Bryan Person, Aaron Strout, Sheila Scarborough and Kyle Flaherty social media panel at Innotech Austin 2010 (photo courtesy Elmer Boutin and @itweetrubbish)What should tourism and hospitality folks be paying particular attention to these days on the social Web? Where is the market moving and what are the trends?

After our “Social Media 12 months from now” panel at Innotech Austin (thanks again to moderator Bryan Person and co-conspirators Aaron Strout and Kyle Flaherty)  I was asked by PR expert Dana Marruffo, “Well, what IS the answer to where social media might be going 12 months from now?”

These are big questions, but I’m going to give you my cocktail party answer. You know….what I’d say if I had to summarize, speak loudly over afterparty music and try to be Jack-Daniels-coherent.

Here’s most of what I shouted to Dana over a bourbon:

***  Mobile technology is a big deal, including mobile-based tech that crosses dimensions like QR codes and video tags on paper (or maybe even on historical markers) that become Web pages and videos when scanned by a smartphone. The world is moving towards everyone having a computer and the Internet in her/his pocket or purse; some of your communications must already be geared to that reality.

Your next move for 2011:  get your website mobile-friendly.  To drive this home, get your smartphone or someone else’s and try to navigate through several of your site’s pages using the mobile browser. Now imagine your visitors trying to do that, around all the ads and photos and Flash goop and whatnot. See? Fix that before you fiddle around with apps.

***  LBS (Location Based Services) with check-ins like Foursquare, Yelp, Gowalla and Facebook Places/Deals. We just talked about Deals in our Tourism Currents November newsletter. Deals is a game-changer because it combines mobile devices,  the now-mainstream Facebook and tangible rewards for the admittedly rather odd practice of checking in.

Your next move for 2011:  Look for one or two of your main attractions, hotels, museums, etc. on Foursquare, Yelp, Gowalla and Places.  Ensure that the venue information is correct, and see if people are checking in, leaving tips/comments or taking photos (it’s just another way of listening to your visitors.)  If there’s activity, see if you can integrate it into your other sites; Matterhorn Marketing shows you how to embed people’s Foursquare Tips and To-Do’s onto your own website or blog.

***  Video.  I talk rather a lot about video for tourism (here’s the Video category on this blog) because I think it’s important.   Imagery and videos can generally show off your destination better than text, and when properly titled, tagged and described they are very powerful for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) because there is less competition for them right now than there is for text.

Your next move for 2011:  Get a small pocket video camera like the Flip or the Kodak Zi8. Hold off shooting in HD (high-definition) for now until you 1) have a tripod and 2) have a Mac or super-high-powered PC for editing.  Play and experiment. Go someplace cool in your town and show why it’s cool, or grab an interview with a lively person who can explain it. Put that video on your Facebook Page and YouTube channel. Title, tag and describe it thoroughly. Start small and build, even with some fun Google Search Story videos.  You’ll be glad you got in early.

For more tips and thoughts from our Innotech panel, here is Elmer Boutin’s nice recap titled “Smart People in Austin Talk Social Media.”

What are your thoughts about how digital communications are evolving for tourism and destination marketing?  Did I miss anything? Your thoughts are welcome down in the comments.

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