This year’s World Tourism Day, taking place September 27th, is all about sustainability through technology. For this blog series, we took a look at how technology can help DMOs achieve their objectives of sharing the love of their state and uniquely welcoming visitors.
To learn how Vermont continues to engage new audiences by using social media, we spoke to Steven Cook, Deputy Commissioner, State of Vermont, about Vermont’s Twitter handle @ThisIsVT.
Working in the travel and tourism industry gives you the opportunity to shape how people experience the world. This is why Steven Cook, loves his job.
“People experience the world through travel. It plays a role in everyone’s life. We as marketers in the tourism industry get to shape that experience—how our destination is perceived, how people learn about us, and how they are attracted to us. It’s exciting because we play such a big role in people’s lives.” – Steven Cook, Deputy Commissioner, State of Vermont
With decades of experience in the tourism industry, Cook continually explores new and innovative ways to market the great state of Vermont. Six years ago, when Twitter was just hitting its stride in the non-techie sector and marketers were still testing out how to use it, Cook decided to use the platform to give Vermonters a voice. But before he launched the program, now called This Is VT, his team ran a survey to learn why people come to Vermont. It came down to one thing—they came for the people.
Vermont: It’s All About the People
In Vermont, Vermonters stop on the side of the road to give tourists a hand at finding the best cold brew to taste on a warm Sunday.
The best spot to visit on a Sunday morning in VT? It just might be Abracadabra Coffee Co on the banks of the Ottauquechee in Woodstock, where Clint & Antoinette Hunt serve delicious pour overs, espresso, CBD cold brew & always have excellent tunes playing on the turntable. pic.twitter.com/RH9xIgilRO
— ThisisVT. (@THISISVT) September 2, 2018
In Vermont, the Summer skies are often filled with brightly colored hot air balloons.
On clear summer evenings you can often catch hot air balloons floating in the skies above the Upper Valley. Here’s a pic from the annual Experimental Hot Air Balloon & Airship Meet in Post Mills, VT (photo by @JamesNapoli_) pic.twitter.com/H09iPZgKZt
— ThisisVT. (@THISISVT) August 28, 2018
Had such a beautiful morning watching the balloons launch at the Stoweflake Balloon Festival @Stoweflake ! So much color and you couldn’t ask for a better day. 🎈🎈🎈 #ThisIsVT @gostowe @VermontTourism pic.twitter.com/8dJ0xJoRKg
— ThisisVT. (@THISISVT) July 7, 2018
In Vermont, it’s hard not stop just to admire the beautiful landscape. Such as this:
Up in the Northeast corner of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is one of the most picturesque and best-kept secrets in VT — @quimbycountry. I had the run of the place for a day and being there feels like being in a Howard Frank Mosher novel. #vermont #nek #thisisvt pic.twitter.com/yx4wZ3fGb4
— ThisisVT. (@THISISVT) July 23, 2018
Good morning, VT! pic.twitter.com/cvNc3zaDya
— ThisisVT. (@THISISVT) June 22, 2018
Becoming the One Voice of Vermont Through Many Voices
The above tweets are only a few of the stories that Vermonters are telling through @ThisIsVT. Cook and his team launched the program six years ago in order to give the average, everyday Vermonter a place to share their home, its beauty, the community, and above all share what gets them excited about living in Vermont. As of today, over 15,000 people have followed @ThisIsVT on Twitter and close to 40,000 tweets have been posted.
How @ThisIsVT Started
Cook has been working for the State of Vermont for over 12 years. During that time, he has worked closely with three governors: Jim Douglas, Peter Shumlin, and most recently, Phil Scott.
When Cook approached Jim Douglas with the idea of launching the Twitter program @ThisIsVT, the idea of launching an unmanaged account was scary at first, especially in the early days of Twitter. However, Douglas and his administration supported Cook and his wild ideas, and told him to give it a shot!
Running the Unmanaged Twitter Account
The voices of @ThisIsVT can either be nominated by other or submit themselves to be a host through the This Is VT website. Cook also does a ton of online and in-person research to learn more about the nominees. He reaches out to them personally to really get to know them before he hands over the reigns to @ThisIsVT.
The guidelines of posting are pretty simple.
- The “Grandma Rule”: Don’t post anything that you won’t show or tell your own grandma.
- Avoid political debates.
- At all times, remember that you are a representative of Vermont.
“You are speaking on behalf of Vermont. This account is here to talk about what a great place Vermont is and why we all live here.” – Steven Cook, Deputy Commissioner, State of Vermont
Of course, Cook has the ability to delete any tweet. But, in the six years of the program, Cook has never had to delete a tweet, step in to defend anyone, or ask a host to leave the program.
Top Engagements with the Voice of Vermont
Cook says that the best thing about running this Twitter program is the people. Cook gets the most amazing feedback from not only the 15,000+ followers of @ThisIsVT but also from the hosts. It’s become a huge part of Vermont’s communication and promotion strategy.
“We have all different types of life, but everyone has something unique to offer!” – Steven Cook, Deputy Commissioner, State of Vermont
Not only are the people wonderful in Vermont, but the Green Mountain State is home to one of the best frosty treats: the Vermont Maple Creemee. People love Maple Creemee so much that it even opened up in New York.
But don’t take our word for it, check out this tweet where over 1000 people agree.
Here is a helpful map of all the states where you can get a decent maple creemee. pic.twitter.com/PQ21WB87Js
— ThisisVT. (@THISISVT) June 5, 2018
Helping Visitors Become Vermonters
It can be challenging to track direct attribution from the @ThisIsVT account. However, @ThisIsVT has been instrumental in helping people relocate to Vermont. There have been a few new Vermonters who had visited Vermont because they were drawn to the Green Mountain State by following @ThisIsVT on Twitter. They loved their visits so much, that they moved to Vermont.
What’s Next for Vermont’s Tourism Efforts
One of the big pushes for Vermont is recruiting new residents. The State of Vermont launched a program two months ago called Stay to Stay where they host people looking to relocate to the Green Mountain State. These weekend-long events connect non-residents with other non-residents in order to form a community of people who are interested in relocating to Vermont. Over the Stay to Stay weekend events, Cook’s team connects people with employers, housing agents, and other Vermonters to help people find a home base in Vermont. It’s really one big welcome home party!
So far, the pilot program has hosted three events, with the next one coming up in October. Four families who have participated in the program are relocating to Vermont.
Looking for other creative ways to use technology, like Twitter, to expand your tourism efforts?
Check out Vermont’s very own @ThisIsVT for inspiration.