Increase Your Exposure: May 2019

With the success of our recent marketing efforts and partnerships, we’ve had some inquiries into how to best participate in Come Wander and get involved in marketing opportunities.

We’re driven to create content and share stories – whether written on our website, compiled through our newsletter, promoted in video, or captured in photos – that will resonate with our audiences and inspire readers to take action. We also want to make sure we are sharing authentic stories from across Ontario’s Highlands and representing our partners like you.

If you’re wondering how you can increase your exposure, participate in Come Wander, and boost your chances to be featured in marketing special initiatives, here are the top 5 things we look for:

1. Standout Product & Experience

We have a strategic, visitor-centric, and experiential approach to tourism development. To meet our brand promise to our visitor, and build trust, we need to be sure experiences we’re suggesting to visitors standout in terms of quality, uniqueness, and customer service. We want to do everything we can to ensure visitors are having positive experiences they can rave about to best leverage word-of-mouth marketing and build advocates for the region.

2. Eagerness to Partner

We invest in opportunities and promotions to inspire visitors to Come Wander Ontario’s Highlands and one way we can leverage our efforts is to partner, whether that be with provincial, sub-regional, or individual business partners. These opportunities include things like hosting Influencer trips, coordinating video and photo shoots, and paid digital advertising pushes. We look for partners who are eager to work with us and who see the value in these opportunities, and we prioritize those who are willing to contribute to the opportunity – this doesn’t necessarily have to be a strict financial investment, but could instead be an investment of time, a reduced rate (i.e. charging for hard costs only) for an experience being promoted, or even comping an experience or upgrade.

3. Keep Us in the Loop

We can’t share what we don’t know. We strive to stay aware of exciting news and new experiences being developed across Ontario’s Highlands and have processes in place to ensure we are doing so (i.e. following and monitoring businesses on social media, collecting responses to Monthly Guiding Questions and Seasonal Product Knowledge Forms, connecting with partners). If you think there’s something we should be aware of – a new business, event, or experience you’re excited about; a story you think should be shared; a topic you don’t feel is represented in our current content – please tell us! Fill in a Monthly Guiding Question or Seasonal Product Knowledge Form, send us an email, or give us a call at 613-629-6486 to make sure we’re kept in the loop.

4. Customer Reviews

This goes back to the standout product and experience because checking online reviews are one way potential visitors, as well as our team, evaluate an experience. It’s important to not only have a listing on sites like TripAdvisor and Google My Business, but also to monitor these listings and engage with reviewers. A positive review is a great (and free!) marketing opportunity, and a negative review is a chance to correct course and show that you care about the experience of your visitor.

5. Quality Imagery

It’s well-known that visuals help improve engagement and catch the eyes of consumers, whether that’s in a post on social media, a blog, a newsletter, or an advertisement. We share imagery from across the region constantly and are often on the hunt for great shots to visually display the visitor experience in an eye-catching way. We do have a database of imagery we’ve collected through photoshoots and partnerships, but we know that we don’t have imagery for every single business or experience across the region. This is where we turn to our partners like you to reach out for high quality imagery of your businesses and experiences that we can share to help further your story.

If you have any questions about what I’ve outlined above, or want to discuss potential marketing opportunities, please feel free to contact me.

Wishing you a wanderful summer season,

Julie Mulligan

OHTO’s Marketing Manager

Visual Engagement: April 2019

Though recent weather might have tried to trick us, spring is here and we’re focusing our efforts now on planning ways to inspire visitors to Come Wander Ontario’s Highlands in the warmer months ahead. Before we make a total shift and pack up our parkas though, we wanted to take a quick look back at a successful winter season and share with you some of the outcomes we saw as a result of our digital marketing efforts.

Knowing the benefits of engaging visitors with visual content and the strength of video when it comes to storytelling, we once again integrated videos in our marketing efforts to inspire visitors over our snowy season. We took advantage of the snow that blanketed the region this winter to collect image and video footage to create videos around five key winter experiences in Ontario’s Highlands – three of which were promoted this winter with all five videos being used next winter.

