By: Steven Hicks

The Space Coast Office of Tourism is in the midst of a highly successful social marketing campaign. SpaceCoast Business wrote about the campaign last year as it began, so we thought it was time to check in with executive director Eric Garvey to discuss its success and where he is taking the campaign next. As we wrote back then, Garvey said there were “new initiatives that seemed a perfect fit for what we were trying to accomplish.”

Garvey tells us that through the remainder of 2016 to this point in 2017, the agency has invested more than $1 million in restructuring and targeting its message using the research provided by Facebook and Instagram. “About a year ago, we contracted with an official Facebook marketing partner to deliver our ads,” said Garvey. “We were at the point where we needed a more sophisticated tool to scale our efforts, a platform that was more efficient at delivering results with the amount of advertising we were doing.”

Through a direct comparison of methods, Garvey could see using this new platform was delivering a better efficiency, a lower cost per thousand impressions. “We’ve been very impressed with how that worked,” he added.

Garvey and his team now work with Nielsen and Facebook/Instagram to have consumer profiles mapped to both social media platforms, effectively taking their Nielsen targets, loading them into the platforms, and targeting those consumers with specific behavioral profiles. “The ads now deliver more and cost less,” Garvey explained. “They deliver higher click-through rates and video views. We’ve also been shifting a ton of our advertising through Facebook to video. It’s a very popular medium, so we continue to merge that way.”

Strategic Partnerships

Garvey’s office has also started a partnership with Florida Tech to do an ongoing economic impact analysis of regional tourism businesses. The first step was to set up a data feed that local economists could access.

“A big component of that is visitor information,” explained Garvey. “Collecting this information is typically done through visitor surveys, but that’s very difficult because of historically low participation rates. So, we pulled our collected credit card data into our Facebook platform. Now we invite people to take a survey through Facebook once they return home. Within two weeks they receive a series of ads encouraging them to tell us how they liked their trip to the Space Coast. The results blew us away. We’re running 10 to 1 survey completions with Facebook compared to our previous efforts.”

Sharing the Success, and Making it Look as Good as it Works

As is the true measure of any marketing effort, what does the budget look like for this
program over the next year? Garvey says they actually plan to increase the budget for spending on the Facebook and Instagram platforms by 50 percent. “We’ve heard great feedback on this program, so the increase is justified,” he said. “We’ve begun to offer local businesses and events access to our platform.”

One example Garvey offered was from a successful event promoter who was blown away by the results Visit Space Coast got him. He said he was skeptical going in, had been running Facebook, and felt he knew what he was doing. But with all the targeting now loaded into the platform, it makes the efficiency so much better. The event promoter was blown away with the improved results by running his event through the platform.

“What we’ve talked about so far is the delivery of the message, but the content itself has to be attractive or the delivery fails to generate a response.” – Eric Garvey

There is another component to this success. “What we’ve talked about so far is the delivery of the message, but the content itself has to be attractive or the delivery fails to generate a response.” Garvey said. “The creative team is doing a phenomenal job with the messaging, the digital message itself and using the targets to design for that target audience.”

In fact, Garvey recently got notification that one of their websites has received a gold ADDY (American Advertising Awards) for the region and is now up for a national award.

Ongoing Efforts

Garvey adds there are other ongoing TDC efforts. One is his agency’s recent partnership with the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast (Space Coast EDC) to attract and retain talent. The Space Coast is more than a prime vacation destination; it is also a hub for innovation, technology and manufacturing, which the EDC touts regularly. This partnership allows each organization to concentrate on its strengths in a joint effort to present the area in its best light. Jointly, the two agencies drilled down into the talent recruitment issue.

“There is a legitimate tourism component to that,” said Garvey. “Any prospect recruited to the area for job interviews is a tourist at that moment. We can clearly see where our businesses intersect on that talent recruitment issue, but in the long term, we need to be highlighting our quality of life as well.”

Living Big

Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism has great resources to bring to the table with the EDC. It recently formed an in-house agency, so developing creative is not as expensive. The office can do specific creative development and then spend media dollars on attracting prospects to come check out the area, and even target specific jobs. In the end, this enhances travel and tourism.

“Once we identified our roles, we put a program together and launched it,” Garvey said. “That’s where we are now. I’m anxious to get back to both teams to lay out a plan to deliver this program and set some goals.”

“Live Big” is the program Garvey is discussing now. He explains that the “big” part refers to being able to pursue your personal dreams and interests. So, if living “big’” on the Space Coast is all about being at a beach, you can live “big” here.

“If it’s being involved in sending people to Mars, that’s the ‘big’ part,” he said. “’Live Big’ is more of a personal call to action. I think the next phase is going to be about sharing the stories of folks who have found their way to ‘Live Big’ here.”

What’s Next?

Garvey’s team has just rolled out “Space Coast Live,” 30-minute live shows that precede launches at the Cape. They are leveraging the attention these launches get and running the live show around them. They tap into the live feeds from either SpaceX or ULA, and during the buildup to the launch, they layer in tourism-related vignettes. They will do a surf report, report on fishing and bring on special guests.

“For the last launch, we brought in the general manager of Florida Beer Company,” said Garvey. “He talked about craft brewing and being part of our community. We’re getting great feedback on these shows and will be expanding them. So again, the authentic content, and being able to deliver it efficiently and in a highly targeted way is very exciting.”

It is truly an exciting time to “Live Big” on the Space Coast. If you are not convinced of that yet, Garvey and his team at Visit Space Coast will make sure your social media outlets tell you so.