On Message: VisitBritain’s Twitter drive is paying off

On Message: PR Week editor Danny Rogers on marketing and branding

The marketing body’s social media drive will prove even more astute as government cuts eat into funding, says Danny Rogers

In a survey published last week VisitBritain came 16th in a list of UK brands on the social network Twitter.

Boasting more than 15,000 followers, Britain’s official promoter of tourism (@VisitBritain) impressively ranked above brands such as Lastminute.com and Asda.

But it is testament to VisitBritain’s active embrace of social media marketing in the past few years, particularly when one notes that VisitBritain is the only public sector ‘brand’ in the table.

Some time ago the tourism body wisely committed itself to ‘developing the world’s best social media strategy by a national tourism agency’. And in recent years VisitBritain has put its Mac where its mouth is, developing a range of social media platforms including LoveUK on Facebook and a corporate news feed on Twitter, @VisitBritainBiz.

Meanwhile the body’s marketing website is available in 21 languages around the world.

This focus on social media makes good financial sense at a time when VisitBritain’s budgets have been slashed by more than a third, thanks to the Comprehensive Spending Review.

For the next few years there really isn’t going to be the budget for expensive ‘old media’ global advertising campaigns, let alone far-flung marketing offices in Asia.

Privately, some at VisitBritain are relieved that the whole body did not go up in flames completely as part of the Government’s ‘bonfire of the quangos’. But to continue to prove its worth, the organisation now needs to pursue cost-effective ways of promoting Britain’s tourism product to potential visitors around the globe.

VisitBritain has always been a forward thinking, well-run body, and David Cameron made the right decision in not giving it the Guy Fawkes treatment. In the recent Nation brands Index poll Britain was voted the world’s fourth most attractive destination after USA, Germany and France. (Interesting to see that the none of the top three have a royal family. Maybe we should consign that tourism myth to the bin?)

VisitBritain’s determination to market these shores with acute relevance to the 21st century is what has kept Britain near the top of this list – and, as such, it makes absolute sense to use the latest technology to communicate with potential tourists.

Quite apart from its huge reach, the other great advantage of Twitter as a marketing tool is that VisitBritain can keep in touch with its customers and track what they are thinking.

In a highly competitive global tourism sector, the marketing tactics must be continuously fine-tuned, to see precisely what it is – food, shopping, fashion, music, arts, architecture – that attracts visitors at any point in time.

It is incredible that a nation can attempt such a ‘dialogue’ with hundreds of thousands of international travelers each month, but this is the potential that Twitter and other social network platforms provide.

The trick is to keep pushing the boundaries, in every sense of the word.

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