Social Walls for Tourism & Travel:Hands-on Tips for Promoting Your Destination with a Social Media Hub

Holidays. Vacation. Travelling. In most people, these words evoke strong emotions. They think about experiencing different cultures,  sightseeing, being active or just relaxing. Time off is often time spent with friends, family, the people we love, and should be an overall good feeling. It’s also something we all enjoy sharing on social media.

Tourists posing with the tower of Pisa
Whether it’s a selfie or a posed fun photo — people just love to share their holiday shenanigans on social media. (Photo: Barnimages)

Travel and tourism also make up a massive part of the global economy. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the industry contributed 7.2 trillion US Dollars to the global economy in 2015. With that much money at stake, tourism marketers are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to put what they are selling front and center in consumers’ minds.

Marketing a Destination via Social Media

Unsurprisingly, the competition is fierce. To make their businesses or destinations stand out and succeed, tourism marketers are getting creative. Instead of relying solely on travel agencies to send tourists their way, many regions are now reaching out into the social media realm to hook travellers way before they even glance at a brochure.

One way to do this are hashtag marketing campaigns. Social media hubs can create a sense of connection and community among visitors. Everyone loves taking selfies, and a wall full of happy holiday images is nice to look at for tourists considering the destination.

Screenshot of the Saalbach social hub
A bunch of happy faces on the Saalbach social wall.

By encouraging visitors to use a certain hashtag with their social media posts, the hashtag spreads, showcases the destination, and evokes all those nice emotions we were talking about before.

Hashtags are an easy way to bring social media users together, across communities and interests. Many winter sports destinations in Austria are now using hashtag campaigns and dedicated social media walls to show off their regions. We talked with four of them about their efforts and summed up some nice and actionable tourism hashtag marketing tips for you.

Start with an Event Campaign

Many of the tourist destinations using Walls.io started out with a social media hashtag campaign for a specific event before expanding and setting up permanent social walls.

Zell am See-Kaprun, a winter sport region in Salzburg that spans several villages and has a glacier to call their own as well, set up their first social media wall for the Ironman 70.3.

“We set up a social wall, because the target audience of Ironman loves to use hashtags. It was a cool use case. Throughout the weekend, we had great content on our wall.” – Patrick Riedlsperger, Zell am See-Kaprun

Tannheimer Tal, a winter sports valley in Tyrol, also started out with an event before going with a permanent social hub. They first used a social wall for the Ski-Trail Tannheimer Tal, an event with more than 1,200 participants.

The first hashtag campaign run by the region Saalbach Hinterglemm in Salzburg, for the Ski World Cup 2015, was covered on our blog last year. Today, Saalbach runs 6 social walls, both general and event-focused ones.

But even if you can’t set up separate walls for all your events, you can easily update your hashtags and channels in the Walls.io settings. For example, the social media team at Zell am See-Kaprun temporarily adds hashtags für particular events, e.g. for the ski opening at the beginning of the season.

Tip: Starting with a specific event allows you to figure out and test how you can use hashtags and social walls to interact with your visitors and target audience. Once you get the hang of it you’ll know better how to set up the permanent wall for your region.

Pick the Right Hashtags and Go with the Flow

Most of the time running a hashtag campaign means coming up with a unique and memorable hashtag. But when you’re setting up a wall for an existing tourist destination, you have to consider which hashtags are already in use.

Likely, visitors are already posting great content featuring your region to social media but they might be using a variety of hashtags that seem natural to them.

“The most-used hashtags are those that are intuitive, like town names, and we don’t even have to promote those hashtags, apart from consistently using them on our own channels, of course.” – Paul Kubalek, Tourism Association Saalbach

The official Zell am See-Kaprun hashtag is #zellkaprun, but the wall also collects posts with a variety of hashtags that don’t include the town name, among them the names of the two main mountains, #Schmittenhöhe and the glacier #Kitzsteinhorn.

Walls.io Tip:

When you’re setting up a social media wall for a destination, do your research about hashtags that are already being naturally used by your visitors. Use hashtag analytics tools like RiteTag, Tweetchup and Hashtagify to research connected hashtags. Having a look at Google Trends can’t hurt either.

And even if you don’t actively promote your town’s name as a hashtag, make sure you include all variations, including common misspellings of it, in your Walls.io keyword settings.

Consistently Use Your Own Hashtags

Ski Amadé, named after Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is a network of 28 ski areas and towns that together make up the second largest ski area in Europe. When posting to social media, Ski Amadé always uses their hashtags:

“We don’t necessarily say, ‘use #skiamade to upload pictures to our social wall!’ But we always use the hashtag when we post on our channels. That way we also make sure that our latest content from social media is always shown on our website as well.” – Marietta Weißofner, Ski Amadé

Saalbach is taking a different tack:

“We regularly point out our Window to Saalbach on our social media channels, linking to our Walls.io URL.” – Paul Kubalek, Tourism Association Saalbach

Walls.io Tip:

If you want others to use your hashtags then you have to lead the way. Remember to use your main hashtag when posting on your own social media channels. You don’t necessarily have to urge people to use the hashtag (you still can, of course) — when they see you using it, they’ll catch on quickly.

Cross-Promotion Is Important

Using your own hashtags is imperative but that alone doesn’t guarantee that the hashtags will spread. Make sure to grab your visitors attention right in your own domain. Unlike a lot of other online content, hashtags do translate well from offline promotion.

