In our series of social media marketing reviews, we next take a look at how countries are marketed through social media channels. Social media is being used extensively by the tourism industries around the world at present, and Sri Lanka is a prime example of a nation using social media to optimize its tourism sector.
The year 2012 saw one million tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka and that figure was bettered by 26.7% in the following year. All the first seven months of 2014 have had more tourist visits to the island than the numbers of last year. Tourism is one of the major industries in the country’s economy and major steps are being taken to further enrich the island as a leading tourist destination in the world.
The Sri Lanka Tourism Board is mainly using Facebook and YouTube for its social media marketing strategies. The former is updated several times a week with posts about recent events, heritage sites, cultural shows, natural attractions and activities from around the country. The posts are highly informative, and are targeted towards the foreigners visiting the page. With regards to fan interaction, the posts are acknowledged with high number of Likes and comments, while fans also resort to posting their views, images and queries on the page wall.
The YouTube channel of Sri Lanka Tourism focuses on the various destinations and activities that travellers can engage in when they visit the island. The videos range from wildlife visits at national parks, religious sites and events, features about the Sri Lankan cuisine, and more. The channel has almost 300 subscribers and over 120,000 total views.
Sri Lanka Tourism’s Twitter page is crossposted with the same content of the Facebook page. No direct handling is to be seen, and the regular mentions of the account by tourists are left unanswered. A Flickr page is also being used, and it is updated with colourful images of various activities and sites around the country. A LinkedIn page has been set up and consists of basic information about tourism in Sri Lanka, but it is not used for regular updates.
Country marketing through social media of Sri Lanka can be directly compared to the neighbouring South Asian countries. India, with its tourism catchphrase ‘Incredible India’, carries out their social media marketing on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and YouTube. The posts on Facebook and Twitter highlight the wildlife, heritage and cultural aspects of the country along with news updates. However, this official tourism page has just 4,000 Likes and as a result, the fan interaction remains at a low level. The Google Plus and YouTube pages are largely inactive at present.
— India Tourism (@incredibleindia) September 11, 2014
Pakistan operates a highly informative Facebook page for its tourism activities, as well as a Flickr feed that consists of attractive and colourful photographs of around the country. The posts are focused on landscapes, cultural shows and tourism events and are received with a number of Likes and comments. Compared to its neighbour, India, Pakistan’s official tourism page has over 20,000 fans.
Sri Lanka tourism industry can be considered on par with the tourism sector of the Caribbean islands. This vibrant and colourful destination is widely regarded for holidays and travel among tourists around the world. The Caribbean Tourism Development Company appears to be making full use of social media channels to attract and retain visitors to their area.
The Caribbean Travel Facebook page is updated several times a day, with posts focusing on the destinations and news items, while the Twitter and Google Plus pages are also updated with the same content. The Twitter account is mentioned several times each day, as travellers log on to the social network to share their experiences and images with their own followers. The Twitter account retweets various tweets of holiday resorts and hotels in the region, making the social media marketing campaign a collaborated effort.
The Caribbean tourism industry is making full use of the online pinboard social network – Pinterest. Pinboards have been set up for all the individual islands, and they consist of highly attractive images of each destination. This is an example of social media put for good use, enabling users to view what each segment of the Caribbean has to offer, before planning their vacations. An Instagram account is also in operation, and the page has over 500 posts and 1500 followers. The images posted on this network are met with high number of Likes and comments.
There have also been instances where country marketing through social media has resulted in negative outcomes. The Swedish Government carries out a unique and risky method of social media marketing, by letting different citizens handle the @sweden Twitter account each week. The project was initiated with the aim of promoting Sweden as a tourist destination, allowing the citizens to show their views of Sweden to the whole world. However, in June 2012, Sonja Abrahamsson, the Swede handling the account for a week, sent out several questionable tweets during her tenure. This development not only affected the country’s image but also raised many concerns about the strategy deployed by the authorities.
It is evident that tourism bodies are using social media mainly to showcase the less popular properties of their countries. While the tourism websites offer total travel solutions for the guests, the social media channels are being used to gather interest and attract new visitors. The strategy of highlighting the nature, heritage, culture, cuisine and other elements of a country through social media would be helpful in the long run and is certain to be the premier marketing tool for the tourism industry during this information age.