How Local Destinations Use Social Media in Quebec [STUDY]

How Local Destinations Use Social Media in Quebec [STUDY]

The province of Quebec is a particular travel spot in North America. The main language spoken here is French and there is a clear European heritage in its culture, gastronomy and overall joie de vivre. Yet, as a part of Canada, the lifestyle and customer behaviors here are truly North American. Quebec’s tourism landscape is split up into 22 regions, managed by Destination Management Organizations (DMO) that represent members from their local travel industry: accommodation, transportation, restaurants, events & attractions. Among the 22 associations each marketing their own destination, which ones are doing a better job at using social media to promote their destination online?

The findings

Social Media Logos

A study by Gonzo Marketing was conducted in April 2012, combining a qualitative survey conducted with each association’s marketing officer along with a quantitative analysis of each association’s online presence and on various social platforms. Here are some of the key findings:

Google PageRank: Every destination web site has a minimal score of 4. Among all the destination, five have a PageRank of 6: Gaspésie, Mauricie, Outaouais, Québec and Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean. Only one organization scores a PageRank of 7: Tourisme Montréal. (PageRank is useful to get an indication of how many incoming links go to a given website, quality of these links and traffic. Minimum is 0, maximum is 10)

Site Optimization: 79% of destinations say they optimize their site for search engine. On the other hand, 75% of destinations are NOT transactional. Destinations tend to prioritize a role of promotion and information, content generation and awareness, leaving the transactional aspect to either the provincial umbrella of BonjourQuebec.com or either sending the business directly to its members (hoteliers, transportations, events, etc.).

Facebook: 95% of local destinations have a Facebook page, with 3,374 fans on average (excluding data from Tourisme Montreal, an outlier that would distort the math) and average engagement rate of 6%, which is above the 2-3% average on Facebook pages. Montreal is the clear leader with its more than 68,000 fans, followed surprisingly by Gaspésie area and its more than 19,000 fans!

GaspésieJetaime.com sur Facebook

Twitter: 89% of local destinations manage a Twitter handle, which demonstrate leadership in engaging on a social media where more and more travelers are active. After all, only 21% of the Canadian population is active on Twitter, yet this still represents more than 7 million active users! On average, each destination account had 1,134 followers for 788 followings. Top 3 most popular accounts? Montréal, Mauricie and Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean!

Tourisme Montreal on Twitter

Google+: Only 37% of local destinations held a presence on Google+ at the time of the survey, while 47% mentioned they would look into it by year’s end. However, a closer look at existing accounts show very little activity, with some showing their latest post dating back to February 2012! Time will tell how things unfold, but the platform seems to lack stickiness at this stage.

Blogs: Nine associations have their own blog, with four more set to join them by year’s end, which represent a surprising 60% of all local destinations. Interestingly enough, when validating through tools like Alexa.com and Google PageRank for sites with a blog, results show favorable rankings, thus confirming the benefits in terms of referral traffic, content optimization and freshness, which all link to a dynamic blog and website. Tourism Montreal is the only one offering a blog in English, though. Click here to read on

Pinterest: Only two associations were active on the new social media darling at the time of the survey, but eight more were on the way, which would bring Quebec local destinations presence to nearly 50%. Seems like most tourism marketers understand the potential in both terms of powerful images and referral traffic by this social platform, mostly used by a favorable demographic in the travel decision-making: women!

Mobile: Knowing that 79% of Fortune 500 companies did NOT have a mobile site at the end of 2011, it’s great to observe that seven local associations already have a mobile optimized site, with six more intending to complete one by year’s end, which would represent 65% local destinations with a mobile site. Mobile applications, though, are a tougher sell: Two-thirds (66%) don’t intend to develop one or don’t consider it a priority.

Newsletters: The vast majority (89%) of local destinations use newsletters as a key communications tool with an average database between of 10,000-50,000 members. More than two-thirds send out regular monthly newsletters, or at least 10 times per year.

LinkedIn, Flickr, Youtube, Foursquare: Just like with Pinterest, local destinations understand the power of visuals, whether it’s photos or videos. Thus, most have some kind of presence on Youtube and, to a lesser extent, on Flickr. The benefits are less clea for LinkedIn, where some are active to generate B2B sales leads, talk with influencers or help with the employer brand. As for Foursquare, surprisingly, there is very little action on this front, with only one local destination actively managing a presence on this platform.

 Tourisme Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean

Conclusions

Discussions with marketing officers in local destinations, a qualitative survey and quantitative analysis all point to common threads, conclusions and challenges. Overall, the performance and existing presence by local destinations in Quebec is certainly on par or even above etourism standards, looking at online marketing campaigns, content management, social media, mobile platforms and so on in the travel industry.

The challenges lie ahead in harnessing these efforts within a company-wide approach of marketing the destination, rather than addressing social media as a channel, or simple extension of the marketing mix. A lot of existing efforts are being made on a trial & error basis, rather than as part of a strategic plan. Thus, most marketers interviewed admit to lacking clear metrics to measure success, and identify the need to demonstrate ROI as a key challenge moving forward.

A dynamic social media strategy is a must and is acknowledged as such by most, if not all, in the Quebec tourism industry. It’s now a matter of getting the proper resources in place, properly measuring against goals and objectives and getting a mobile strategy to complement it all. Fun times ahead!


