Iceland Wants to Be Your Friend


Ever been to Iceland? Well, more and more people are answering yes to that question these days, as the country has turned to social media to boost tourism and the national economy. The Inspired by Iceland social media campaign encourages those who have visited the country to act as social ambassadors and spread the word on their social media networks about their experiences.

Activating the social media advocates

The problem:

Iceland was struggling after the collapse of the country’s banks led to complete economic meltdown. The banking collapse was the largest experienced by any country in economic history. To add to the crippling economic crisis, Iceland experienced a devastating volcanic eruption that halted all European air travel and, consequently, all tourism to the island.

The strategy:

Iceland’s board of tourism and economic development office initiated Promote Iceland, which, among other things, would appeal to all of the people worldwide who have visited and fallen in love with the country. They created social media campaigns called “Inspired by Iceland” and “Iceland Wants to Be Your Friend” that encourage superfans to share their experiences in Iceland with the public, and spread the word about this breathtaking destination. Here’s why it worked so well:

1. Agency TakkTakk gave Iceland a human voice.

The country has its own Tumblr and other accounts that tell “humans on the Inter-nets” that Iceland wants to be their friend. The voice of Iceland find its human friends to be strange and interesting, and wants them to visit one day, “if they are not too busy and important.” Coming from the voice of this quirky old country, appeals to visit come accross as unthreatening requests by a friend. Social media users are more receptive to this because it resembles a natural human conversation, rather than interaction with a larger corporation or organization.

2. They maintain a consistent voice across all of their social media channels.

Iceland has accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Vimeo, Flickr, Foursquare and more. And all of these accounts maintain the same creative, unconventional voice.  Even the fine print on the accounts is quirky and enjoyable to read. This is increasingly important, as social media users have come to expect consistency and value creativity.

3. They focus primarily on User Generated Content from Superfans

The team behind Inspired by Iceland is aware that people who have already visited Iceland are its best advocated. These people know the beauty and peacefullness of the land, and their recommendations carry weight with both friends and strangers alike. So, the campaign is centered around pictures and videos that are sent in, rather than around pcitures and videos filmed by the organization itself.

4. They encourage sharing and participation through tangible and intangible rewards.

Posting images and videos of Iceland to social media with the tags #IcelandSecret and @InspiredbyIceland enters participants to win a trip for two to Iceland, plus a Game of Thrones tour. Other competitions surround questions such as “What would you call Iceland if you were the first person to name it?” Finalists are publicly honored and the community gets to vote to choose the best name, which is then featured in a film on Vimeo.

The results:

People are lining up to become Iceland’s friend. Since the social media campaign was launched, tourism has increased by about 20% year over year. The campaign has been so impressive that it won Gold at the European Effies for generating the most profits using social media.

Want to learn more about how you can use a program like Inspired by Iceland to drive your business? Contact Steve Mehaney at

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