Baltimore, New Orleans, San Francisco Lead in Twitter Tourism

A report from DCI found the top five cities using Twitter to draw visitors to their convention and tourism centers are Baltimore, New Orleans, San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Fort Lauderdale.

Destination marketing firm Development Counsellors International, which specializes in tourism and economic development marketing, announced the results of a report on how destination organizations are leveraging social networking site Twitter to draw interest and visitors to their cities. Baltimore, Fort Lauderdale, New Orleans, San Francisco and Tampa Bay are the top U.S. destinations to market their cities via Twitter, the report found.

The study's objective was to determine how destination organizations-generally the Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs)-are leveraging one of the fastest-growing social media tools, Twitter, to market their communities and create a dialogue among potential visitors. With the growth of the social networking site and its ability to deliver real-time information to millions of people instantly, the report concluded Twitter is a service that individuals and businesses across many industries are embracing. For the travel industry, estimates claim that more than 300 CVBs have Twitter accounts.

DCI analyzed and compared nearly 3,000 tweets posted by the largest CVBs in the United States during a 30-day period from May 1, 2009, to May 31, 2009. These groups represent the major destinations (by population) in the nation's top 50 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). The report said marketing effectiveness goes beyond the amount of followers or updates a CVB makes. While the "Tweet Elite" did have large numbers of followers and updates, they also ranked highest in connecting with potential visitors, community partners and other important constituents.

The study found 63 percent of the status messages included a link to a Web address, in addition to the other "content." Since Twitter limits messages to 140 characters, by including a link to a Web address, users could direct followers or readers to blog postings, articles from the local or national media, Web pages, coupons, or photo sharing sites. However, statistics on the frequency or percentage of link types were not recorded in the study, DCI said.

"If engaging your followers on Twitter is the key to using Twitter effectively, then having the most tweets or followers isn't enough," said DCI President Andy Levine. "Twitter must be utilized to connect on a more personal level. In social media, we don't just tell stories; we participate in storytelling."

Additional findings in the report include the types of tweets each destination marketer uses, although not necessarily the most effective, and the percentage of Twitter activity each category consumes. The types of tweets most often used are announcements about upcoming local events or news (54 percent); social tweets (28 percent); replies to followers (20 percent); deals, both travel and non-travel related (17 percent); and re-tweets from community partners (13 percent).

Taking into account "replies to followers,; "re-tweets from community partners," "social tweets," "deals" and "contests" when conducting the study, DCI also looked at the interaction level with a CVB's followers. Messages to potential visitors and to community partners have the effect of building relationships, said Levine, noting users who follow their community partners and copy their news to their own page are taking a step further by solidifying their relationships.