Norway: The Happiest Country in the World. That’s an accolade that’s hard to come by with 193 competitors around the globe. National Geographic recommended it as one of the “20 Best Trips of 2011.” Even CNN listed it as one of the World’s Top Destinations for 2011 — #5 to be exact. But somehow, an avid traveler like myself has never heard Norway described that way. Frankly, I’ve never heard anything about Norway from any of my well-traveled friends. Why is that? And why hasn’t Norway done anything to attract us?
Well… actually, they have. Innovation Norway, the tourism board for Norway, launched a social media campaign called Norway. Your Way. in 2010 to increase awareness of Norway as an attractive and desirable tourist destination in Europe. They described it as “a competition to find 5 adventure seekers from Europe to compete and challenge their own boundaries in a beautiful wintery Norway.” The competition required consumers to submit a creative piece inspired by Norway.
Watch the campaign’s teaser video here:
Over 1,400 entries were received from five countries (UK, Italy, France, Germany and Russia). The five winners (one from each country) set off on their journey in February of this year, accompanied by Norwegian explorers Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen, and the challenge ended earlier this year. Innovation Norway’s strategy was to leverage word-of-mouth marketing through each of the 5 winners who documented their 10-day trip through Norway.
Frankly, I think the campaign is genius. It harnessed the collective powers of Norway’s bloggers, tweeters and social media gurus to encourage entries, vote on the best ones and then follow the campaign throughout. But now that the short-term campaign has ended, is Norway reaping the desired ROI of their initial strategy?
VisitNorway.com – Norway’s ongoing tourism marketing campaign is active on Facebook (+ US-specific page), Twitter (Norsk, Spanish, German, US) and YouTube, with several accounts on each (to serve different foreign audiences). They even have an app for Android and iPhone that serves as an in-depth travel guide to Norway, with thousands of hotel, restaurant and attraction listings. They’ve attracted a total of 28,207 Facebook fans (on both pages) and 10,176 Twitter followers (across all accounts). All in all, I think they’ve done a pretty terrific job of covering all their bases.
Now what, though? How will Norway keep attracting people? With a population of over 4.5 million people, close to 95% of Norwegians enjoy seamless, high-speed Internet access. That’s even higher Internet penetration than North America, Singapore and the entire continent of Europe. Not only that, over 50% of Norwegians use Facebook on a weekly basis.
With stats like that, Norway has an incredibly valuable untapped national treasure: its very own citizens. Norway needs to shift its tourism marketing into the hands of the every-day media-savvy Norwegian. Who better to capture and tell the beautiful story of Norway than its very own? With hundreds of bloggers, thousands on Facebook and Twitter, Norway can create an army of its nation’s own brand ambassadors with little money and effort.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against Norway’s initial strategy of using tourists to generate creative content that would then hopefully “go viral online.” On the contrary. I think Norway is on the right track. They should move forward and take their strategy to the next level by engaging tourists at every touch point of their visit.
I have three recommendations for Norway’s ongoing tourist engagement on social media. These could be incorporated into a long-term campaign in partnership with major tourist hotspots (airports, transport hubs, hotels, restaurants, outdoor attractions).
- Facebook Places and Foursquare: People love being in everyone else’s business. It’s in our nature. So naturally, if our friends are checking in at Oslo International Airport, we’re intrigued. Encourage tourists to check in wherever they go, virtually creating an online logbook of their entire trip. And, more importantly, marketing Norway’s beautiful destinations for free.
- Gogobot and TripAdvisor: We all know by now that word-of-mouth is the most powerful marketing tool. We believe other people more than we believe advertisements. By the time most of us are nearing the end of a vacation, we’re not thinking about writing reviews. But when we have a great experience, we’re usually willing to write one. So, why doesn’t Norway take advantage of that goodwill and ask tourists to recommend them on travel sites where other travelers can see their reviews?
- Twitter: Twitter has two very cool features: location-based tweeting and photo-inclusion. The best tweets are specific and visual. Imagine all your friends tweeted their travels with great photos of beautiful, far-off lands. Now, imagine you knew exactly where those photos are taken! Sounds like a sweet deal to me.
Norway is definitely on to something. They understand the importance of social media presence. They understand the power of user-generated content. Now, if only they would remind their two most valuable stakeholders to spread the word… Personally, I think they’ll strike gold.