Shenandoah gets social with tourism marketing

Shenandoah County got social with its marketing efforts in 2014. The result was a major boost in awareness and tourism across the county.

Jenna French, county director of tourism and marketing, recently announced that the county will be expanding its social media efforts in 2015.

The county saw major returns on its social media marketing investments in 2014.

According to the annual tourism report, Shenandoah saw visitors spending more than surrounding counties such as Warren and Frederick. Those visitors spend, on average, just over $525,000 a day.

“We’re excited to see the continued growth of travel expenditures … and that we are still number one amongst the surrounding localities,” French said.

French noted that the use of social media essentially helped refocus and repurpose the county’s tourism and marketing efforts.

“One of the challenges that we have in the marketing industry is that it is really hard to trace return on investment,” French said.

By increasing its use of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, French and the county have been able to more accurately track the people they reach.

“We are able to go in and look at the analytics almost immediately,” French said.

This allows French and her staff the ability to pinpoint who is looking at the ads, who is responding, where they live and what their interests are.

In broad terms, the analytics showed French and her staff something she said they already knew: that Shenandoah has a variety of options for people of all ages.

The difference with social media, French said, is that the tourism council is able to accurately tailor each advertisement rather than “shooting arrows in the dark.”

“We cater who we are targeting based on what the message that we are trying to get across is,” French said.

This approach, French said, has been vital for the county in terms of reaching the audience more accurately.

“The fact that we are so easily able to actually trace the return on investment, you will see a lot more coming from us in the future with social media,” French said.

That return on investment applies to situations in which the tourism department has to spend $1,000 (or more) for a print advertisement for $10 to boost a post on Facebook.

However, French explained that typically only applies to “posts that are performing well.”

Moving forward, French said that tourism marketing for Shenandoah is “definitely shifting more toward digital.”

In 2014, Shenandoah saw a 442 percent increase in followers on its tourism Facebook page, http://tinyurl.com/k5zbbw5.

“We are not abandoning print by any means,” French said, adding, “We hear people say, ‘Print is dead,’ and we certainly don’t believe that.”

French said that they will continue measuring how the mediums are performing “to determine where to go in the future.”

French noted that the county be looking to expand this type of marketing to local businesses and entities within the county.

On Jan. 21 at the Edinburg Mill, the county will be holding a marketing workshop for any businesses interested.

Although it will be open to anyone, French said, “It is going to be tailored a little bit more toward businesses that are within the tourism, service and hospitality industry.”

French said that the upcoming workshop will be taught by Dave Neudeck, the integrated digital marketing director for the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

The program will feature information on Facebook marketing as well as content marketing, mobile strategies and even travel blogs.

“By us all working together and implementing these tools, it benefits all of us,” French said.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com