Zell am See-Kaprun promotes their hashtags in the newsletter, as well as on posters and other print materials.

Tannheimer Tal even prints their hashtags on business cards and other print forms, promoting not just their general hashtag but also their two events, #skitrailtt and the bike marathon #radmarathontt.

“We’ll also provide information about the social wall in the next issue of our guest magazine, which has a circulation of 35,000.” – Markus Wagner, Tannheimer Tal.

Tannheimer Tal business cards feature their hashtags as well
Tannheimer Tal is putting their hashtags front and center on print materials. (Photo: TVB Tannheimer Tal/Achim Meurer)

Walls.io Tip:

Promoting hashtags cross-media is essential for a successful hashtag campaign. Consider printing flyers and posters that will draw attention to your hashtags right at the spots where visitors are likely to take photos and post to social media.

Offer Incentives

Sometimes, as with all online campaigns, incentives are the way to the users’ hearts.

Saalbach recently ran a new campaign called #homeoflässig. To quote the explanation of the word “lässig” from their website: “Cool and laid-back — or ‘lässig’ as the Austrians say.”

“Our new campaign hashtag #homeoflässig has taken off, even without any big promotional push. An Instagram raffle based on the hashtag worked out really well for us. I guess we just happen to have a really cool community.” – Paul Kubalek, Tourism Association Saalbach

Walls.io Tip:

A raffle, or any other incentive campaign, can really do wonders for a hashtag campaign. Especially when kicking off a brand new hashtag that isn’t established yet or doesn’t explicitly use the name of the town or region, incentives are a great way to motivate people to adopt the new hashtag.

Show off the Best Content Using Post Moderation

Sometimes, you’re lucky and all of the content on your social wall is naturally amazing. Other times, you need to help it a little bit along.

Initially, Zell am See-Kaprun had some issues keeping their wall on topic:

“In the beginning, we had a bit of a hard time trying to keep up with post moderation, removing inappropriate content from our wall, but then we set up a blacklist. We still have to filter out some content manually, but it’s a lot easier now.” – Patrick Riedlsperger, Zell am See-Kaprun

Not everything can be filtered out automatically. In the case of Zell am See-Kaprun, posts mentioning the chocolate brand Schmitten keep showing up on the wall.

“We can’t very well filter out the hashtag #schmitten, because one of our main mountains here is called Schmittenhöhe, but now 90 percent of our content is great and doesn’t need to be moderated.” – Patrick Riedlsperger, Zell am See-Kaprun

Walls.io Tip:

Use the Walls.io setting to set up a blacklist. That way you can immediately keep inappropriate content off your wall. Observe your social wall for a while and then adjust your settings accordingly to make sure everything stays on topic. Any outliers that still make it through the blacklist you can remove manually on a per-post basis.

Show off Your Wall

What’s the point of having a beautiful social media wall if you’re not showing it off? The most straightforward way to show off your social wall and make sure that visitors notice your hashtags is to embed Walls.io on your website or microsite the way Saalbach and Ski Amadé are doing.

Zell am See-Kaprun currently doesn’t have the wall embedded on the website, but is using a teaser on their landing page to link to their Walls.io URL.

Screenshot of the social hub teaser on the Zell am See-Kaprun website
Zell am See-Kaprun uses a teaser on their website to link to their unique Walls.io URL.

Some regions also make use of the option to embed their social wall in a tab on their Facebook page, providing yet another way for users to discover the hashtags.

Another effective option is to take the social wall into the “real” world, just like you are doing when you’re promoting a hashtag on print materials. By showing your wall on screens in your info centres, lift stations, etc. you’re grabbing visitors’ attention at the perfect moment — they’re about to take a selfie or shot of the landscape, when they see your hashtag and posts displayed on a real screen.

Saalbach is already showing off their wall on a screen in their tourism service centre, and Tannheimer Tal is planning to set up their wall on a TV in their lobby as well. Zell am See-Kaprun has set up 45’ video walls in both of their info centres in Zell am See and Kaprun.

The Saalbach visitor centre displays the social hub on a screen
The social wall displayed on a screen at the tourism service centre in Saalbach. (Photo: Saalbach)

Don’t underestimate how much people enjoy posting something and then seeing their post appear on a screen right there. Screens are a great way to draw attention to your hashtags and motivate people to use them.

Walls.io Tip:

Walls.io Pro and Premium account holders can embed the social wall on their website by grabbing the iframe code for the embed widget in the “Embed & Display” settings. For those with Walls.io Free accounts, linking to the wall in a teaser from the landing page is a good alternative.

Installing your wall in a Facebook tab is also pretty easy. Pro and premium accounts will find this in their “Embed & Display” settings. Just click on the button that says “Install as Facebook Tab” and follow the instructions.

Keep Analysing and Adjusting

Research and analytics shouldn’t be underestimated. You’ve already done your hashtag keyword research before setting up your campaign. Equally, you can now use hashtag analytics tools to analyse how your hashtags are performing and adjust your campaigns accordingly.

I hope you enjoyed our first use case post. I’d love to hear from other tourist regions and businesses using social walls in their marketing efforts. I’m especially interested in adding some areas that are a little less snowy. 😉