webmetamorphoses

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Successful social media strategies in European tourism (1) – Curators of Sweden

Curators of Sweden

Probably the boldest social media initiative to be undertaken by an European NTO, „Curators of Sweden” embraced Visit Sweden’s core Communication values: progressive, open, authentic, caring and innovative.

The first social media initiative was the Community of Sweden, which started in 2007 and ended in April 2013. It was the only online community created by a NTO for travellers to share content (pictures, videos, stories) and discuss topics of interest around Sweden in forums and groups. The goal was to develop a digital channel for marketing Sweden as a destination for foreign visitors. However, Visit Sweden is planning to move their focus towards social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and close down the Community of Sweden.

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Key facts :
• Nb of members: 54 568
• Nb of stories: 2113
• Nb of photos: 28436
• Nb of groups: 179

Following this initiative, VisitSweden started the „Curators of Sweden” project in December 2011 with no end date at the moment. It became the world’s first Tourist Board to hand over an entire communication channel to Swedish citizens.

At first, it looked like a rather risky PR campaign, considering the fact that VisitSweden let go of any control of the content posted, except of two simple rules: not to break Swedish law and not to sell anything. In the end, it proved to be an immense success, winning 21 international prizes.

How did it work?
As most of the European NTOs, VisitSweden struggled with a lack of budget and human resources. Therefore, new and creative ideas for promotion were needed. The idea was to encourage Swedish citizens from different backgrounds to raise their voice and share any information about their everyday life. Every week, a different person in Sweden was in control of the Tourist Board’s Twitter account @Sweden. Curators of the account have to be nominated by another person, they have to be active tweeters and they have to be able to tweet in English.

Challenges
Not surprisingly, from time to time tweets can be highly controversial. For example, one of the Curators, Sonja, made the famous comment “What’s the fuzz with jews” which got immediate negative reaction. Visit Sweden saw the comments as being politically incorrect, but not racist. Removing her from the account was not seen as a democratic option. In another comment, Sonja writes “Im sorry if some of you find the question offensive. That was not my purpose. I just don’t get why some people hate Jews so much.”

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What makes it so significant?
The innovative approach of this digital campaign inspired traditional media to quickly pick up the story and feature it. „Curators of Sweden” appeared on international television, radio, newspapers and blogs. It is seen as a good example of how social media can enable freedom of speech and increase transparency of the country to the international community. Visit Sweden took Twitter to the next level, revolutionising the way Tourist Board’s use this channel worldwide, as other countries started similar accounts on Twitter.

Results
• The revolutionary idea of being first democratic Twitter account attracted over 65,000 followers from 120 countries.
• The campaign started thousands of conversations around it
• Retweet and reply rate of 553%
• After only 6 months it had an estimated PR value of over $40 million
• 21 international prizes for campaign, including two Silver Lion awards as well as the Grand Prix for the cyber category at the International Festival of Creativity in Cannes.

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