Kansas City has received a lot of press over the past few years due to the amazing town we have. It is the job of Carolyn Anderson, Social Media Manager at Visit KC, to use social media to reach people who are thinking about visiting and who already live here and spread the message that Kansas City is amazing.
In this recording of the Midwest Marketing Show, we learn more about what makes Carolyn tick, tools that help smaller teams and non-profits with social media, and what happens behind the scenes with this form of Hospitality Marketing.
I asked Carolyn what are three hospitality and social media strategies she believes have been successful and can be used to increase other’s social media impact.
- Find your local advocates – These are your natural cheerleaders who will help create content and share your message.
- Don’t fight what you are known for – People want to see what you are known for so don’t shy away.
- Don’t forget about Instagram – Being able to share the visually inspiring parts of your location can help make an amazing connection.
- Anyone who is passionate about their city
- Members of Visit KC
- The Attractions we have in Kansas City
We want to both promote leisure visitors, leisure people coming in for the attractions, for the food, to check out our parks and things like that, but there's also another side of our mission, and that's to bring in major meetings, conventions, big and small really. The announcement recently with the new conference hotel will be really exciting for the city as well to add to the already in place hotels and conference facilities that we have. We just want people to see Kansas City as a place to work and play and live and enjoy.
I'm extending their message by sharing what they're doing with my audience, same for any other attraction and restaurant around. It's a unique position to be in to reshare or retell what other people's messages are. Also, I try to find different ways to tell those stories from our side of things. There's something called evergreen content, where you can post about, at any time you can talk about barbecue any time of year, but then there's stuff that's like heat of the moment or flash news, stuff like that.
I think it's a package deal. It pretty much is how the locals treat it and it's how visitors treat it as well. I don't think they see the state line. There's definitely differences. There's definitely different cities, different government entities as well, of course, but I think that people look at it as the heartland, and it's just which highway do you take, which pretty soon the streetcar, where is that going to take you, things like that. I think that's how people look at it. We're proud to sell both sides of the state line, if you will.
We're a nonprofit, so we're not going to have the top of every tool out there. What really works for me especially with Twitter is Hootsuite. I really think it's a great tool. Their pro level is $9.99 a month, I think. It's not going to break even the smallest bottom line, I don't think. Then they have enterprise level, which I know the city of Kansas City, their 311, KCMO 311, they use enterprise level because they are literally taking in thousands of city requests a week, I think. You need that high demand backup on the software.
I like Hootsuite because you can have multiple tabs. You can have geo-specific listening, so you can say, "If people talk about lost and they're within 15 miles of Kansas City, show me their tweet." See if I can help. Be a literal guide for them and get them back into the city. I really think Hootsuite is getting more and more robust and great, a great tool for any travel agency or really even other businesses. I think it's a great tool.
It's an interesting challenge to balance the invitation to come to Kansas City with, "Hey, you live here and you know this, so get out there and do these things." Really what I want to do is make sure that it's just a given that when someone is going to come to Kansas City, whether or not they're visiting a college friend or a business or hometown and they're returning and they haven't been back in a year, I want them to be able to just pull up Visit KC on any social media channel and feel like we are an approachable entity.
It's funny. I get thanked for replying sometimes. It's great. I don't know any city that wouldn't reply to someone that reached out to them, but it's more just a small delight still to have that connection, particularly when maybe you look at the number of followers we have and you just think maybe you won't hear back. It's really fun to just be right there and say, "Hey, yeah, I can help you find brunch. How much time you got? Let's talk about what you like."
There really is always something going on and that's just amazing to me when inevitably one of my Hootsuite columns, a tweet comes through. Actually this was yesterday. Someone on Twitter was complaining that Royals fans are just wildly skewing the All-Star voting. They're like, "I know nothing's going on in Kansas City, but really, what are people doing over there?" As the social media manager for Visit KC, you're just like, "I want to respond to that," but I don't.
I can't put that ROI directly to that, so definitely social media marketing and something like travel is definitely PR. It's definitely a billboard for your city but it's on social media. You can't always have that hard, "This led to this," but that's what I like. I like the challenge of ... To me, if impressions are increasing and particularly engagement is increasing and reach is increasing, I feel like I must be doing something right.
The message people want is share the message. I feel like if my writing was boring or I was bringing in writing that wasn't inspiring, I just don't think I'd get shared as much. I think that, particularly when talking about a city, people want a human connection. They want that emotional connection because when you are inspired by travel and you're inspired by cities, that's what you need to come through on your writing and your content that you push out there.
Let's move to The Threes section. Since we're talking about hospitality marketing, what are 3 hospitality or social media strategies you believe have been successful that travel writers, that visitors' bureaus, that hotels can use to increase their impact in social?
I think, as a local, you see and experience your city differently. A thing that a lot of travel agents like to do is say, "This is where the locals go." The appeal to that to a visitor is anybody with Google can look up the top things of any city. It's wanting to take a minute and sit at a bar, sit at a restaurant, go to some of the hidden gem parts of the city that if I have more than 24 hours, where I'm going to go, so I feel like the locals are some of your best advocates sometimes and are going to be the people that share your message with passion.
If you look at the guys that come into town for Big Slick, Paul Rudd, they're celebrating their hometown and for good reason. It's for a great cause. The thing is though they support that great cause because it's tied to such a wonderful city. They're always going to be Kansas City guys, so that's a cool part about using local advocates to extend your message.
The other thing is it's good timing with your mentioning about what cities are known for. I would say don't fight it. They call it the big 3, jazz, fountains, and barbecue. I think people want to see that when they come here. We say, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, we've got all that, but don't forget we have an artisan cocktail scene now." It's like, of course, that's an amazing aspect. I love that and I celebrate it and I enjoy it myself.
However, for someone to come to Kansas City and say, "I'm going to try to experience Kansas City without barbecue," we don't get that a lot. It happens and you definitely can experience the city without barbecue. It's just it's kind of a fun thing to do. The fact that you come home from a business trip from Kansas City and people ask you if you had barbecue, it's okay that the answer is, "Yes, twice."
In our case, our product is the city, so instaKC, I'm incredibly proud of how that's grown. I love to work with people like People of Cowtown is an Instagram handle that got ... They were on the news recently. She's similar to the Humans of New York, talking to people that live and work and experience their life in Kansas City. IG Kansas City, another great example. They put on the Instameets, Instameet KC, where perfect strangers and then people that are becoming friends because of Instagram are coming together to say, "Hey, let's take a picture of something we both like, which is Kansas City."
I really feel like, I've said it before, the instaKC hashtag is sort of like a love letter to the city. I think that's a cool component of travel marketing that you can't really replicate on any other channel quite the same way. It's a small square picture and you get that much real estate to show what you want to show. It's fun to see what people react to on that channel. I think Instagram, for us, it's our third largest channel. It's got only 10,000 followers, compared to the other multi-digit numbers of the other channels, but it's something I'm proud of. I'm proud to see what comes across our Instagram feed.
I am inspired by those people because I feel like they're always working to make it better. They're using the unique public channel that social media is to share that message. I follow a lot of people that promote cities and travel on Twitter. It's interesting to me how it goes from everything from the formal travel agencies, the Visit KCs of the world, to the local person who's pushing for more bike lanes. I feel like they are just as much a part of the fabric of the city. They are the fabric of the city. I am inspired by those people that are making my job better because they're making the city better. Anything, I just really enjoy, I'm trying to think, CityLab. CityLab on Twitter is a great resource for things like that.