Rekindling the love affair: Brand USA on inspiring a new generation to travel

Working out a country-specific social media page has become a routine exercise for many global brands. Destination marketing agencies are no exception. Local social community managers in each country focus on engaging content while providing local market insight. EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta assesses initiatives being taken by Brand USA, the tourism marketing body for the USA

National tourism agencies and tourism marketing entities have set some interesting precedents by making creative use of social media platforms over the last few years. Initiatives are largely about promoting a destination, but the route taken is what stands out. From the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) decision using Foursquare as a way to open rural and remote areas in Montenegro to tourists to Tourism Ireland relying on a social game to promote its global St Patrick’s Day promotions, it seems creativity, ingenuity and originality are in no short supply.

However, social platforms are also about extending the reach of destination content via social interaction. For this, destination marketing organisations are getting better and better at working out country-specific social media pages. Consider Brand USA, the tourism marketing body for the United States which began operations in May 2011.

To coincide with the launch date of launch in April last year, country-specific social media pages were set up in the following countries: both a Facebook and Twitter presence for Canada, the UK and Japan, plus another French Canada Twitter account. Following this Facebook and Twitter accounts were added for Brazil and South Korea.

“Social Media is a key outlet of Brand USA’s. Since the 23rd April launch of there have been 4.9 million page views globally with an average visit duration of nearly three minutes. In addition, there have been more than 940,000 views of our DiscoverAmerica YouTube Channel content,” says Chris Thompson, chief executive and president, Brand USA. “Social Media allows us to engage with our target audience on a number of different platforms and showcase the United States of America like never before.”

In addition to targeting potential travellers, the entity is also targeting the travel trade.

“We have set up travel industry specific pages on both Twitter and Facebook to engage the travel trade in bespoke initiatives, such as the inaugural Brand USA Megafam where we are bringing 100 agents to the USA from the UK & Ireland to experience seven different itineraries through a huge familiarisation trip, as well as the Fam Photo Competition – a competition set up for agents to post their best shots of the USA,” explains Thompson.

Optimising the use of accounts

According to Thompson, Brand USA oversees a global editorial calendar executed by community managers within each of its five current markets that works to highlight the diverse travel opportunities within the USA and its territories.

“Each social channel has its own social strategy and objectives around content, but overall the goal is to provide relevant, first-person travel ideas and inspiration to potential travellers,” says Thompson.

To create relevant and personal conversations with its global communities, Brand USA works with local social community managers in each country to help create engaging content while providing local market insight.

Technology today complements human resources that have been dedicated for country-specific social media pages.

For instance, a few months ago Facebook introduced Global Pages focused on paving the way for an engaging experience for global businesses and their respective communities. Organisations are allowed to customise their Facebook page’s presence for each country/geographic region, while maintaining global metrics such as ‘likes’, ‘check-ins’ etc. Users are guided to the most relevant brand page, as per their geographic location, and brands can link to the main global page with a single vanity URL.

Integrated marketing efforts

Thompson says through its social media presence and the marketing work Brand USA is doing across print and online outlets to reach the consumer directly, it is to reinvigorate the consumer to think about the US in a fresh and unexpected way. “Brand USA’s objective is to rekindle the holidaymakers’ love affair with America – reclaiming their share of the market and positioning it as a diverse destination still to be explored,” he says.

A few months ago, the entity chose to go ahead with the next phase of the global campaign ‘Land of Dreams’ in the UK. The campaign was planned in partnership with British Airways and will include 60 and 30-second TV advert spots, supported by digital and print elements.

Alongside conventional media channels, Brand USA is looking at more meaningful initiatives. “Working with Facebook and Twitter, we will begin testing ad formats that help showcase our rich and curated content in a relevant way to our global social communities,” says Thompson. “We will also be partnering with USA travel brands and destinations in a series of online programmes that help provide rich and exciting programmes that help to show our social audiences how to 'Discover this land, like never before’.”

Recipe for success

According to Thompson Brand USA’s key indicator for success is a formula of total fans and percentage of engagement. “While our goal is to grow a large and robust social community, we place a strong value on keeping our community engaged and active,” he says.  After all, people talk about their holidays to friends, family and colleagues. They recommend destinations, experiences and products. “When people talk our aim is to ensure it is positive about the USA as a holiday destination,” he says. “Our Facebook page is a wonderful representation of word of mouth. Often people share their travel stories, photos, ask advice and source answers from our growing global community.”

Creating a place where people can be inspired by travel ideas and facilitate their connection with other travellers is what Thompson and his team are aiming to achieve. It’s about informing a community of local insights on attractions, cities, states and the experiences to be had. 

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