The three videos shared this winter were focused on highlighting three key experiences and garnered the following results:

  • Snowmobiling: Received a reach of over 242,000 and 7,528 engagements
  • Dogsledding: Received a reach of over 229,600 and 12,516 engagements
  • Cabin Getaways: Received a reach of over 197,232 and 4,867 engagements

We partnered with operators in Haliburton County on this project, and the successes and results they saw at their businesses are a clear testament to the benefit of these types of partnerships. Here’s what some of our partners shared:

  • Tanya, from Winterdance Dogsled Tours, let us know that she could directly credit at least 14 new bookings to the video created, and that phone calls and emails to her team were way up from previous years and lasted later into the winter season. During the two-week period the dogsledding video was supported with an additional digital advertising push, she even shared that they were finding it a bit challenging to keep up with the volume – a great problem to have!
  • Tegan, from Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve shared with us a snapshot of their Google Analytics, comparing the two-week period the snowmobiling video had an extra push to the same two-week period last year. As you can see below, their website traffic was increased for the duration of this push, with more than double the users on some days.

haliburton-forest-analytics-feb-4-18.png

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: there is strength in numbers! The Come Wander brand was created to represent Ontario’s Highlands and share the stories from across the region. By working together to share the same message and promote the destination, we can increase the reach of our stories and inspire more people to visit our incredible region.

Happy wandering,

Julie Mulligan

OHTO’s Marketing Manager

Instagram Insight: March 2019

We understand that it can sometimes feel like maintaining your social media channels is a full-time job. If one of your 2019 goals is to grow your social media presence, consider investing a bit more time and effort into your Instagram channel. Instagram’s simple, visual platform shows constant growth, and new opportunities continue to unfold as the platform develops. Here are some quick stats about Instagram that might give you pause:

  • Instagram is the fastest growing social network with over 1 billion users [Source]
  • 65% of Instagram users are between the ages of 18-35 with an even split between women and men [Source]
  • Instagram has edged out Snapchat and Facebook as the top social platform for teenagers, raising questions about the future popularity of each social medium [Source]

Further, thanks to Instagram’s more straight-forward privacy settings, public photos from Instagram can be embedded onto websites using third party tools, which can extend the reach of either your posts, or those of your visitors. For WordPress-based websites, there are plugins available to embed and display your own feed on your website, and an app like Repost is great for sharing posts from other Instagrammers while giving them credit.

We embed galleries on ComeWander.ca, like in this recent story featuring four local bakeries, and popular websites like Narcity also use embedded Instagram photos for visuals, which click through to the source on Instagram, as illustrated here:

Instagram Insights 1

Have I piqued your interest yet? If so, here are a few small things you can do to start growing your Instagram channel today.

1. Activate

The premise of Instagram is simple: it’s a venue for sharing photos. You can do so in one of two ways – by uploading your own, or by reposting someone else’s. The easiest way to get your account started is to post your own photos. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to snap a pic of a sunset from the dock, a mouth-watering meal, or your new summer product display. You can always share content from other businesses or organizations nearby that your followers will find relevant, like an upcoming event or exciting news from the community.Instagram Insights 2

Sharing photos of your customers’ experience is a great tactic that may not be available to you when you start out, but with a bit of encouragement it can become a viable source of photos for your own feed. When customers engage with you on Instagram through tagging, you simply ask if you can share their photo on your own feed and remember to give them credit in your post.

2. Encourage

It can be hard to get the ball rolling on Instagram, so sometimes the best place to start is in person. Consider printing out and framing a simple sign that encourages visitors to “follow and tag us on Instagram” with your username readily available. If you do this, be ready to monitor hashtags and geotags (wondering what these are? Keep reading!) as often as you can to interact with these users and thank them for sharing their experience. You should also include a link to your Instagram on your website so that potential visitors in the planning stage can browse your pictures and follow you too.

3. Interact

Put aside a bit of time to engage with relevant tags based on location and interest. Here’s an overview of the types of tags you can include in your posts:

Hashtag: Using the pound sign in front of any word or combination of words publicly classifies your photo under searchable tags. Examples include #MyHaliburtonHighlands, #kayak, #whitewaterbrewingco, #fridayfeeling, etc. You can use up to 30 hashtags per post.

