Destination marketing is a competitive industry. That’s the reason the West Virginia Tourism Office works every day to spread the good word about vacations in the Mountain State.
Personally, I think it’s an easy sell. This state is magnificent.
But the fact of the matter is, we’re in a very competitive marketplace. There are 49 other states, not to mention hundreds of countries around the world, all competing for travelers.
Vacation days and dollars are precious, and this consumer choice is more rooted in emotions and dreams than perhaps any other.
Over the years, the advertising world has, without a doubt, evolved, forcing travel destinations to be everywhere, all the time, to influence consumer decisions. Social media has been at the forefront of this evolution.
Now, more than ever, every paid advertising strategy has to be supported and complimented by extraordinary, innovative exposure on Facebook, Instagram and the like.
This isn’t as easy as it might sound: On social media, you can’t just buy your way to success. It’s all about the user, and, if you want to succeed, you need their help.
You count on the people who love what you do to share it with the rest of the world. Data shows that 86 percent of people have become interested in a specific location after seeing something posted by another user.
Two years ago, we asked you to do just that for the state you love. You came through for us, celebrating the state’s 154th birthday with thousands of social posts and beautiful images. In just two weeks, your posts reached millions.
Last year, for birthday number 155, you fanned out across the state to take and share thousands of new photos and memories in West Virginia. And all year long, since we first introduced #AlmostHeaven, you’ve posted your state pride with an enthusiasm that has dramatically boosted West Virginia’s social media presence.
It’s June again. Next week, West Virginia turns 156, and Gov. Jim Justice has asked us to wish her a happy birthday with a seven-day social takeover. It started with Flashback Friday, where users posted a favorite #AlmostHeaven memory — camping with the family, hitting the slopes, or strolling down a picture-perfect Main Street.
Here are the rest of the themes we’re asking you to engage in on social media:
Day 2: Saturday, June 15
Show us your favorite #AlmostHeaven scenic view — the New River Gorge, the Potomac River, a soul-stirring sunrise from the ridge behind your home or any of a thousand other magical West Virginia places.
Day 3: Sunday, June 16
Post a photo of your favorite #AlmostHeaven season. All four are spectacular in their own ways: spring’s fresh blooms, summer’s lush green, fall’s explosion of color and winter’s snowy wonderland.
Day 4: Monday, June 17
Share your favorite #AlmostHeaven adventure — hunting a trophy buck, hiking your best-loved trail or taking a drive on a winding country road.
Day 5: Tuesday, June 18
Post your favorite #AlmostHeaven place to escape — a treasured state park, a beloved restaurant or a quiet spot in the woods.
Day 6: Wednesday, June 19
It’s Waterfall Wednesday. Post your favorite one in West Virginia. We have thousands, some famous, some unknown, all beautiful.
Day 7: Thursday, June 20
Happy Birthday, West Virginia! Tag a friend who’s overdue for a visit to #AlmostHeaven.
This year, we also want West Virginia businesses to get involved in a big way. We’re challenging every employer in West Virginia to give their employees five minutes every day during West Virginia Week to answer our social media challenge.
The state Chamber of Commerce, Municipal League and Association of Counties are all participating.
Toyota’s Buffalo plant — one of West Virginia’s largest work sites and proudest success stories — will be joining, too. From major manufacturers to small start-ups, the business community is buying in.
Add your name to the list of participating employers at WVtourism.com/WVDay.
There will be prizes. Every day, participants will be entered to win West Virginia vacation and activity passes. Destinations include Snowshoe Mountain Resort, Harman’s Cabins, the State Fair and more. Folks who participate all seven days are eligible for a drawing for one of our grand vacation packages, including trips to Charleston, Huntington and Morgantown.
More important than prizes, though, is what your social posts do for West Virginia.
Social media holds the single most important influence on Americans’ choice of vacation destinations. Nothing does more for our image than your sharing of unforgettable West Virginia memories and pictures.
Your heartfelt love for the state is the kind of advertising money can’t buy. Every time you post, you boost a tourism industry that employs thousands and contributes billions to our economy.
Keep the momentum going. Celebrate America’s best-kept secret with seven days of wall-to-wall West Virginia on social media.