Reaching Modern Travelers (and Building Local Advocates) with Homegrown Video

by Kate Harris, Director of Digital Content at Amelia Island, FL

With online videos set to account for more than 80% of all consumer internet traffic by 2020 - not surprising considering the emphasis placed on video content by Facebook and Instagram and the rapid rise in popularity of live video streaming - marketers with an eye on the future are planning to increase their use of video. An effective video is poised to break through the deluge of information and options available to viewers on their phone screens. And, once viewed, videos play a valuable role in guiding the consumer through the entire journey, from awareness to destination research and selection, to purchasing and then enjoying and sharing experiences.

For Amelia Island, the main focus of our social media storytelling is Facebook. And, far and away, the best-performing posts (both organically and as paid promotions) have been and continue to be video posts. As a smaller, less-known Florida destination with a very targeted audience, we needed to be able to fill the video pipeline in a way that was authentic, strategic, and, by the way, could be produced and deployed very quickly to respond to market forces - or even natural disasters.

The seeds of the #LoveAmelia series were planted when our in-house video team provided production support for a PBS series filming on the island. We had seen other destinations, large and small, do well on Facebook with episodes in a series as opposed to disconnected, one-off videos showing a place.  When one of our resorts requested a piece depicting our 50-block Historic District to use for a big meeting arriving in just a few days, we were off. With a combination of a filmed intro and footage from other shoots, we had an episode - one that has garnered over 150,000 views and over 10,000 shares.  

Our editorial calendar has a simple premise: pick out unique experiences that people love and share them. We’ve found that how-to’s and insider takes perform well, but, overall, the enthusiasm of the people depicted is what connects the viewer to the video.  By using in-house talent and local people wherever we can, we have found it empowers and inspires our team, it gives the destination and the brand ‘faces’ that viewers can relate to, and perhaps most importantly, those on camera have a genuine passion for the place that they are excited to share. To keep the ideas going, we meet weekly with the Ambassadors who work at our Welcome Center, who speak to travelers all day and can report on frequently asked questions and trends.

One pleasant surprise has been just how positively local people respond to the series.  Those within an hour of Amelia Island are some of the most engaged, not only sharing with their friends but also engaging with travelers who comment and ask questions, providing a boost to Facebook visibility by doing so.  

Additionally, it is cost-effective and nimble.  Immediately following hurricanes Matthew and Irma, in Fall 2016 and 2017 respectively, video was key for Amelia Island in literally showing the world that the impact to our island was fortunately limited and that we were open for business in a few short days after the storms passed. This had to be on social channels ‘in the moment’ as press coverage was still showing dramatic impacts from elsewhere in Florida, and travelers were unsure as to how their plans should proceed.  Being able to jump in and show people that our Welcome Center was not underwater (as reported), that restaurants were open (with plenty of shrimp) and that historic B&Bs were not only undamaged but also offering special discounts for those affected made a difference in business bouncing back.

The series extension for Facebook Live, #LiveAmelia, does much of the same but “without a net.” Before going live, we strive to test and practice (often by doing a quick live to just the person running the Facebook page) to make sure audio is sufficient and crossing our fingers that the wi-fi signal will hold.  For the most part, we do this for the many events that happen on the island, something popular that we show with a twist. For example, previously we’ve shown the 4th of July fireworks from a rooftop of a hotel overlooking the harbor, a look at Amelia Island Concours week recorded in the front seat of a Porsche on the way to an auction, or a carol-singing session on the streets of the Dickens on Centre holiday festival. In 2017, over half of the top 10 best performing videos on our Facebook page have been #LiveAmelia videos.

If you’re thinking about starting your own series or rejuvenating interest in in-house video, here’s what we would recommend:

  1. Make the opportunity open to multiple team members - you never know who may have real enthusiasm or a special on-camera talent.

  2. Offer basic training, online or with experienced actors in your community

  3. Ask stakeholders such as local businesses for ideas, read TripAdvisor reviews for additional subject ideas and find repeated traveler questions to answer.

  4. Just try it.  Measure it. Wash, rinse, repeat.