Geotag: Instagram allows you to assign one searchable geotag, many of which already exist and will prepopulate based on your location. Examples include Carleton Place, Bonnechere Caves, and Bon Echo Provincial Park. It is possible to create a geotag if it doesn’t already exist – something you might want to do for your business so visitors can tag their location when they visit.

Username tag: You can also tag an account in your photo or in the caption so that they receive a notification that they’ve been tagged. Your followers will also see that they have been tagged in the photo. For example, you can tag us using @onhighlands.

Don’t forget to also monitor your own tags closely and engage with those users who share their experiences.

Instagram Insights 3

You’re not limited to your own tags! Hashtags and geotags present an opportunity for any user to find and interact with other users who may share their interests. Post a pic of #AlmonteOntario with the appropriate tags and you might suddenly find yourself getting likes and comments from locals and fans chiming in with their support.

Instagram Insights 4

In this instance @almontelobbybar has commented on this photo of their neighbour @tinbarnmarket. Not only does the poster (in this case, us) now have a new chance to engage with Almonte Lobby Bar, but our followers who might be planning a trip to Almonte are now aware of this business as well. A few clicks later, just a single comment has the potential to result in more followers, website views, and of course, visitors!

I hope this has been helpful to understanding and unlocking Instagram’s potential in sharing experiences and tapping into word of mouth marketing. When you’re ready to take action, don’t forget to use our regional hashtag #ComeWander – we’ll be there to cheer you on.

Happy posting,

Sara Dunbrook

OHTO’s Digital Communications Specialist

Winter Experience Videos: February 2019

You may remember that this past summer, we leveraged the power of partnerships by teaming up with Destination Ontario to create and distribute content about Ontario’s Highlands (if not, you can read about it here). One facet of this partnership was to create videos around three key summer experiences across the region and we were thrilled with the results these brought in.

It’s no secret that visual content can help increase views and engagement on social media, and after seeing the success of these summer videos, we decided to continue integrating videos into our marketing strategy this winter by creating and distributing more visual content.

We’ve taken advantage of our snowy season to collect images and video footage for five videos around key winter experiences in Ontario’s Highlands: snowmobiling, dogsledding, ice fishing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, and cabin getaways. We once again partnered with Destination Ontario on a seasonal photo and video shoot, which took place in January.

These five key videos will be shared on OHTO social channels, and pushed to a wider audience through digital advertising; and viewers will be linked to stories on ComeWander.ca for more information and links to operator websites. Three of these videos (snowmobiling, dogsledding, and cabin getaways) are launching this winter, with all five being promoted next winter.

Two of this year’s videos have already been pushed out, with the final one scheduled in the coming weeks, and we are thrilled with the initial results we’ve seen. The snowmobiling video launched February 4 and garnered over 65,000 views in just the first two weeks, while the dogsledding video launched February 15 and already has over 35,000 views.

With the increase in engagement and the buzz videos are garnering, we plan to continue utilizing and creating video content as part of our marketing efforts moving forward to inspire visitors to Come Wander Ontario’s Highlands. We look forward to sharing more of the awesome experiences across the region in the coming seasons.

Happy winter wandering,

Julie Mulligan,

OHTO Marketing Manager

Meeting the Visitor in the Digital World: January 2019

In today’s digital age, it’s more important than ever that we meet visitors where they are – online. However, it’s not enough to simply be online; we also have to stand out from the crowd, hold their attention, and offer a valuable and quality experience.

We’ve spoken a lot about our visitor-first approach to tourism and about the importance of offering great experiences, but this visitor experience doesn’t start when they step foot into the region or onto your property; it starts from the moment they first engage with your business – click to visit your website, comment on or like a social post, or read past visitor reviews. Your digital presence not only influences whether a visitor chooses to book with you, but also impacts the visitor’s overall trip experience.

It’s important to make efforts to both reach and support visitors online to best leverage this digital world, which offers a space for us to meet potential visitors we wouldn’t otherwise be able to connect with.

