Breckenridge Tourism Taps Power Of Social Media Snaps

Go-Breck-TourismInstagram envy is immensely powerful to Breckenridge Tourism, which uses local tax dollars to boost tourism in the Colorado town.

Visitors’ social media posts show off the best the town has to offer, from skiing and mountain biking. But these organic posts aren’t often viewable beyond a poster’s followers, which is why the tourism board wants to expand the reach via paid and owned media.

“We want to tell a story about what this place is like,” marketing manager Steven Stoker said. “Having real people’s photos and experiences, and the ability to have dialogues about what they are seeing, has changed our strategy completely.”

While the organization has shifted budget away from display advertising in recent years (due to performance issues) in favor of native, social and video pre-roll, it has found one strong use case for display media. It uses the visual marketing company Pixlee to find and approve social media pics featuring Breckenridge, and then puts those (near) real-time photos into its display ads.

Click-through rates with user-generated images are 35% higher than those without, and Breckenridge Tourism gets the same large reach and low cost that it gets with traditional display media.

Similarly, Breckinridge Tourism will do a social media callout for photos or videos and use that for its video pre-roll. It’s also experimenting with the live-streaming video service Facebook Live, which it believes will be a powerful channel.

Breckenridge Tourism also customizes the creative for each of its seven target audiences. For instance, moms with kids see posts of families having fun, while adventure travelers get extreme sports shots.

That customization and the real-time nature of the posts drive results. “Breckenridge can be a snow-based tourism destination, and awesome shots on a powder day can make people want to book a trip,” Stoker said.

Breckenridge Tourism includes a social media feed on its site, The pictures go through the same approval process as with Pixlee, which searches for photos within a geofence or via hashtags, like the organization’s own #breckbecause, which has been used more than 29,000 times.

Time on site has increased overall since the organization added the feed, according to Stoker, even as more people access the site on mobile devices, where time on site is shorter than desktop.

Despite incorporating social media photos on its owned properties and paid media, Breckenridge Tourism still spends a lot on Facebook and Instagram. Though Instagram drives the best engagement, Stoker said, it spends more with Facebook because it brings in a broader audience.

Paid and organic posts generate similar levels of engagement, Stoker said, a key reason why social media is its most cost-effective channel.

“Our followers don’t care if it’s paid or organic,” Stoker said. ‘They will engage based on how good the content and story is.”

The group often starts out by posting organically, and then pays to boost the post once the organic reach tapers off.

As a way of thanking visitors for their contribution to the town’s marketing, Breckenridge is even taking its best social media offline. It just put up its second “Instagallery” in an art gallery in town, where it’s framed and displayed the best social media shots of the area. The exhibition acknowledges the contributions made by visitors and residents in showcasing the town – IRL.

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