The Darlington Experiment 2.0: Croudsourcing an Image

[tweetmeme source=”pagetx”]I ran across an interesting article back in early December that caught my attention.  At the time I thought it had the makings of a great Tourism Tech post, but I wasn’t sure what the context would be.  Now I think I have it.

According to their website, the Darlington Experiment 2.0 is “a fun web-based experiment to increase the positive perceptions of Darlington using social media sites.”  The goal is to get locals talking about why they love Darlington on YouTube, Twitter, and other social media sites for all the world to see.  It’s crowdsourcing for tourism.

The article that caught my eye described how Darlington named a “twitterer in residence”.  His name is Mike McTimoney and his “day job” is a school teacher, but his job for the Darlington Experiment 2.0 (or Dx2, as they say in Darlington) is to promote local events and inform people about local news.

And he does so in classic British style.  His informative tweets, via the @DarloBard account, are peppered with dry British wit and colloquialisms.  While not entirely tourism focused, his job is to attract interest in and people to Darlington.

Here’s what the Darlo Bard says about it in his own words:

There are also some more typical tourism-style tweets such as this one:

Some are geared toward local flavor and local businesses such as these:

And some for those  who happen to be in town during inclement weather:

But none match the personal touch that Mike brings as the voice of the Darlo Bard more than this one:

He’ll check on his way home from work?!  I mean seriously.  Who can beat having someone drive by an attraction to let you know if it’s up and running?  That’s some serious customer service.  Judging from Mike’s tweets, I doubt he sees it that way though.  It’s just the way he’s wired.

Tagging tweets on Twitter and videos uploaded to YouTube with #Dx2 will ensure they are automatically uploaded to the Darlington Experiment 2.0 website.  Heck, they’ve even invented their own word to describe the act of posting Darlington information to social media sites:

“Dxting vb 1. combining the atoms of social media to come up with your own formula of what life is like when you live, work or play in Darlington, UK 2. using web videos, internet photos and online comments to showcase all things related to Darlington, County Durham, UK”

What Can DMOs Learn From This?

So how does this relate to DMOs?  Travelers seem to trust the opinions of people who have first hand experience and knowledge of a destination.  This is why sites like Trip Advisor are so wildly popular and successful – we trust the inside scoop from people who have tread before us.

The @DarloBard succeeds in providing quality local information in a friendly voice with a familiar tone.   You trust him instantly.  He doesn’t come across as being spammy or sound like paid advertising.  He’s just a local guy.  You really believe that his only goal is to let you know why the town he loves is a great place to be.

Will it be successful?  Only time will tell.  But Darlington isn’t the only destination that is using locals to crowdsource information for the benefit of visitors.

What Can DMOs Do?

How can DMOs harness the power of crowdsourcing to deliver great and unbiased content to potential visitors?  A Twitterer in Residence is one possible way.  Here are a couple of other examples:

  1. – This tourism website features stories from Pennsylvania travelers.  At the time of this post, there were 184 stories about trips in Pennsylvania available to read.  Website visitors are able to search by type of activity (such as outdoor recreation, festivals and fairs, and shopping), or can just scroll through the stories as they appear.  Story authors share their experiences, insider tips, and “don’t miss” attractions.  To submit a story about a trip in Pennsylvania, users fill out a simple form and can upload photos as well.  If the story author wants Visit Pennsylvania to use their story in advertising or on the website, they can click a box and supply a bit more information.  To cover themselves, Visit Pennsylvania offers website visitors the opportunity to report a story as offensive.
  2. – The folks at Discover Ohio are doing something very similar.  From the Discover Ohio homepage, website visitors can click on the “My Ohio” box.  A new website opens called My Ohio, where travelers can share their Ohio vacation experiences through photos and videos.  Visitors to this site can filter their search by geographic region, by activity type, and by type of media (photos or video) to view what others have posted about their trips.  A road sign image alerts people to submit their own Ohio stories.  Clicking on the road sign take you to the part of the site where you can upload your own Ohio vacation photos or videos.  This is the part I especially like. For those of you who are afraid that social media takes away your control of the message, you should take a lesson from Discover Ohio.  They want to lose control.  They invite it.  They eat this stuff for breakfast!  Take a look at the screenshot below.  Right under the My Ohio logo, it says, “Here’s your chance to take control.”  Love that.

So what do you think?  Can destinations crowdsource an image?  Should they?  I think it can be a part of a well-rounded package of visitor-oriented content.  Travelers expect to see messaging, advertising, and public relations from a DMO.  But this?  This is a little unexpected.  It’s that lagniappe – that little something extra – as they say in New Orleans.  I like it.

Have you seen some other examples of DMOs including user-generated content on their websites?  What do you think of using crowdsourcing as a tool to attract visitors?  Now’s your chance to have your say.  I look forward to hearing your opinions.

4 Responses

  1. Great article! I’ve been following Dx2 from the start and it’s great to see people such as yourself talking about it.

    I think the most convincing and vocal advocates of a destination are its local people – the enthusiasm that’s apparent once you crack through the thin layer of cynicism at the start is invaluable, and it gives outsiders such a good feel for a ‘place’ rather than just a name on a map – and it certainly beats an image dreamed up artificially by a marketing agency!

  2. Thanks for the great write-up.

    Mike – The Darlo Bard 🙂

  3. Lew,
    Thanks so much for your comments. Dx2 is worthy of some attention, and I was happy to lend a hand. You definitely nailed it. While I personally have nothing against marketing agencies, a local voice can – when properly applied – provide a wonderful view into the “real” destination. Glad you enjoyed the post!
    — Sarah

  4. Mike,
    I’m thrilled that you liked the post. Y’all are doing something that (I think) is very unique and deserves some attention. As I said to Lew, I commend your efforts in showing visitors to Darlington why you love it there. I believe they will pay off, due in no small part, to your individual efforts. Keep up the great work.
    — Sarah

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