Case revealed - How SoMeT14EU conference ended up in Rovaniemi - guest blogger Rodney Payne

[The following is a guest post from Rodney Payne, CEO of Think! – the digital marketing agency that produces  SoMeT] This is the last post in English in this blog for now.

After four successful years in various destinations in the USA and a great debut in Australia last year, the Social Media Tourism Symposium (aka SoMeT) is launching in Europe. As many of you already know, the conference is being hosted in Rovaniemi in April.

You wouldn’t normally see a conference like SoMeT outside of a major city.

So how did we end up in Finland?

Never has social media been more important to destination marketing than it is today. So at SoMeT, we put social at the core of everything we do.

The conference is held in a new destination each year, and we have an innovative way of choosing a host city: where most conferences have a complicated process that happens behind the scenes, we do it in the open.

The organizing team determines the criteria that we need from a host destination and outlines them in a publicly released Request for Proposal (RFP).  The RFP for SoMeT Europe went out last September, and November we received interest from cities all over Europe.

Our team short-listed the responses down to nine finalists (Belfast, Kortrijk, Leuven, Mougins, Oostende, Ötztal, Poreč and Rovaniemi) that really impressed us through their passion and creativity in the way they met the criteria.

The vote!

Once we had the shortlist, the decision was turned over to the online community through an online voting process run entirely through Facebook. (The process for choosing the US and Australian SoMeT locations is the same.)

We hold three rounds. In round one, all destinations competed head-to-head. The bottom five were knocked out and the remaining four went into the semi finals. In the semis, Mougins went up against Ötztal and Leuven went up against Rovaniemi. Each destination had to rally as many people as possible to vote for them to host SoMeT.

The winners of the semi finals went into the final round; Mougins vs Rovaniemi. As the momentum built, the two destinations used a variety of approaches to engage their community and garner votes. Rovaniemi even created its own Facebook page around the voting process alone.

In the end, Rovaniemi’s passion and ability to engage their local community won out and now we’re heading to Lapland!

The system we use to select the destination is unique, but we have found in the past that destination marketers are very willing to travel to new and unique places, and that the world-class content at SoMeT is a great professional reason to do so.

Why is Rovaniemi the perfect host destination for SoMeT?

As it happens, our process for selecting a destination has led us to a perfect host. Social media is all about peoples’ stories. Our definition of a destination brand is: “the sum of all stories a person hears about a destination, combined with their experience in the destination.”

We live in a socially connected world. What that means for destinations is that their brands are created by the on-the-ground experiences that their visitors have.  A destination must have a vision that their industry rallies behind. For Rovaniemi, that vision is Christmas. The town is the official hometown of Santa Claus.® , and the entire industry lives and breathes that vision. This will be a treat for delegates to experience this first hand.

What are the benefits for a destination in turning planning over to its community? 

Handing over the destination selection over to a community provides great exposure for SoMeT. Asking peoples’ opinion builds advocacy. Getting people involved in the process before it’s decided for them is hugely valuable.

We let our delegates choose where they’d like to go rather than making a decision for them. We also ask for recommendations on case studies and to nominate speakers. Through this process, a destination becomes even more passionate about hosting us. A host community that’s engaged and welcoming also creates a much better conference experience for attendees.

Why should you come to SoMeT?

Our team focuses on bringing together some of the best case studies in destination marketing. We spend a lot of time searching for world-class content and examples. We’re very excited to hold our conference in Rovaniemi and we hope that every destination in Finland will send at least one person to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.

To learn more about #SoMeT14EU, please visit or SoMeT’s Facebook page
Register now for #SoMeT14EU here:


About the author

Rodney Payne, Chief Executive Officer

Rodney has been involved in tourism marketing through social media since 2005. As the founder and CEO of Think! he is responsible for setting the vision and driving the overall development of the company.

Rodney earned a Bachelor in Commerce (Management/Marketing) and in Law with Honors. Rodney focused on Intellectual Property law and was awarded a scholarship to study International Law and Environmental Law at The University of Oregon.


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