At the beginning of June, I attended TBEX in Toronto and had the opportunity to chat with many destination marketing organizations to learn more about how they’re integrating social media into their overall marketing. One of the standouts was the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB).

The Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana CVB recently  accepted the award for Outstanding CVB of the Year at the Lt. Governor’s Tourism Summit, as well as an award for having the best Tourism Campaign/Promotion of the Year.

Every single person who works at the CVB has a passion for what they do. They absolutely pour everything into making each project as successful as it can be, and it is a tremendous honor to receive statewide recognition for the work accomplished at the CVB on behalf of our destination,” said Shelley Johnson, executive director.

Johnson also stated that over the past year, many of the major projects would not have been possible without the strong partners in tourism and volunteers throughout the community.  The bureau also won an award for its National Tourism Week promotions for the Tourism Campaign/Promotion of the Year category.

I also had the opportunity to interview their Online Content Manager, Amos Orr, to learn more about how they grew their online presence. Amos offers some great advice and first-hand examples of what worked for them!

Q: Growing your Facebook presence by 34,000 fans in a year is totally impressive! How did you do this? (ads? contests? etc)

A: In short we did a little bit of everything, and changed our perspective of how we viewed people that liked our page. Instead of fans people became friends that we wanted to share with and friends we actually wanted to hear from. To grow a number to your page is great but it should not be the end goal; the goal should be to have engaged friends. Here are some steps we took to grow and maintain a respectable level of engagement.

  • Find out who you are, and find out who your friends are.
    What makes your destination or business unique? What do people go crazy over that you have to offer? What is your attitude/personality? We discovered answers to these questions by testing content. We tracked the time of day we posted, the type of content we posted (text, image, video, event), the content of the post (food, attraction, quote, history, event), attitude of post (factual, humorous, somber, aggressive). We looked at all of these things and were able to learn a lot about who we were and what worked best for our friends. Not every Facebook page and audience are equal, but it may help to research other successful Facebook Pages in your category to see what they are doing. You don’t have to copy them exactly, but you can apply general principles.
  • We posted shareable images to get them engaged!
    While money spent wisely can get you friends, it is more important to keep them engaged and interested, because what good are all of the friends in the world if they don’t actually care about you. Images end up being the most interacted with content on Facebook, because they are more visible than a simple text post. Just think how you scroll through hundreds of posts in a minute, which ones jump out at you? We were already posting some images, but they were sporadic with no call to action or direct connection to people. We took a look at who we were as a destination and then focused on what made us unique, as well as what we knew our friends wanted. We quickly found that our food resonated with our friends the best. Then we started asking for their opinion on what they liked, where they got it, and what they liked best. Here is one of my favorite posts the pits two highly craved food items against eat other.

    ‘Like’ for Shrimp and Crab Gumbo or ‘Share’ for Chicken and Sausage Gumbo? Let the battle begin!shrimp and gumbo

    We got quite a few comments on this post and it really helped the page get exposure to our friend’s friends.

    In addition to fun pictures, we keyed into trending posts types such as e-cards and “Keep Calms”. The key to having a successful e-card was to include a witty phrase that someone else might actually say. When it says something they might actually want to tell their friends, they will want to share it. It may not directly lead someone to action but you have to be mindful of Facebook Edgerank (how often Facebook will show your posts to people).crawfish boil

  • Partnered Contests leveraged with Promoted Posts.
    This may be our largest contributor to getting new friends, but all of the other principles keep your friends engaged and coming back. Armed with the fact that we knew people loved our food, we decided to capitalize on it by hosting a contest to win some of it. It was Christmas time, so we decided to run a contest called “Cajun Christmas in a Box.” We knew we wanted to expand our audience outside of our local community, so we reached out to a local business that produces and ships boudin (picture rice/pork casserole in a sausage casing, people go crazy over it) across the country. They offered us their product for free in exchange for mentioning them in the promotion (You don’t need an expensive prize to attract people, just something they are passionate about.) Using the Woobox app (woobox.com) for Facebook, we were able to generate and host the contest in-house. Woobox allowed us to fangate the contest, meaning that people had to ‘Like’ our page in order to enter. Since it is a third party app, this is allowed by Facebook terms and conditions. We then used Promoted Posts to target our driving markets to get them thinking about Southwest Louisiana and our unique cuisine. That contest resulted in over 2,000,000 impressions, 23,000 actions, 2,100 e-news opt-ins and 5,700 new friends. The cost of the promotion was nominal compared to the outcome. cajun christmas in a box
  • Learn that sometimes less is more.
    Posting 10 times a day may begin to annoy people unless it is all good quality content. And if people are not interacting with you posts, Facebook Edgerank will detect that and not feature you in people’s newsfeeds as often. I have found that it is usually better to post one quality post a day. This is not a set-in-stone rule, you can deviate just make sure what you are putting out there is what people want to see.
  • Whenever you post, use a Call to Action.

