Luck of the Irish? Hardly .
We’ve worked under contract with Tourism Ireland producing short-form Irish Travel Video PostCards, and they were always way ahead of most every other player in the travel industry in embracing social media opportunities.
They were innovative, experimental, and very early adopters of emerging social and new media platforms.
So we applauded when BusinessWorld (and others) announced that Tourism Ireland had beaten Virgin Atlantic, Cunard and Radisson Edwardian Hotels to cop the top prize.
Their winning strategy was clever and simple: A Twitter-driven campaign dubbed “My Irish 140” which connected everyone with Irish blood, or who felt connected to Ireland, to Tweet about it.
Wisely, the organization organized everything around the iconic 140 characters that are DNA of Twitter.
• The contest kicked off at 1:40 AM
• Winners using the #makesmeirish hashtag received a 140 hour stay in Ireland
• A web page highlighted the best Tweets and suggested 140 tips or things to do in Ireland.
This exceptional use of social media netted the tourism board a 3.4 million audience in Great Britain with another 33,000 participants, including some well-known celebs like M.C. Hammer.
The success should surprise no one who has been watching travel struggle to adjust to the new marketing realities.
Public Relations researcher, Carol Geraghty reports that since the beginning of 2010 Tourism Ireland has grown its Facebook fan base from 75 fans to more than a half million.
This makes Ireland, Geraghty reports, the third most popular tourist board in the world on Facebook, after Great Britain and perennial favorite, Australia.
In part Tourism Ireland has 19 different Facebook pages in 8 different languages with each page individually tailored to appeal to the emotions of its target audience.
German travelers will see the image of Ireland that most appeals to them; Americans will see and experience their preferred image of Ireland.
Being able to tap into the emotions of travelers in the “planning stage” of travel is the holy grail of converting lookers to bookers.
Rival British Tourism has, reports Geraghty, only one Facebook page, and only in English.
Mr Brian Harte, Head of eMarketing at Tourism Ireland, suggested that Ireland sees Social Media as “the lifeboat to take us out of these dangerous (recession) waters”.
Reportedly, Tourism Ireland allocates 25% of its budget to eMarketing, and is in the process of implementing social games to drive its brand and attract visitors.
The “luck of the Irish” sometimes comes down to embracing new technologies and taking calculated risks, even as the competition continues to pursue paragraphs of print.