Growing up, Marcie Hunter wanted to share her hometown with the whole world. Fortunately, that’s now her job.
As the marketing and communications manager of the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau, Hunter now spends her days coming up with unique ways to show off the area where she was born and raised to a diverse and widespread audience.
The mainland port city and four accompanying islands that comprise the hidden gem off Georgia’s coast has something for everyone. The Golden Isles welcomes snowbirds escaping winter from the far north, spring breakers from nearby colleges, newlyweds and honeymooners, multigenerational families and even groups of friends that want to spend a weekend on their own private island.
“It’s a lot of fun because we don’t just market to one segment,” says Hunter. “I can send marketing messages to people of all different walks and stages of life.”
Tailoring the web experience for everyone from spring breakers to snowbirds
Hunter explains that the bulk of the Golden Isles’ visitors come from within a five-hour driving radius, but many also drive over from neighboring states like Florida and the Carolinas. As the destination has increased in popularity in recent years, however, Hunter says it’s also seeing more license plates from Texas, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Canada, which brings both an opportunity and a challenge.
“I can’t just use the same ad and expect them all to come, so for me it’s a challenge, but it’s a really fun challenge,” she added. “I can’t just put the same ad in Southern Living that I would put in the New York Times or Family Circle or Garden and Gun, so I need to be very strategic and methodical about how I talk to moms versus retirees versus people planning a wedding or a honeymoon.”
Until last year, the Golden Isles CVB had been using the same website they had in place before Hunter landed her dream job five years ago. After rebuilding it with Simpleview, Hunter signed up with CrowdRiff just in time for the website’s relaunch in February 2018.
“CrowdRiff just opened the door to new possibilities in finding the amazing content that was out there,” she says. “These photos already exist, and they’re waiting for us to use them, and CrowdRiff helped source all of that for me. It whittled hours of time down to seconds.”
Telling more authentic stories, quickly and easily
Hunter says the destination was previously reliant on custom photography for marketing materials, which came with a hefty price tag and time commitment, relied too heavily on good weather and ultimately lacked authenticity.
When it came to sourcing images from social media, Hunter says she used to block off hours in her schedule to manually search by hashtag and location tag on her phone.
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“Before we were using CrowdRiff, we had no user-generated content on our site; we only reposted it on social media,” she says.
Hunter adds that she not only populates the new goldenisles.com homepage with user-generated content sourced through CrowdRiff, but she can just as easily incorporate UGC galleries into blog posts, partner listings and event pages.
Cropping, editing, getting permission and working with her web team to get a gallery coded used to take Hunter upwards of a full day. “Between the two products, CrowdRiff and Simpleview, they’ve streamlined my efficiency so much, it’s been great.”
CrowdRiff and Simpleview, a formula for better destination marketing
CrowdRiff and Simpleview work together to help Hunter deliver content for the Golden Isles’ events, partners and activities, and drive traffic to those pages, she says.
“What’s really cool about CrowdRiff is the fact that I can also use it to give more partner referrals,” she says. “On our website, if you go to the Dining page or the Stay page, I’ve built galleries that aggregate photos of local restaurants and hotels, and CrowdRiff gives me the ability to link those photos back to our partners’ listings on our website, so a visitor can see an image of a dish on our website, then click on it to find out where they can get it.”
She adds that she populates the home page with new images multiple times per week to keep the content fresh and seasonally appropriate, and adds two new articles to the site each month, on average.
“I can create custom content for those different demographics and build out those CrowdRiff galleries to speak to those people,” she says. “The retired snowbird in Canada isn’t looking for pictures of a family on a beach, the mom in Atlanta isn’t looking for images of retirees hiking through a maritime forest, so I can create that really custom content for my different segments.”
Hunter adds that the CVB hears lots of pitches from prospective vendors, but finds that many services don’t live up to the promises made by their salespeople.
“These are two of the companies that really lived up to all of those promises that we talked about from the beginning, so I was very pleasantly surprised,” she said. “The whole CrowdRiff team, it’s very evident that they focus and place a lot of importance of client success.”
10% decrease in bounce rate
Although it’s common to see metrics take a dip following the launch of a new website, engagement on the new and improved goldenisles.com has actually increased over the past year.
“Our pages per session increased by 5%, so we’re seeing nearly three pages per session now,” says Hunter. “Session duration has held really strong and even grown slightly, and our bounce rate has decreased by 10%; we’re really proud of that bounce rate.”
Despite the tangible impacts CrowdRiff has had on her marketing efforts, Hunter says what she appreciates most is that it’s allowed her to shift from really monotonous tasks—like searching, sorting and tagging photos—to those that made her fall in love with the job in the first place.
“It’s such a quick and easy process that it makes me look back at the way we were operating before we were using these two platforms,” she says. “Just thinking about the time we use to spend on it, and the heartache that can go into having to manually choose things—you get so dredged in all the details—but now it’s something we look forward to doing, because it’s like ‘Oh, I wonder what CrowdRiff is going to find for us today!’ It’s exciting!”
Header image courtesy of Golden Isles CVB.