Whether you want to direct them to your website, sign-up for a newsletter or simply want them to ‘Like/Share’ the post, don’t be afraid to ask them to do it!

  • Have fun, it doesn’t always have to be about business.
    People are on social networks usually to have fun and socialize. THEY DO NOT WANT TO BE SOLD TO! (or at least they don’t want to know they are being sold to) Treat them as you would treat a friend, give them advice or better yet, get them to give you advice. It’s a two-way conversation.
  • Share cross-platform.
    Direct your fans from twitter to facebook, facebook to twitter, pinterest to facebook, etc.
  • You don’t always have to Create, you can also Curate content.
    Interact with you friends. If you see them share a great photo, let them know and them ask them for permission to share it. The is a couple reasons for asking permission:

    1. It’s polite!
    2. You can avoid content stealing issues
    3. It makes them aware that you are there and interested in them

I have yet to be turned down when asking to share content. The most anyone has asked me to do is to give them credit in the post. Instagram also provides a great platform to curate photos, just remember to ask permission.

Q: I love your YouTube presence with the various “how to” videos! What made you decide to do these? Are they easy to do? Do you manage everything in-house?
A: We are still developing our YouTube presence. We have, as you pointed out, done very well with recent how to videos. Our thought behind creating them is that if done properly, they could become timeless resources that people search for on a regular basis. Our area is known for eating crawfish, since it is such a unique aspect of our culinary culture, we thought it would be perfect for instructing people not from the area. They can be very simple or complex. I shot a “How to Eat a Crab” video on my Samsung Galaxy S4, gave it some quick titles through Power Director (an inexpensive video editing software) and loaded it to Facebook. It did surprisingly well for a virtually $0 budget film, but apparently people are very passionate on the best way to peel a crab and began to critique the star of the video on how he could have done it better! LOL It started a great conversation, but just be aware that you should really know the best “How to” for your “How to …” video. For the crawfish videos, we had those produced by a local videographer. It did take quite a bit of time to get the final product, but they did very well and have received a ton of views.

Q: I noticed you don’t have Instagram listed with the other social icons in your email signature. Are you guys on Instagram? How does your presence (or lack of) play into your overall social strategy?

A: Thanks for pointing that out, I might go in and change that. We actually do have an Instagram account at http://instagram.com/visitlakecharles. We primarily use it for content curation, since I don’t always have a ton of time to get out of the office. This allows me to leverage our friends and followers to do some of the heavy lifting for me by collecting their content. We started out by downloading the InstaRepost App on IOS and Android. Then we searched hashtags that we know people were already using in reference to our area such as #lakecharles, #swla, #lakechuck, etc. When we would come upon images we liked we would send the user a comment such as “Great Photo! I love the shot of that gator! Do you mind if I share it on the Visit Lake Charles social media channels? Just reply to @visitlakecharles and tag any other photos with #visitlakecharles.” We adopted the hashtag #VisitLakeCharles and began promoting the use of it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Just by reaching out this way, people began to organically share photos and content, even people we didn’t reach out to! You must be consistent and active on it, just like any other social media. It has not been my focus but it does provide great content and multiple truly unique perspectives that can be very eye catching.

Thanks to Amos and Megan at the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana CVB for taking the time to speak with me and offer this valuable insight!

 

Debbie Miller
Debbie is the Founder and President of Social Hospitality where she assists clients with social media and content marketing. When she's not online, Debbie enjoys spending time with her spoiled dogs; watching movies; reading; and drinking copious amounts of coffee.
Debbie Miller