by Lisa A. Grimaldi | February 01, 2014
Since their earliest days, destination marketing organizations have helped planners promote their meetings by providing collateral such as brochures, maps and postcards. Now, many offer social media support as a powerful enhancement to their services.

"It has become a critical and growing part of the CVB toolbox," says Christine Shimasaki, CDME, CMP, managing director of Washington, D.C.-based empowerMINT, Destination Marketing Association International's marketing initiative to connect planners and DMOs. "It helps get planners engaged with destination happenings and enhances the experience for attendees."

Following, M&C looks at five DMOs that are at the forefront of social media support for events in their destinations.

Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau
When attendees converge on the city of Austin, Texas, they're greeted with a welcome tweet from the Austin CVB. This simple greeting is just one effort spearheaded by interactive marketing manager Katie Cook (pictured above, left).

The bureau's social media efforts initially targeted leisure travelers, first via Twitter and Facebook accounts, and followed by Flickr, Instagram, Foursquare and Pinterest. In 2010, Cook suggested adding meetings to the initiative and created a dedicated Twitter handle, @meetaustin, to reach planners and share news about the destination.

From there, Cook contacted planners who had upcoming meetings and conventions booked for the city, and asked what social media assistance might be helpful. The services provided have run the gamut from a quick consultation on how the group should use and/or improve their social media communications for the event, to providing resources like photos and interactive maps that planners can upload to their event apps. The bureau also created a Foursquare list of restaurants and suggested activities in the neighborhood around the Austin Convention Center.

"We're always looking at what planners want from social media, what they are using, and what they are interested in trying," says Cook.

The bureau's social media services currently are "gifted," according to Cook, to events that are large, prominent or important to the city.

Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau
"In our industry, we are past rates, dates and space," says Gathan Borden, director, brand marketing and advertising, at the Louisville (Ky.) Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Now, it's about how bureaus can make meetings successful for the planners and attendees."

To that end, the bureau has made social media support a major initiative. A 10-person social media team, tapped from departments including convention services, sales, group tours and communications, helps planners develop social media plans for their events, build attendance (via tweets about what to do in Louisville) and keep them in loop about what's happening in town during the convention. For example, the bureau used real-time tweets to alert attendees that a popular dining spot near the convention center was closed due to a burst pipe.

The DMO's social media support is available free to all groups, regardless of their size or number of room blocks booked, according to Borden.

One frustration his team has is that many groups don't want to use the bureau's hashtag (#asklou) because they prefer using only their own. "If we can get them to use ours too, it will alert local businesses that the group is in town and they can share special offers directly with the attendees," says Borden.

Plans are in place to create a social media command center to monitor tweets and provide custom blurbs for high-profile groups. "We're also talking to the University of Louisville about creating internships for students interested in social media applications. They'll get real-time experience and, at the same time, they can teach us some new ideas too," says Borden.