Italian City Exchanges Trips for Tweets

In order to better compete with big name tourist destinations in Italy, the city of Bologna is offering free all-inclusive weekend trips to active social media users in exchange for publicity on digital networks.

Called the Social Media Free Trip, the initiative is meant to garner attention for the sometimes overlooked location and is the result of a partnership between digital agency Nimai and a number of Bologna-based organizations, including the Municipality of Bologna and the Bologna G. Marconi Airport.

To date, the campaign has had two winners out of a total of about 80 candidates.

The initial push is focused on London, but Nimai plans to expand its target to tourists from Istanbul and Berlin as well.

In order to participate, candidates must submit their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Foursquare usernames on tourist organization Bologna Welcome’s Facebook page. The page also asks for a tweet about why applicants want to come to Bologna.

Bologna Welcome has 3,100 likes on Facebook and 240 followers on Twitter.

According to Nimai, analysis of submitted details will lead to the selection of the most suitable profiles, based on network size and candidates’ main interests.

“The first thing we take in to account is the wideness of the network and the quality of the posting,” says Eleonora Parlatore, press office manager at Nimai. “After that, it depends from the specific theme of the weekend.”

In other words, an upcoming weekend theme in includes art, making it more appropriate for social media users interested in the topic.

A previous weekend was focused on engines and motors, with the winners visiting the Ferrari and Ducati Museums and attending to Bologna Motor Show.

The final selection of the winners is managed by Nimai.

After launching in October, Parlatore says Nimai plans to have about one trip per month. The first winner visited November 15 to 17.

Successful candidates receive a free weekend trip, including flights, hotel accommodations, meals and tickets.

In exchange, visitors must post content on their own social media accounts about the trip. Nimai says visitors will ideally post when they arrive, as well as when they visit every place they go for free. However, there are no specific posting requirements.

According to Nimai, the Social Media Free Trip turns social media users into media themselves in order to spread content about Bologna, increasing the visibility and newsworthiness of the city. The point is to actually make people stop in Bologna and visit, since is a connection hub people pass by to go to other cities like Florence, Verona, Rome and Milan, Nimai says.

“They have to tweet, check in and post about specific places where they can eat, drink or access particular activities for free,” Parlatore says. “Their large pool of contacts, friends and followers will turn them into advertising vehicles through which spreading content about Bologna will be made possible.”

One winner, @flaneurzine, has about 1900 followers. During the trip, @flaneurzine posted 117 tweets, which were also posted on Facebook. @flaneurzine also published seven blog posts and six Instagram photos. Based on @flaneurzine’s following on various social networks, Nimai estimates the potential secondary reach of these posts to be over one million.

In order to promote the campaign, Nimai produced a YouTube video. Since it was posted November 28, it has 2500 views.

Weekends trips are expected to continue until about June, but Parlatore says the format could continue longer.

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