For ideas on how to reach new audiences in 2019, we thought we’d share advice from a recent Business 2 Community blog post, which explores 3 top social trends and ways you can integrate these into your business this year. These top trends are:

  1. Micro & Local Influencers – Rather than focusing on Influencers with huge followings, look to maximize your message by working with Influencers with small, but engaged followings.
  2. Instagram Stories & Short-Lived Content – Add variety to your social posting, test out new ways of communicating your message, and connect more personably with your audience with these shorter-lived stories.
  3. Facebook Groups – Engage with customers and build stronger relationships by creating Facebook Groups in addition to your business page.

For more information on these trends and suggestions to capitalize on them, please click here to read the full post. Don’t forget that articles like this are just a guide, and it’s important to know your audience and track your marketing performance to know what works best for your business.

These tactics are great ways to garner some attention and reach visitors in the digital world, but what happens once you connect? How does your digital presence support your online visitor? It’s important to make sure channels meet the visitor’s needs with information about your experience clearly available, easy-to-navigate websites, and straightforward booking processes.

If you’re feeling like your website is in need of a facelift, but need some support, you may be in luck! Together, the Province of Ontario and the Ontario BIA Association are offering two types of grants to help small main street businesses across Ontario strengthen their digital and online capabilities through their Digital Main Street program. The first opportunity is specifically targeted at small town main street businesses and the second at qualifying municipal and business associations. For more information on these Digital Main Street Grants, please click here.

By putting the visitor first and ensuring we offer quality experiences from our first interaction to our last, we can build up our audience to capitalize on word-of-mouth marketing and inspire more visitors to Come Wander Ontario’s Highlands.

Sending wanderful wishes for 2019,

Julie Mulligan,

OHTO Marketing Manager

‘Tis the Season to be Social: December 2018

You’ve probably heard it a million times already: ‘tis the season – to be jolly; to eat, drink, and be merry; to celebrate with loved ones. For many, this time of year consists of a lot of quality time to see family and friends, and we want to remind you while you’re at it, don’t forget to ‘get social’ with #ComeWander as well.

With our digital-first marketing strategy, social media is one of the main ways we push out the stories of Ontario’s Highlands and engage with visitors. Our brand platform is firmly in place, the conversation is happening online, and we want to make sure you’re a part of it.

While the best way to feed into the Come Wander brand, and particularly our website, remains replying to our Monthly Guiding Questions and Seasonal Product Knowledge Forms, social media is another great tool to share your own story with both visitors and the OHTO team. Using #ComeWander on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is a way to leverage the conversation already taking place online and to keep the OHTO team in the loop with the latest happenings at your business or in your community.

We constantly monitor this hashtag to uncover unique content ideas, stay aware of what’s happening in the region, share user-generated content, and engage with visitors and stakeholders’ posts.  If you have an extra special post you have to share – maybe a new event, partnership, or experience coming up – and you want to guarantee we see it, take it one step further and also tag us:

We are thrilled with the success of #ComeWander and the continual growth of this online conversation. Many of you are already participating in the conversation and using the hashtag, so we want to thank you for standing behind the brand and encourage you to continue to ‘get social’ with us. Your efforts have greatly contributed to this success – after all, there’s a reason why they say there is strength in numbers.

With all of us participating in the conversation and showing how incredible Ontario’s Highlands truly is, we increase our chances to connect with new visitors and inspire them to Come Wander our region.

Best wishes as we wander into the New Year,

Julie Mulligan,

OHTO Marketing Manager

Your Online Presence: November 2018

In an age where the online world is constantly evolving, more and more industries are experiencing digital disruption, and tourism is certainly no exception. To the contrary, with the prevalence of online booking, review sites, travel blogs, and social media, it could be argued this industry is one of the most impacted.

Information about any destination is available at visitors’ fingertips – with a quick search online, consumers can read about your business, discover experiences others have had when visiting, and even book their trip within a matter of minutes. Though this may seem a little daunting, there are opportunities to harness this disruption to our advantage by enhancing the visitor experience in ways that encourage visitors to share destination stories.