Frederic Gonzalo
Written by Frederic Gonzalo

Senior marketing and communications expert & speaker with 18 years expertise in the travel and hospitality industry. Consulting since early 2012, I provide strategic planning, social media & mobile development counseling to small and medium businesses alike. Reach me at frederic@gonzomarketing.biz

12 comments
Peter Trapasso
Peter Trapasso

Frederic, Excellent post! It is great to see such a high percentage of businesses using Facebook and Twitter. It will be interesting to know how Pinterest is leveraged this year. A couple of friends of mine from NYC just spent last week touring Montreal. They were very pleased! cheers, Pete

Fawn Duchaine
Fawn Duchaine

This is a fantastic report and great presentation, very informative. Agreed that many utiizing social media strategies continue to struggle to define the ROI. skuttlebutt in Toronto agencies with many national brands that want active social media are struggling with what cost (budget allocations) and what is actual ROI. If it doesn't translate into a sales increase the expenditure has to fit the outcome. There is little definition, and budgets vary wildly within these retail sectors, I imagine same must be true for all DMO's - how much time, energy, personnel etc and how to directly measure the impact. There are truly so few companies that can boast the investment currently fits the return.

Adi Gaskell
Adi Gaskell

Interesting stuff Frederic. Did they mention in the research how the official sites for the region compare against unofficial ones? For instance, the official London tourism page on Facebook has 80,000 'fans', which on the surface sounds pretty good. But a page called 'Great Little Place in London', which tells people about cool places to go in the city has 115,000 fans, which puts the official page into a more realistic perspective.

Erik Emanuelli
Erik Emanuelli

Great information, Frederic. It is interesting and informative, to see how local destinations use social media to publicize the tourism and those great places. Especially seeing those big numbers! It makes me want to visit Quebec! ;-)

Gazalla Gaya
Gazalla Gaya

Great post, as usual, Frederic. Very thorough and I love the graphics - they add an exciting and exotic visual touch to the entire post. I have to say, I'm also surprised by the statistics. I didn't expect such a high percentage for mobile and also Facebook and Twitter presence. Altogether, a good outlook, looking to get better. It looks like your local destinations already know the importance of social media. I wonder how many resources they will be willing to allocate to increasing their social media strategies?

Troy Thompson
Troy Thompson

Hey Frederic, Great post and solid research. Kudos. I do wonder, as more and more destinations follow the herd into these social channels, if the effectiveness of the social channels will begin to decline. And the impact of local fans v. traditional visitors. Did any of the DMOs mention a more local audience on these channels? Curious. - Troy

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo

Thanks Peter! Pinterest shows great potential in the tourism sphere, I guess the challenge will come from how to manage this additional platform when many are already struggling just with Facebook and Twitter. Glad to hear your friends enjoyed Montreal - last week was the International Jazz Festival and weather was great, so no doubt they had a good time... Cheers, Frederic

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo

Thanks for the feedback, Fawn. Totally agree on the challenge posed by defining and proving ROI, but it's not always a measure of sales conversions or leads. It always boils down to goals and objectives, and how success is defined. My previous post was dedicated to that very topic: The Seven Business Drivers of a Social Media Strategy So yes, it's an ongoing battle, but we have no choice than to get better at metrics and measurement if we wish to succeed as an industry. Cheers, Frederic

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo

Very good question, Adi. The research did not look into unofficial accounts as there aren't any that have similar impact as what you mention with London. The only exception is Montreal, which has various official accounts (business & meeting planners, B2B, etc.) depending on the platform, but numbers don't come close to the official public account. It is something to consider in many destinations, though, specially those who were late to come into the social media sphere, and where other early entries took up the "official" space. Cheers, Frederic

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo

Thanks Erik! If you do come over to Quebec, please let me know... I've a got a few good contacts here and there! :-) Cheers, Frederic

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo

Funny you should ask that question, about resource allocation, as it was an important element of the study that I chose to leave out of this post, simply because I did not want it to run too long. It is indeed a key concern, along with showing ROI, as most local destinations use one or many resources on a part-time basis. Nobody is dedicated to managing social media, and in many cases the strategy is not overarching, making it difficult to justify efforts in this realm. This will certainly be one of the biggest challenges moving forward in the Quebec travel industry. Thanks for the feedback, as usual, Gazalla! Cheers, Frederic

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo

Thanks for the feedback and questions, Troy. Indeed, these DMOs did mention one of their big challenges as being how to appeal to a broader audience, since right now their fans and followership are mostly local. In a way, it's normal and as it should be, since that's their key mandate - out of province audience ought to be dealt with by the provincial bureau (Tourism Quebec) or even by the Canadian Tourism Commission on the international level. But this isn't always so. As for the reducing effectiveness of social channels, yes, it's a factor but as it's becoming a must, destinations need to become more savvy and use the proper tools to effectively communicate to their target audiences. Just like having a web site gave an edge back in 1995, today it's considered de facto for doing business. Social platforms, I believe, fall into this category, just like mobile, whether it's a mobile-optimized site, a site adapted for tablets or an application. Those who do it right today have an edge, but it will be common place within what, 2-3 years at most? The real question all of this poses is: how will destinations (and senior management) adapt to these changing technologies? Resources will have to reallocated, different skill sets will be required and training accordingly. Change management, as we say... Cheers from Quebec City, Frederic