Technology Helps North Dakota Visitors Become Legendary

Strategy: Know Your Customer/Product, Take Advantage of Tech

Type of attraction: Tourism Organization

Summary: Using up-to-date technology gives visitors to North Dakota the edge on creating their own legendary experiences as they follow in the footsteps of historical giants.

Tweeting about Teddy Roosevelt’s adventures in North Dakota’s Badlands?

Using up-to-date technology gives visitors to North Dakota the edge on creating their own legendary experiences as they follow in the footsteps of historical giants like Roosevelt, Sitting Bull, General Custer or Lewis and Clark.

That’s the goal of the North Dakota Tourism Division’s popular “RU Legendary” campaign which began in 2010.

“Ten years ago North Dakota Tourism began the “Legendary” branding campaign primarily utilizing traditional media and marketing strategies,” says Kim Schmidt, Public and Media Relations Manager for the tourism division.  “With the 2008 campaign evolution to “I am Legendary,” we were able to convey our message in a more personal and empowering way.  The 2008 numbers verified that in spite of a difficult economy and staggering gas prices, visitation to North Dakota and visitor spending increased again.  With the “RU Legendary” campaign, we are incorporating more social media components. The premise is to encourage visitors to see themselves as legendary in North Dakota and share their experiences with our travel audience.”

Schmidt credits the campaign’s combination of traditional marketing efforts and social media with helping North Dakota weather the economic recession. “North Dakota was a unique case when it came to the economic downturn,” Schmidt notes. “We did show growth and a lot of it had to do with the success of our regional efforts. We are a drive-through state so we saw more vacationers closer to home, and an increase in Canadian visitors as the Canadian dollar was getting stronger.”

The “RU Legendary” campaign began by inviting visitors to submit videos of their trip to North Dakota to post on the website (www.rulegendary.com). Visitors could also find additional information from the new digital travel guide on the North Dakota Tourism website. Monitoring social media trends and interests has enabled the North Dakota Tourism Division to build ongoing communications with visitors.  Just last year, it implemented a digital strategy representing all of North Dakota’s online areas and showed a total digital audience of more than 977,000. 

Facebook and Twitter have been valuable social media additions. “The videos are wonderful and encourage visitors to share their experiences, but we realize they are more of a time investment. We have found that people are more willing to put a post on our Travel North Dakota fan page or a 140-character post on Twitter, making it simple for visitors to share stories about their trip to North Dakota,” Schmidt explains.

In addition to soliciting tourists’ tweets, Schmidt actively uses social media to reach out to potential visitors. “The beauty of social media is that I can touch on a number of travel topics or niches to engage potential travelers,” Schmidt says. “I can also share fun facts or include links back to the website to new itineraries.”

Tourism Division staff also closely tracked social media user demographics. As recently as 2008, users of Facebook tended to be younger, but now the demographics are showing primary user ages of 35 to 54, Schmidt says. 

Social Media:  A Major Force in North Dakota Marketing

In 2010, the North Dakota Division of Tourism saw tremendous growth in its social media marketing:

  • 977,800 – total digital audience including  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Trip Advisor and a travel blog
  •  24,425 – views on www.rulegendary.com
  •  404% - increase of Facebook use – up to almost 5,000 fans
  •  83% - increase of Twitter use – up to more than 2,000 fans

Plans in 2011 call for expansion of the website, new Facebook fan pages and continued use of Twitter. “We are trying to hone in on tourists’ level of interest so we are adding niches like being a legendary adventurer, hiker, birder, etc.,” Schmidt says.

Plans also call for tying all communications together with themes and graphics to reinforce the message of North Dakota’s “legendary” opportunities – whether visitors are interested in basketball tournaments, gardening shows, historic sites or outdoor recreation – with social media playing a key role.

“Social media has helped us paint a better picture of North Dakota,” Schmidt says. “We are able to capture stories to share with future visitors and hoping that word-of-mouth will take off and motivate people to visit North Dakota.”

For more information, visit www.rulegendary.com, www.ndtourism.com  or contact Kim Schmidt, ksschmidt@nd.gov.