word of mouth marketing

Get word of mouth marketing. Get Socialgenic™.

I wrote this article when I was working at Destination Think! consulting dozens of tourism businesses across North America on how to improve their products (services) and promotions for “connected customers”. I have decided to republish it here for 2020 as it seems more relevant than ever. I hope you enjoy it and please contact me with any questions or for a personal ideation conversation.

Give them something to talk about

Recognizing that visitors are social and that travel-bragging is a primary motivator for travel, modern destinations and tourism experiences can maximize peer to peer promotion by employing Socialgenic™ strategies and tactics to get word of mouth marketing.

Social: That which includes a connection and an exchange between two or more people.
Genic: That which produces or causes something.

Social + Genic = Socialgenic™: That which produces or causes a connection and an exchange between two or more people.

Destinations and businesses that provide experiences and infrastructure that include social sharing at their core create a win-win scenario for both guests and hosts. Think of it as social symbiosis! By participating in a Socialgenic™ experience, visitors benefit immediately through fun, distraction, and the benefit of the social status that comes from participating in novel experiences. As a result, they are more compelled to share and increase awareness of a destination or experience among their peers.

Today, this sharing most frequently happens through digital media on social networks, however it can also happen via word of mouth, email promotion, displaying a memento in a visible place or mailing a postcard. Both digital and physical assets can play a role in maximizing peer-to-peer promotion.

No matter which tools visitors use to share, User Generated Advertising (user-generated content that includes your brand or place name in some way).

Bricks and Mortar Socialgenics: Habitat Vacantion Rental Ucluelet, BC

By leaving one brick unpainted during their renovations and applying their logo to a brick adjacent to it, Habitat Vacation Rental in Ucluelet, BC created a Socialgenic™ photo-op. With the branding “baked in” each guest photo is a “user-generated ad” not just user generated content.

A great time to add Socialgenic™ elements is during a launch or redesign. You are already doing a ton of work, find a way to create something that will pay you word-of-mouth dividends.

While an awe-inspiring view will always prompt user-generated content, not every destination can be the Grand Canyon. Unless you have a few eons of erosion on your side, have a look at the following case study to explore the tactics you can use today to make your destination and its experiences more Socialgenic™.

Crafting Word of Mouth Marketing With Wheelhouse Brewing Company: Message in a Brewery

During Destination British Columbia’s Remarkable Experiences pilot project, I worked with Wheelhouse Brewing Company in Prince Rupert, Canada to develop the Socialgenic™ (and mildly effervescent) “Message in a Brewery” (MIB). In this brief video, brewery co-owner James Witzke gives a brief overview of MIB:

As with craft beer, experiences that are built to share require carefully-considered ingredients and craftsmanship. The Message in a Brewery experience illustrates key factors in creating a successful Socialgenic™ experience to increase the quality and quantity of peer-to-peer promotion:

  1. Sharing the activity equals participating in the activity. When an experience plays out on the canvas of a guest’s social media feeds, peers are alerted of an experience every time someone engages in it.
  2. Guests are already remarking on the activity. Consider the visitor journey to identify when and where guests have the motivation and opportunity to connect with others. For Wheelhouse Brewing Company, the natural place to start was with guests remarking on the authentic nautical flags hanging over the bar.
Mariners have used nautical flags to communicate over long distances for centuries. At Wheelhouse Brewing they were the Socialgenic™ trigger for Message in a Brewery Experience.
  1. The experience leverages existing infrastructure to keep costs down. At Wheelhouse, the signalling flags were already in place. To make the experience Socialgenic™, the brewery simply needed to provide a bit of branding and a layer of context and communication.
  • A business’ values and origin story are at the core. MIB is consistent with the brewery’s stated commitment to being “a very accessible brewery in a very inaccessible place.” There is a certain whimsy and irony in combining cutting-edge digital technology with century-old maritime signalling flags to allow guests to send messages to friends anywhere in the world from the brewery on the “left side of British Columbia.”
  • Branding is “baked in.” Physically including names or logos on essential parts of the experience ensures that participation results in User Generated Branding with no effort needed from the participant. In this example, the Wheelhouse Brewing Company logo was tactically placed under the flag for the letter “B,” a letter essential for spelling “BEER.” The best socialgenic experiences are the ones that, like the Ronco Rotisserie oven, you can “set it and forget it,” because they deliver every time.
  • Gamifying the experience lets the guest do or create something, not just document or consume something. According to Wikipedia, “gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game context […] in attempts to improve user engagement.” One reason games are so engaging is that they let individuals express themselves and affect outcomes within a defined framework. While the most obvious “Message in a Brewery” is to send the word “BEER,” motivated participants have all the tools they need to propose marriage or quote Shakespeare.
  • The activity is “future proof.” An effective Socialgenic™ experience will generate conversation and awareness that will remain relevant no matter how people choose to share in the future – be it through Snapchat, Facebook Live videos, or a social sharing tool that has yet to be invented.
  • The experience is inherently fun, cool, or interesting for the participant. The activity needs to provide enough value to prompt participation on its own, outside of further incentives like prizes or prestige. At Wheelhouse, the novel opportunity to send a cryptic message to a friend from the brewery at the edge of Canada was fun enough to get them clicking and posting.

  • User Generated Advertising
    User-generated content that includes your brand or place name in some way.

  • The barriers to participation are low. Expect greater participation when the experience does not require paying a fee, jumping through flaming hoops, or worse – installing a native app. “Message in a Brewery” solved a common guest problem: “What free, fun thing can I do while I’m away from home, sitting here with a beer in one hand and a smartphone in the other?”
  • Get Word of Mouth Marketing: Help Your Customers Help You

    Your destination can better serve its visitors’ needs by helping them document and share their experiences in a clever and valuable way. As they do so, guests will help the destinations and operators they visit create stronger and more effective peer-to-peer promotion. In this way, creating a Socialgenic™ experience for your visitors is a win-win proposition.

    Future articles will explore tools and tactics such as Landmarks, Rituals, Infrastructure, Assets and Mementos that are available to destinations and their tourism industry partners who seek to serve their customers with Socialgenic™ products and experiences that turn them into your best marketers.

    Get Help Getting Socialgenic™

    Get the Socialgenic™ advantage. I have helped close to 100 businesses across North America make their customers their best marketers by design.

    Combine my expertise and creativity with your passion and personal story to create something truly remarkable. There is a coaching package to fit your goals and budget. Let’s talk!

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