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Tourism Talk: Dave Serino and #SoMeT

Welcome to my new series of blog interviews with outstanding tourism professionals. I hope for this to become a way of connecting you to those who “get” social media in the tourism industry.

Dave Serino is the Founder and e-Strategist at Gammet Interactive. He’s also the man behind #SoMeT, the Symposium on the Use of Social Media in the Tourism Industry, which will be held November 17-19 in Ashburn (Loudoun County), VA, and the How Social is Your DMO rankings.

I first met Dave in person at an Illinois Tourism Alliance event on an evening cruise along Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. I was working for Chicago Plus at the time. I don’t remember all our conversations but I know we talked about our dogs. Since then, we’ve become good friends and even have a favorite meet-up place when he’s in town — O’Callaghan’s Pub.

Here’s a little insight on Gammet Interactive, #SoMeT and @GammetGuy himself.

Gammet Interactive recently celebrated its 10th anniversary! What have been the highlights of these past 10 years?

The biggest highlight for me is meeting new people and working on new projects. I am fortunate to work on many projects at different levels with varying scopes in some interesting locations. It always keeps things fresh and there really isn’t any time to get bored. There is such great variety and the whole emergence of social media in the market place has made our jobs much more exciting. It is a great time to be in the interactive space, especially in the area of tourism marketing.

What type of clients do you work with?

Anyone who serves the tourism industry. All the way from state tourism offices, to regional destination marketing organization to hotels and resorts. I have even done work with everyone from restaurants all the way to meeting and convention planners.

What are some of your social media successes?

One that stands out is the Newport Beach, CA CVB. They didn’t really have a social media presence when I began working with them, so it was fun to build it from the bottom up. I helped them develop a plan and strategy, which they implemented very well. They have some very talented people on staff there and it was great to see them work so hard to implement the plans we worked on. They were a large part of the programs being a success, you need good people to implement the ideas and program after my initial consulting program concludes.

Tell us about the “How Social is Your DMO” rankings.

For about a year, I received countless questions about “Which tourism organization does the best social media marketing?” After reviewing the social media presence of many state, local and regional destination marketing organizations, I could never reach a conclusion on who does it best. What I found was, many organizations do some things really well, but there were very few organizations that do everything well.

In response to that continual query, I worked out a 12-point algorithm with more than 28 different categories to measure. The primary points were chosen and weighted due to the social media outlet popularity and its impact on tourism. The first ranking took place in July of 2009, when we ranked the top 50 state tourism offices in the United States. We are pretty sure it was the first of its kind in the tourism industry. We now do the ranking four times a year for state tourism offices, at the end of each quarter.

Just as social media continues to evolve, so does our algorithm, key measurements and the scoring criteria. The report is frequently sourced and many state tourism organizations use it to bench mark their social media success. Learn more about the rankings.

How is the Social Media Tourism Symposium different from other conferences?

We really tried to make it an interactive experience from the choice of the site location to the presenters, etc. We wanted to do everything on vote, etc and keep people engaged in the process the entire time. Unfortunately we ran out time in terms of the speaker voting. We just took suggestions and then tried to find a good match based on the suggestions provided. But we do plan on being very tuned into attendee participation the entire time – including the onsite portion of the conference. I really feel that this the way events will be in the future and hopefully this will be a great bench mark for planners and organizers to use in the future.

What have you learned through the SoMeT process?

We learned that people have a genuine interest in social media and know how to apply it in the tourism industry. We also personally learned that a destination can really benefit from the content generated and buzz created by attendees of an event. I do think this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the future of meetings and events.

How do you see social media further changing the tourism industry?

Not sure it is going to change the industry much more than it has, but it will surely impact, influence and enhance the travel planning process in the future. We will be relying on friends and fans to tell us more about the places we will travel to.

How do you use social media for travel?

I primarily use it to survey the destination and seek out the places that people feel are must-sees or must-dos. I love to crowd source and like to pick my dining locations based on review sites. So far, I have not been disappointed in any choice I have made via a social media application or outlet.

What are some of your favorite places to travel?

Any and everywhere. I really like traveling to a location and meeting up with a local. I really enjoy being immersed in the local culture and tradition. I like to “do what the locals do”.

What do you do when you’re not online?

I like to run, kayak, bike and spend time with my family and dog doing some sort of outdoor activities.

Are you a…

  • Mac or PC: PC
  • Foursquare or Gowalla: Foursquare
  • iPhone or Droid: Droid

I’d like to thank Dave for allowing me to interview him!

If you’re thinking about attending the #SoMeT conference, I absolutely recommend it. The sessions, of course, will be highly educational but what I’m most excited about is talking with tourism professionals who “get” social media. It’s a great way to “geek out” and bounce ideas off of each other. So don’t wait any longer. Sign up now!