We were thrilled to have team members from RTO4 (Huron, Perth, Waterloo and Wellington) share their experience in leveraging digital disruption during their keynote address last month at OH!Tourism Summit 2018. If you haven’t already, we’d encourage you to check out some of the the key takeaways from this presentation, available here.

During the presentation and conference, we also alluded to some upcoming tools we’re looking to develop to help businesses and communities monitor and improve their online presence in the future. We’ll be sharing more details about opportunities to get involved and utilize these in the spring, but for the interim, there are things you can be capitalizing on now to get a handle on your online presence.

It’s important to know how you measure up online – where you could improve your accessibility, and what visitors are saying about your business/community, so here are some tips to improve your online presence and start leveraging word-of-mouth marketing:

  • Visitors today have information available in the palm of their hand – they’re researching beforehand and looking things up while in region from their phones, so make sure your website is mobile-friendly
  • Leverage word-of-mouth marketing by not only creating and maintaining a business listing on review sites (i.e. TripAdvisor, Google My Business), but also by monitoring and replying to reviews – it’s important to reply to both positive and negative reviews
    • TripAdvisor recently announced new features to help travellers plan their trips and to become more of a social platform: allowing travellers to follow people and brands they trust, creating travel feeds that show recommendations and advice, and adding ways for visitors to create their own trips and travel guides (privately or publicly) – find more information on these new features here
  • Create and follow through with shareable experiences – offer a quality experience that a visitor wants to share, and encourage them to share their feedback online
  • Engage visitors on social media – make sure your business is easy to find and tag online; like, comment on, and share visitors’ posts; and don’t forget to thank visitors for sharing their experience, posting their photos, and tagging you in posts

Together, we can leverage the digital disruption experienced in the tourism industry as we share the stories of Ontario’s Highlands and inspire visitors to Come Wander.

Happy wandering,

Julie Mulligan, OHTO Marketing Manager & Stephanie Hessel, OHTO Destination Development Manager

Finding Yourself & Sharing Your Story: October 2018

With the busy summer season now behind us, we hope you’ve found time to take a little break for yourself – and also to have a look at the changes we introduced to ComeWander.ca. As we previously shared, one of the biggest changes we introduced in the spring was the addition of a search feature.

This new addition not only allows visitors to find stories containing particular keywords and information about areas of interest they might have, it also helps you find yourself– or more accurately, your business.

When we first introduced our Monthly Guiding Questions in 2017, we were thrilled with the response they received and continue to be pleased each and every month as we read through the incredible stories and insider insight you have to share. As ComeWander.ca has grown, so has this program and we now have a collection of responses and a website chalk full of so many stories, it’s becoming a little onerous to manage (don’t worry, this is a good problem for us to have and we certainly aren’t complaining).

If you haven’t already done so, we encourage you to visit ComeWander.ca, type your business into the search bar at the top, and check out any stories you’re featured in. If you’ve been replying to Monthly Guiding Questions and can’t find yourself in any stories, please reach out to us at info@ohto.ca to let us know.

We post new content at the beginning of every month, so be sure to visit frequently to search for your business and new ways you’re featured. And if you find stories, the best thing you can do is share them! Post them to your social channels, link to them on your website, send them out to your emailing list – sharing them helps increase their reach and best leverage the coverage.

We’re always looking for new stories and new spins on old stories to inspire visitors to Come Wander Ontario’s Highlands, which is why it’s important you respond to Monthly Guiding Questions as frequently as you can. Even though turnaround time for your response to be used can fluctuate, we store and reference all answers in our repository of responses to come up with fresh new content to share each month.

Together, we can inspire more visitors to Come Wander Ontario’s Highlands.

Yours in wandering,

Julie Mulligan

Marketing Manager, OHTO

The Power of Rave Reviews: September 2018

With advances in technology, the prevalence of social media, and the vast amount of information available online, today’s travellers are living in a digital world – and we need to meet them there.

When choosing a destination for a trip, research shows consumers are increasingly turning away from traditional media campaigns towards personal, trusted recommendations. With greater access to the recommendations of friends, colleagues, and even strangers on the internet, referrals are more important than ever.

