Social Media Brings Sightseers to San Antonio


Social media is where we so often share our experiences. Weddings, promotions, birthdays—you name it. Among the most shared experiences are vacation plans and pictures. So, marketers for the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau (SACVB) knew an innovative, engaging social campaign could draw vacationers to Texas’ second largest city—the nation’s seventh largest metropolis.

According to SACVB, San Antonio is the Southwest’s number one vacation destination, with 30 million visitors in 2013 who pumped about $12 billion into the local economy. But marketers for the city’s visitors bureau say that after an unusually cold winter and spring that softened the city’s tourism revenue, they could no longer rest solely on past success.

“San Antonio understands the power and draw that it’s had [in the past],” says Richard Oliver, director of communications for SACVB. Oliver says tourism is an industry that relies on great reputation, which he stresses that San Antonio certainly has: “It was great, but it wasn’t enough. We needed to look ahead at our [marketing] down the road—which isn’t going to be traditional print or the way we’ve done things in the past. We needed the power of social media.”

Oliver says his team determined that Facebook is one of the best ways to attract their audience sweet spot: a family travel segment that consists of moms ranging from 25 to 54 years old who are in driving distance of San Antonio, particularly those in Houston, Dallas, Ft. Worth, and Oklahoma City.

With a target demographic, target locations, and style of campaign in mind, Oliver and his team at SACVB set out to make an interactive campaign that they could embed in Facebook and the Twitter feeds of potential visitors—a campaign that would bring video, photos, live stream content, hotel locators, and booking information to the social experience. SACVB wanted to optimize sight, sound, and motion on social—by no means a run-of-the-mill strategy.

So with tools from Sizmek Social and strategy from Proof Advertising, marketers for SACVB worked to craft a campaign that used first-party Facebook data to create a social, rich-media campaign—one that could use real-time bidding tools to present media to moms sharing their photos and plans on Facebook. “Social rich-media basically allows [marketers] to share multimedia posts in a single instance,” says Ly Tran, director of digital strategy and architecture at Proof Advertising. “You’re able to put together a single post that has a collection of photos, a collection of videos, and a collection of links. That really allows users to engage and explore in just one post.”

The campaign, entitled “Unforgettable Summer,” used social targeting and served this collection of media to Facebook users in the desired demographic and whose data illustrated a potential interest in a trip to San Antonio. “[Social rich-media] allows users to engage and explore in one post rather than guessing which posts might work or what might be interesting,” Tran says.

The results, Oliver explains, were nothing less than a success. “We saw a definite uptick in the number of people that came into town; we saw our hotel stays go up about seven percent during the summer,” Oliver says. In just the first week of this summer social campaign, he and his team saw nearly a 75% interaction rate and nearly 50% video completion rate: “It definitely exceeded our wildest expectations.”

Oliver says the goal now is to make SACVB campaigns even more engaging and effective. He says that social rich-media is now an integral part of that plan: “I don’t think there’s any more important lesson that we learned in this other than social works. Social is powerful. The numbers bear that out, and this is just the start.”

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