provide Tessa with a value of her Holland pages. (For those interested, we’ve created another approach to ROI in collaboration with Destination British Columbia, Illinois Office of Tourism, Innovation Norway, Tourism and Events Queensland, VisitEngland and Visit Flanders, called Potential on Investment (POI). Download the POI whitepaper and calculator here.)


Crucial to Tessa’s success with global engagement is the Holland Ambassador team. This group of seven are each located in the Netherlands and are all very familiar with a specific target market’s culture, language and sensitivities. Local ambassadors understand the voice that is best suited to the audience they’re speaking to about the destination, and this all helps NBTC to better communicate to the Netherlands’ key markets.

All ambassadors have social media experience, and most importantly, because these individuals chose to live in the Netherlands, Tessa believes they are true advocates for the country and exceptional choices for ambassadors.

But what does that look like practically speaking? Each ambassador works on her pages for less than an hour per day, responding to questions and interacting with the community. They don’t work 24/7 because they’re working to create awareness, not provide customer service.


Three years after kickstarting her social strategy, Tessa shared her key learnings so far:

Go for the long haul

Running from campaign to campaign is not efficient, especially if you have a limited budget. When you do work on campaigns, ensure that resources have a long lifespan and can be used in the future. A photo contest on the Holland pages, for example, gave Tessa and her Holland ambassadors a great library of user-generated content to use in later posts.

Organize the workflow

Using Google Drive and Excel, Tessa typically plans content a month ahead. The content in her plan is flexible, but gives her a guide that helps her and her team focus. In the event of a crisis, Tessa’s ambassadors have also provided her with key responses in case they cannot be online to assist while she handles communicating about it.

Stick to your strategy

Social landscapes are changing rapidly, and when something new comes up, Tessa explained that she resists the urge to do something with everything. She examines trends, tools, and apps and asks herself “does this work with my strategy?” If it doesn’t, she moves on.

Let communities tell the story

Curating isn’t new, but is still as important as ever. With online destination communities that aren’t as conversational as you might want, Tessa recommends adding incentives for sharing as a way to collect more content and learn from past visitors.

Need help with your digital or social media strategy? From consultancy, to coaching, curation, campaigns or core tactics, Destination Think has helped hundreds of DMOs stay ahead of the curve with content marketing. Contact us to discover options for your organization.

Featured image credit: Bert Knottenbeld, Flickr


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