Digital

How DiscoverLA Built Its Chinese Social Following from 1 Person to 1.5 Million

@SamShankman

Jul 11, 2014 7:00 am

Skift Take

Building a dedicated following on social media takes more than brute force. It takes nuanced decisions on how to best appeal to the target recipient. This task can takes time in China, but the result can deliver dividends in increased brand awareness and tourism potential.

— Samantha Shankman

Report: Social Media Customer Service in the Travel Industry

 / DiscoverLA

DiscoverLA's Chinese site was designed in China with the aim to speed load times and optimize the design for Chinese consumers. / DiscoverLA


A year and half after kickstarting its presence on China’s largest social media platform, Discover Los Angeles has surpassed 1.5 million followers on Sina Weibo.

It’s now starting to ramp up its efforts on WeChat, starting with one post a week and looking to increase frequency over the coming month.

China is the biggest driver of overseas travel to Los Angeles and critical in boosting visitor volume to a record 42.2 million high in 2013. As a result of the market’s rapid growth, the city’s tourism organization, the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, has opened two offices in China and invested time and money into not only running, but succeeding, on the country’s native social media channels.

In order to do so, DiscoverLA has a social media strategist who splits her time between Shanghai and Beijing, a role that DiscoverLA vice president of digital marketing Bill Karz considers critical to the tourism board’s success in China.

It takes having someone in the market to understand which U.S.-created content will also work in China, explains Karz.

For example, a post on the best sites to view the Hollywood sign or the strongest Wi-Fi connection will work in both the U.S. and China; however, a post on L.A. sites seen on the television drama Mad Men would only work in the U.S. market.

However, it takes more than a single individual to craft the content in a way that appeals to the account’s growing following. DiscoverLA works with digital agency DragonTrail to ensure that its website and social content speaks directly to the Chinese traveler.

Karz also attributes a large part of the organization’s follower growth to contests that attract new fans. For example, DiscoverLA gives away weekly prizes to followers that can answer questions about Los Angeles culture and attractions.

“A lot of people know about Hollywood, but we’re trying to share the regional and cultural diversity of the destination with them,” explains Karz.

Another campaign included Chinese influencer Kelly Cha coming to Los Angeles for her honeymoon. The tourism board saw a spike in engagement and followers as Cha documented her trip via social media.

Brazil is the next market that DiscoverLA plans to focus on with a language-specific social presence. Facebook is the most-used platform in the market, making the transition slightly easier than that in China.

Getting Started

DiscoverLA isn’t the only English-speaking tourism board turning to social to woo some of China’s lucrative tourism dollars.

Visit California and VisitBritain have Sino Weibo accounts while Tourism Australia is present on Chinese social media platforms Sina Weibo, QQ Weibo and Kaixin. 

When asked for advice on getting started, Karz quickly suggests that the first post is the hardest part.

“Just jump in. You can jump and test the waters and see what the reaction is. Go out with a calendar of content of what you plan to message and you see what’s the most effective just by looking at engagement,” he says. “You just have to test it out.”

 

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