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Idaho tourism gains success with digital campaigns

Client: Idaho Department of Commerce–Tourism Development
Agency: Drake Cooper
Objective: Reach target demographic via social media on a limited budget

The average state tourism budget is $14 million. However, Idaho’s tourism office has only $3 million to convince travellers to visit the Gem State’s mountain ranges and serpentine rivers. So when Karen Ballard, head of Idaho’s tourism division, decided to launch a digital campaign in 2008 to lure tourists, she was understandably concerned. “It was a pretty wild idea,” Ballard says. “And I knew that my job might be on the line.”

STRATEGY: Dubbed “Adventures in Living,” the campaign asked contestants to nominate a family member in need of a vacation. The winner, Tobias Lumpkin, and his family, received a 10-day, 2,200-mile trip through Idaho—an adventure that the Idaho tourism office filmed as part of a 30-minute documentary, parts of which were then posted on its website. “We had no idea what kind of footage we were going to get, but the Lumpkins were terrific,” Ballard says.

Building on the success of the campaign, Idaho recently launched My ID, a personalized photo-sharing microsite that lives on the visitIdaho.org website. Visitors can enter a sweepstake either through the site or Facebook to win prizes, including golf packages and hotel stays. The My ID site also allows visitors to upload photos to make personalized cards and videos to share on Facebook or via email.

By tapping into social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, Idaho has been able to better target potential visitors. “For us, our sweet spot has always been the female head of household,” Ballard says. “And these are definitely places where you find them.”

Tourism boards use social media for broader reach, better targeting

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That’s not to suggest, however, that leveraging social media is as easy as designing a website, especially on a limited budget. “We don’t really have the power to keep trying to get people to make videos [on the My ID site], so we’re seeing that die down,” Ballard says.

RESULTS: Despite budgetary constraints, Idaho’s digital marketing efforts are paying off. Since its launch this March, the My ID website has received more than 80,000 visitors and there have been 9,255 sweepstake entries. What’s more, between October 2011 and February 2012, Idaho’s Facebook page received nearly 30 million impressions and nearly 14,000 clicks for the bargain price of 91 cents per click.

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