Creation & Execution by Break the Ice Media
Timeline: March – December 2017
Budget: $10,000 Strategy, Content Creation, Management. $8,000 Facebook Ad Spend
In its fifth year as an official tourism trail, the Haunted History Trail of New York State is a collection of over 80 creepy, spooky, and downright haunted locations that offer experiences for visitors interested in the paranormal. While most people consider “haunted” to be a fall or October activity, the Haunted History Trail promotes spooky tourism 365 days a year – through a website, public relations campaign, and an active social media presence, utilizing the channels of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Break the Ice Media (BTI) was hired in 2017 to build a strategy, create content and manage the trail’s social presence across all channels.
BTI began by creating a social strategy for the trail that outlined the trail’s voice and tone, frequency of posting, and target audiences across all channels. In a research study conducted by the trail in 2017, the majority of visitors were identified as day trippers from around the state. With that in mind, the social strategy centered around a goal to expand the reach in 2017, encourage longer stays and promote multi-day visits with overnights.
The trail had a social presence when BTI took over but without any real strategy in place. The first order of business was to drill down and determine a voice and tone for the social channels – fundamental in both planning and execution. While the topic of ghosts and spooky happenings can be dark (literally), it was essential the pages remain light-hearted and fun, with a touch of mystery. The strategy specifically called out “the use of question marks, ellipsis, and exclamation points,” grammatical tools that allowed us to showcase the dark backstories at these haunted locations, while also drawing people to the stop’s curious happenings.
The trail’s three main channels- Facebook, Twitter and Instagram– were crucial for fostering engagement with visitors, journalists, and travel writers. BTI built out comprehensive monthly content calendars covering trail stops and events in an engaging and fun way. This also ensured that all trail stops were featured across all channels throughout the course of the year – equitably posting about each location and region multiple times. Photography was a vital aspect of this, to set the scene and add to the creepy tone. The trail contracts a photographer every year to keep the photo supply current and spooky, so that gallery of high-resolution photography was repeatedly showcased across all three channels. Regular posting, a minimum of 3-5 times a week, with an additional push in September and October helped foster engagement and keep Haunted events and locations top of mind with fans and residents of the surrounding areas. Links directed back to the Haunted History Trail website, and partners/tourism bureaus were tagged in all relevant posts.
With so much noise in the cyberspace and on social media, BTI knew more was needed to bring awareness and attention to the events along the trail. Geotargeted Facebook Ad campaigns were used to promote events to their most relevant audience and increase sales to ticketed experiences. Many of these events sold out once they were promoted on Facebook. The promotion of overnight events within a targeted radius of 50 miles helped push our goal of increasing overnights along the trail.
Facebook is the cornerstone channel for the trail and saw nearly 40%-page growth between March and December 2017, ending the year with 29,601 likes. The page also boasts impressive organic engagement levels, with posts averaging a reach of 19,806 and one exceptional post reaching almost 98,000 people organically. Throughout the course of 2017, the page reached a total of 2,887,908 unique users. Twitter also saw 22% growth from March – December and the average Instagram engagement grew by 90.4% from 2016 to 2017 when BTI took over. Engagement with journalists/media was particularly high on Twitter, with writers tagging the trail and engaging with stops that they visited on hosted trips. Paid Facebook ads reached an additional 103,082 unique users in 2017 thanks to promoted event posts – and conversions to the website point to paid social as an indicator of the success of many sold out events, including overnight ghost hunting experiences.