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Facebook Program Takes Center Stage

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Eric Garvey | @VisitSpaceCoast

In many ways, it’s a whole new world for Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism.

Tasked with a mission of driving tourism revenue for Brevard County, the team at Visit Space Coast has historically focused on everything from rocket launches to being Orlando’s closest beaches in print, radio, television, digital Tand a highly visible billboard campaign to drive interest in the region.

For the past nine months, though, Executive Director Eric Garvey has changed course, using Facebook as a centerpiece of the organization’s outreach efforts.

In November, Garvey and the Orlando Tourist Board traveled to California to meet with many of the country’s leading digital companies. They learned about the capabilities of social media platforms and the extent of their reach. In short, Garvey was impressed to the point of wanting to implement a new program almost immediately upon his return.

“It really is quite amazing what they have going for them,” Garvey said of the digital leaders he met on that trip. “Facebook, in particular, and their new initiatives seemed a perfect fit for what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Big Investment – Big Return

Garvey invested more than $1 million in new programming over the next 12 months, tapping into Facebook’s research analytics along the way. And it is inside that research where the value of investment gets realized.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 11.45.03 AMTo put it in perspective, there are currently more than one billion people active on Facebook at any given time. That’s a full one-seventh (or 14 percent) of the world’s population.

Of the many benefits of using Facebook, perhaps the biggest single advantage to an advertiser is the company’s ability to recognize what device its users are on and where they are at any given time.

Reporting on these points of analysis is incredibly powerful and it enables marketers to serve up specific information to users at specific times and places as they work or play through their days.

Situational Relevance

For Visit Space Coast, these features enable the organization to target messaging to those who have formerly visited the area with messages relevant to their previous experience, or travellers on the road progressing south down Interstate 95 toward Florida from points north and even to reach visitors to the area as they experience our region with super-relevant messaging about where they are and what they’re doing.

And it’s this “situational” relevance where Garvey and his team are finding success with the organization’s investment in Facebook. The content they’re able to share with viewers as they are thinking about travel or vacationing, or event reminiscing about their last trip to the Space Coast, resonates with tourists looking to make the most of their vacation time.

1608.Facebook beach-1730-Edit-Edit-Edit-2-Edit-EditGarvey points out that while Visit Space Coast has been investing significantly in digital efforts over the past two or more years – including the Facebook effort, deeper and ongoing blog storytelling, email, social media and display (banner) advertising – not all of their efforts have been digital.

“We’ve been trying to tell our story through content,” Garvey says. “We’ve rebuilt our YouTube channel with new video producers and started working with user-generated content.”

Since everyone wants to feel inspired or get a good laugh, their campaign also includes some Memes (pictures with humorous captions added). These include, “The beach is calling and I must go,” to “I need a time out. Please send me to Cocoa Beach and don’t let me come back until my attitude changes.” The most popular also appeared in kiosks at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport, “Dear Winter, please don’t make me slap you with my flip-flop. Sincerely, Beach Bum.” It reached 1.4 million people on Facebook alone.

Diversified Approach

Historically, the Space Coast Office of Tourism has relied on more traditional methods of communication. Of particular note to local residents is the Visit Space Coast billboard campaign up and down Interstate 95 and east to west across the I4 corridor that accounts for a meager nine percent of the office of tourism budget.

“It takes courage to stop what’s not working,” Garvey says. “I want to continually challenge the team to get better.”

The proof is in the pudding. As “likes” continue to mount and images are shared and passed along, the risk of investing in digital efforts has turned out to be particularly effective, nudging Garvey and his team to continue to be courageous in their strategies to diversify the established traditional outreach to tourists with cutting edge and playful tactics.

Some projects are even turning out to be a boon for residents. Garvey points to a renovation project currently being floated for Lori Wilson Park and designed to make the popular, 32-acre park in Cocoa Beach more attractive to visitors while remaining a meaningful destination for local residents.

“We’d really like to make it more of a tourist asset,” Garvey says. “All the while, enhancing it as a really great public space (for the community).”

So while Visit Space Coast has its work cut out to continue to grow audiences and awareness through social media platforms, these new and exciting approaches are bringing the region tourist success through increased awareness and an uptick in visits. And with this new Facebook program as a centerpiece, the team is reflecting and reaping the benefits from a changing consumer behavior throughout the marketplace.

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