Help the South Dakota Dept. of Tourism market online…

I received an interesting query from a friend of mine:

“Dave, if I was a Dept of Tourism or had an attraction in South Dakota and was looking at getting creative at spending advertising dollars in new ways. How would you advise me? Or how do I take advantage of You Tube, Linked In and other social media or even a blog?”

I’ll share my own answer, but am hoping that some of you might also have some interesting ideas that could help them.
Hmmmm… I would think about the attraction as an entity and then ask the question “how can this entity make friends?��? Think about the needs and interests of the potential visitor and ask “what are they looking for in entertainment?��? So this might mean that you tap into contemporary popular culture and have a “reality show��? at the attraction, or have a competition where people make funny videos at the attraction, post them to YouTube and also notify the marketing team. Each is also promoted at the attraction’s Web site and people vote: the most popular for each month gets a $100 cash prize or his and hers South Dakota sweatshirts or similar.
You could also have entry fee discount coupons on their MySpace page, for example, to encourage people to make friends with the attraction: this means that people who visit THOSE folk also see the link to the attraction, and so it snowballs.
The department of tourism itself needs to identify a few target demographic markets, perhaps families with young children (as an example) and then craft a marketing campaign built around that. For this one, perhaps they could feature the state parks with free-to-rent bicycles, or the amazing public pools, or the new playground complex just opened by city hall, etc etc. This appears online as and is promoted with 2-3 minute video spots on YouTube.
Demographic #2 might be civil war buffs and the state could sponsor an entire tour including a free DVD that is a 90 minute tour of the various historical spots, coupled with a small booklet that includes coupons for historic B&Bs (who pay for the privilege of being included), attractions, and even souvenir shops. The pitch, though, is history as much as fun and entertainment. As part of it, you could include a coupon that can be redeemed at the state capital for a book on South Dakota’s role in the Civil War. And this also all appears online – including the 90 minute video, chopped into 6 15-minute segments, at a web site with a URL like or similar.
See how they all weave together to make a coherent multi-platform marketing campaign? That’s the real message and that’s the reality of the new online world: it doesn’t so much replace existing marketing as offer new channels to reach target demographic audiences.
Anyone else? What would you suggest that could help the South Dakota Department of Tourism leverage social networks and new media properties to gain visibility and achieve their mission: bring more tourists to the state?

3 comments on “Help the South Dakota Dept. of Tourism market online…

  1. What about getting your visitors to do the promotion for you? In the end, it doesn’t matter why YOU think the attraction is worthy… it only matters what THEY think.
    So instead of creating a campaign to have the Department of Tourism promote the attraction, turn your current visitors into raving fans and have them do it for you.
    People relate to people. They don’t relate to monuments, or attractions. If the D.O.T. tells me to come and look at the big stone monument, eh… not so compelling.
    If Jack (a guy who reminds me of me) says to come and explains why he had such a blast visiting something he thought would be drop dead boring… well that’s a different story.
    You’ve already got people coming right?
    So leverage the reason they’re coming already. Get them to talk about it. Audio, video, written… and then start getting it out in the market.
    My 2 cents.

  2. Great ideas Dave, and Jason (first commenter). To both of your points, I would recommend encouraging curent South Dakota fans to create content that shows their love for the state, and then make it incredibly easy and rewarding to those people to share this content with other prospects.
    Allow users to vote on and rate the best video. The competition idea is a great way to encourage users to get their friends involved. “Hey, buddy, check it out, my video or photo gallery is currently ranked #12 on this site! Try to beat that.”
    Display the winning monthly video on the DOT’s website and promote it in all of their channels (email, partner websites, etc.). You are essentially rewarding the user by giving them exposure & a wee bit of fame. People love that.
    Great question, Dave! Ken (

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