Opinion, WVPA Sharing

Opinion: Tourism Commissioner Ruby says ‘Thank you, #AlmostHeaven West Virginia’

By Chelsea Ruby

W.Va. Tourism Commissioner 

Thank you, West Virginia — and congratulations!

Last month, you pulled off one of the most successful social media campaigns by any state, ever. In a span of just two weeks you used #AlmostHeaven tens of thousands of times, and your posts reached more than 15 million people.

Chelsea Ruby, Commissioner, W.Va. Division of Tourism

At its peak, #AlmostHeaven was one of the top 10 trending Twitter hashtags in the world. In just two weeks—336 hours—you left your mountaineer mark on the social world thanks to #AlmostHeaven.

The credit for this success goes to of each of you who used the hashtag and posted a picture, nominated a friend or shared a post. Social media reaches every corner of the connected world, so you showed the entire planet what you love about our state: spectacular sunsets, jaw-dropping mountaintop views, and outdoor adventure that never stops. And in the middle of it all was you—and the people you love—having the time of your life.

Our birthday celebration even included National Geographic. They came for the New River Gorge Bridge Walk, a heart-stopping trek over the bridge’s catwalk 876 feet in the air, and streamed it live for West Virginia’s birthday. It turned into their most-viewed Facebook Live. In just two days, the video received 375,000 views and was shared nearly 15,000 times. That number continues to climb as it’s shared by more and more people.

In thousands of comments, people from outside West Virginia gave their instant reactions to the campaign. They expressed awe at our beauty, surprise at seeing a side of West Virginia totally different from their expectations, and plans to visit destinations they’d never even heard of a month ago. When people from other states who have never considered coming to West Virginia are suddenly asking for information on activities and destinations across our great state, we know we’re onto something big.

Consider this statistic: Last year, 52 percent of Americans made travel plans based on something they saw on social media. From the vantage point of even 10 years ago, that number would be almost impossible to believe. But when you think about how we get our information in 2017, it makes perfect sense.

When it comes to promoting the state, social media is a powerful multiplier. It doesn’t replace other forms of advertising, but it does amplify them. Advertising thrives on repetition. When prospective visitors see a West Virginia ad on television or in a magazine and then see the same message reiterated on social media in posts from people they know, the repetition across multiple platforms drives home the point. Governor Justice fought hard to boost tourism funding in the last legislative session for just this reason. Imagine what we could do for tourism jobs with a major new investment in multi-platform marketing! If the Legislature agrees to increase our advertising budget the possibilities are endless for tourism in West Virginia.

All of this means we need you. Like never before, our success or failure in promoting the state’s image depends on your efforts. If half of Americans plan their vacations based on social media, all of us who love West Virginia have to get serious about singing its praises online. Tourism jobs depend on it.

West Virginia Day may be over, but that’s no reason to stop posting your West Virginia memories. Keep showing off those scenic views, big bucks, happy dogs, and laughing kids. Keep shining a light on the real West Virginia. And let’s make every day #AlmostHeaven.

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