100 Years of Advancing Destinations

The Big Reveal: Budgets, Staffing and The Future of Social Media At DMOs

Author: Guest Karyl Leigh Barnes
Posted: July 07, 2014
Blog Topics Covered:

It’s no secret that DMOs across America are struggling to identify and implement best practices in social media marketing. While we all know it’s important, many still grapple with how this evolving marketing element should fit into a destination’s overall strategy.  

So Development Counsellors International surveyed 101 individuals responsible for social media marketing at DMOs with offices in North America. The study explored how DMOs are addressing the critical areas of budgets, staffing, program implementation and the challenges they face as consumer engagement evolves.

The findings below were thought provoking. More findings will be revealed in a free webinar.

Insight: Social Media Critical to DMOs, Yet Under Funded

While DMOs validate the critical importance of social media marketing activities as part of overall marketing mix, budget and staffing allocations among DMOs do not reflect its apparent value.

  • 99% of DMOs have a digital media strategy in place, yet only 60% have a dedicated budget for social media activities;
  • Among those with a dedicated budget for social media activities, 71.2% spend less than $25,000 annually on these activities and 37.3% spend less than $10,000 annually on social media activities.
  • For the majority (76%), their social media budgets represent less than 10% of the organization’s total marketing budget.

Insight: DMO “Socialites” Spend Only 1/3 Of Time On Social Media Marketing

On average, the individuals at the DMO who are primarily responsible for social media activities spend only 35% of their day on these activities. Not surprisingly, those organizations with the highest budgets have the greatest number of staff assigned to social media responsibilities.

Insight: Lack Of Time Leads 1/3 of DMOs to Outsource Social 

While many DMOs implement campaigns in-house, 32% of DMOs outsource some or all of their social media activities. DMOs with social media budgets between $25,001 and $50,000 are most likely to outsource some or all of social media activities, indicating that it is perceived as more cost effective to outsource elements of social media rather than to hire staff and keep those individuals trained progressively. The appeal of outsourcing is also supported by the fact that “time” is seen as the biggest obstacle to successfully implementing a social media strategy.  
Of those DMOs who outsource some or all of their social media activities, 39% of DMOs use a digital media firm, while 32% who utilize an advertising agency.


Insight: DMOs with Budget Levels of $10-25K Are the Ones to Watch
DMOs funding social media at the $10-25k budget level allocate the largest portion of their overall budget to social media and forecast the most growth in 2014.

  • Comparing organizations by their social media budgets, the only organizations to spend more than 25% of their total marketing budget on social media activities are organizations in the $10-$25K budget level.
  • Comparing organizations by their social media budgets, organizations in the $10-25K budget level are spending the highest percentage of their budget on external resources (i.e. paid promotion and monitoring systems) versus organizations in other budget categories
  • In forecasting, 40% of organizations in the $10-25K budget level plan on expanding their social media team in 2014.

 FREE WEBINAR TO LEARN MORE: For further insights and a full copy of the results, you can register for a FREE WEBINAR, commencing Wednesday, July 9, 3 pm EDT, 2 pm Central, 1 pm Mountain, 12 noon Pacific.
Guest Blogger: Karyl Leigh Barnes, Managing Partner/Tourism, Development Counsellors International (DCI), The Leader In Marketing Places.