increase in traffic
Lower bounce rate
social follower growth
Yakima Valley is an area in the southern part of Washington State, and home to over 11,000 acres of vineyard. It has a rich diversity of microclimates, rugged hillsides, and wetlands.
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When Jared Yoakum was growing up in Washington State’s Yakima Valley, he wanted nothing more than to leave. Today, it is his job to get people to come visit.
Yoakum, who serves as Marketing Manager of Yakima Valley Tourism, explains that during his childhood the small community of about 90,000 lacked a certain excitement. “When I was 17 there was nothing going on, there was nothing to do, it was boring,” he recalls. “I couldn't wait to leave this place.” Yoakum eventually realized his dream of escaping his hometown, spending much of his 20s travelling and living in neighbouring big cities like Seattle.
Yoakum returned home one summer, however, and was surprised to discover how much his “boring” hometown had developed in the decade after he left. “By the time I returned, the Yakima Valley was rising out of a recession, and a lot of wonderful things were happening," he said, adding that those wonderful things include meeting his future wife, Justine. “The town went through a little bit of a boom, and it’s continuing to go through a boom,” he adds.
Among the key drivers of this boom are a burgeoning agro-tourism industry, and a number of West Coast trends that only started to emerge in recent years. “We've been doing farm-to-table since I was born, it's nothing new,” jokes Yoakum. “When you grow up in a town like this you pick your own produce every day.”
With just one commuter airport that only flies direct to Seattle, and with several hours of highway separating the town from any large population centre, Yakima Valley relies heavily on tourists from Portland and Seattle, and to a lesser degree California and Nevada.
The region’s greatest attractions, according to Yoakum, are the 40 locally produced commercial crops, which he describes as fresher and more affordable than any city-dweller can find in their neck of the woods. The valley is also home to 50% of Washington State’s wine grapes and 120 wineries, as well as 75% of the entire United States’ hops supply, which brings brewers and beer enthusiasts from around the world..
“With the rise of the farm-to-table movement and the interest that people have in where their hops come from or how their beer is brewed or what grapes go in their wine, the level of interest has grown, and the timing has been very good for us,” explains Yoakum.
After deciding to settle back down in his hometown Yoakum first worked at an advertising agency, then opened his own, before landing a job with the tourism board in September of 2015.
“I came in about a year and a half ago and started kicking over the tea cart a little bit as far as our marketing is concerned,” said Yoakum, explaining that he quickly started plotting a redesign with his one permanent and one part-time staff member. “We re-launched our website in July of 2016, and CrowdRiff was a big part of that.”
After spending “thousands,” Yoakum discovered that their target demographic valued personal stories that couldn’t be captured in professional photos. After all, why else would they drive two and a half or more hours just to sample fresh wine from a local vineyard?
“It was the ability to tell whatever story I wanted to using user-generated content simply by selecting the images I had coming in,” he said.
We were blown away once we started using the platform and seeing how much content was actually out there that we hadn't seen before.
JARED YOAKUM, MARKETING MANAGER, YAKIMA VALLEY TOURISM
Since the website re-launch less than two years ago, Yakima Valley’s Instagram follower count has increased from 2,000 to 5,000. The new website is bursting with images of locals and tourists enjoying the best the region has to offer, including hops and grapes but also nature walks, live music and local sporting events.
“We're trying to do everything we can to make it an accessible, real destination for people that they can picture themselves visiting, and see other people having the experiences that they could be having themselves.”
Though there are other factors that went into the website redesign, since re-launching with the addition of CrowdRiff Galleries, the average website visit has tripled in length.
With all the success that the Yakima Valley and its tourism industry have seen in recent years Yoakum says he and his team are currently in the process of using CrowdRiff to take user-generated content to the next level.
“We’re actually going to be looking into doing our travel guide with nothing but UGC,” he said. “It’s a rather monumental task to undertake, but it’s a direction we’ve considered going with our travel guide.”
Yoakum’s team has also been experimenting with using CrowdRiff at its live events, such as automatically generating a raffle for conference attendees that post selfies using their hashtags.
CrowdRiff’s ability to source all the social photos and videos people are taking and sharing with their hashtag makes it easy for them to manage contests like these, when otherwise it would be nearly impossible to track all the content and individual entries in real time.