If the potential of social media to promote a region was ever in question, then a short video posted on YouTube has surely dispelled any doubt.
The travel video 'Airlie Beach, Irish Backpacker, Australia' has had a staggering 5.1 million views and its creator, Mark Shea of Overlander.tv, spoke to The Newsport about why the story of an Irish backpacker living in Airlie Beach has become and internet sensation, and how Australia's tourism bodies have missed the point of social media.
WATCH THE AIRLIE BEACH TRAVEL VIDEO (top right)
The Newsport: Who commissioned the Airlie Beach video?
Mark Shea: The Airlie Beach video was part of a self funded project I filmed on the East Coast called 'Meet a Local' whereby I interviewed different people at each location I visited.
TN: How much did it cost to make?
MS: For me to film such a promo for a location, I would charge about $3000 plus any travel expenses. I also ensure videos get search engine optimised so they get found.
TN: To what do you attribute the success of the video?
(It is here where Mark tells me about his "Triple-B" theory and directs me to a short video he made to explain it. If you want to know more, click on the second video on the right.)
MS: YouTube works on ranking videos according to views, comments, favourites and likes. Videos that do well in these areas get found in YouTube search, the second biggest search engine on the internet, after Google.
With YouTube you receive video insight which tells you who watches a video, statistics like age, sex, and location. A majority of the viewers for the Airlie Beach video are middle-aged men from Muslim countries, believe it or not.
TN: Are our tourism bodies reaching the right targets with their YouTube commercials and videos?
MS: I think most tourism bodies have no idea and actually spend too much for video production with fancy productions which don't garner an audience.
Videos need to provide information and be honest, viewers smell advertising a mile away and my results show that personable honest appraisals, using local personalities work.
I find the problem with tourism bodies is that there seems to be no accountability for the campaigns they run. A fine example of this is the Tourism Victoria $7.3 million Daylesford 'Lead a double life' video.
The video doesn't really tell the viewer why they should visit Daylesford. And with a current 11,903 views, thank God it was only the stupid taxpayer who had to pay for it!
This is a rolled gold failure, and a better idea would have been to divide the $7.3 million up and make a number of videos, promoting numerous Victorian tourist locations, in a format more suitable for the online arena.
The other thing with the tourism bodies is that for jobs under $150,000, they don't have to put in a tender. So video jobs are not tendered and favoured producers can 'name their price.'
Victoria Tourism recently ran the villages campaign, $6 million and hardly any views.
Every minute of every day, there is 24 hours of video uploaded to YouTube. The marketplace is getting very crowded and it is harder and harder for tourism regions and business to get found.
But there is a solution. Find a successful pre-established YouTube channel, and get them to make a video about your region. Lonely Planet recently did it with Australia's most successful YouTuber, Natalie Tran, sending her on a worldwide adventure, taking their YouTube subscriber base from 15,000 to 40,000.
TN: Have you made a Port Douglas video in the past?
MS: I have visited Port Douglas and did a video on the the Exotic Fruit Farm up the road at Cape Tribulation.
The video has done well, having enough views, comments and favourites to now be number one in YouTube search for the term Cape Tribulation.
I'd love to visit again, and my prices to produce a video are a lot more reasonable than what tourism bodies fork out (laughs).
TN: What should the Port Douglas region be doing to promote itself?
MS: Video is becoming an essential part of any online marketing campaign because it has been found to be extremely effective.
I suggest Port Douglas works out who its market is, target that market and try and differentiate itself from other locations.
A successful online tourism video campaign needs to feature a short video under three minutes that sets out to provide information about a region and differentiate that region or business.
The video also need to be search engine optimised for the key words people might use in search.
TN: Tell us a bit more about your business and the purpose of the videos you make.
MS: Overlander.tv specialises in travel documentaries and the production of online videos for business and tourism regions. The aim is to explore the online video medium as a means to travel the world and promote tourism business.