In order to succeed and stay relevant with today’s savvy consumers, destinations need to connect with individuals’ specific interests in an authentic way and offer impactful experiences that will lead visitors to share their remarkable stories fostering greater word of mouth. We need to deliver memorable experiences to amplify word of mouth referrals – our most powerful marketing tool – and promote our stories through people instead of to people.

But what is a remarkable destination experience and how do we go about interpreting, measuring and evaluating our various efforts to capture and retain audiences throughout the key stages of their trip? Most importantly, how can we adapt to valuable insights collected through proven destination strategies, tools and best practices, and work together as a region of the willing to use the best information and analysis to plan for the future and manage the destination experience so that more stories can be shared?

It’s these types of questions that led us to the theme of this year’s OH!Tourism SummitRave Reviews: How Cultivating a Destination Experience Mindset Can Amplify Your Most Powerful Marketing Tool. Through programming developed for our 8th annual tourism conference and AGM, taking place at Bark Lake Leadership and Conference Centre in #MyHaliburtonHighlands on Monday, October 29, we’ll be exploring how we can work collaboratively to create an awesome destination experience, leverage more word of mouth marketing, and inspire visitors to Come Wander Ontario’s Highlands.

With our sights set on becoming Ontario’s next most talked about destination, we invite you to join us for a day of exploration, innovation, networking, and collaboration. Please have a look at our conference website, www.ohtourismsummit.ca, for full program details and to register today.

I look forward to welcoming you to this #OHSUM event,

Stephanie Hessel

Destination Development Manager, OHTO

The Power of Partnerships: August 2018

You’ve probably heard there’s strength in numbers and we couldn’t agree more. This summer, we’ve partnered with Destination Ontario on a co-marketing project to align our messaging, tap into a larger audience, and increase the reach of stories from across Ontario’s Highlands.

This project is still being executed and is allowing us the chance to leverage our marketing dollars and work with our provincial partners to not only create content about Ontario’s Highlands, but also push this content out to inspire a greater audience. The partnership is driven by three key featured experiences and includes digital ad buys on social media, the creation and distribution of Instagram stories and Facebook videos, and an Influencer trip. Each of the key experiences has a supporting story on ComeWander.ca, where visitors are directed for more information, and each story incorporates website links to the operators featured within. A team from Destination Ontario and Ontario’s Highlands also hit the road to conduct two photo and video shoots in the region to gather visual content to produce the marketing assets for this partnership.

So far this summer, we have executed on two of the three featured experiences, with the third set to launch later this week. The first feature showcased whitewater rafting in the Ottawa Valley, with a story called Canadian Thrills and Whitewater Spills and we are thrilled by the traction this piece garnered. The story launched on July 3rd and by July 23rd, we saw more than 94,000 viewers entering the Instagram story (more than 6 times our goal) and over 9,800 users clicking through to the story on ComeWander.ca from Facebook (more than twice our goal). As another huge win, the Instagram story was picked up by Destination Canada, seeing the Ontario’s Highlands region showcased at the national level, reaching even more audiences and contributing to the success of this first execution.

The second execution, called the 5 Senses of Nature, focused on ways visitors can engage with nature in Ontario’s Highlands.  This second experience is just wrapping up and we’re excited by the preliminary results we’ve seen since its launch on July 31, which includes more than 7,000 page views of the story on ComeWander.ca.

With the third execution and the Influencer trip yet to come, we’re well on our way to exceeding our goals for this partnership. Our third story highlights how craft drink makers across Ontario’s Highlands are incorporating elements of nature and local ingredients into their delectable beverages, which we’re calling Ground to Glass.  Promotions for this story will launch later this week and run into September.

The success and traffic we’ve seen so far really shows the power of partnerships and we’re excited to see what the remaining executions will bring. Keep an eye on your social feeds for the video and supporting content around our third execution, and follow along on social next week as YouTuber JR Alli wanders Ontario’s Highlands to discover hidden gems, local stories, and in the end, hopefully even more about himself.

Happy wandering,

Julie Mulligan

Marketing Manager, OHTO