Salt Lake City Officials Turn to Facebook Fans to Drive Tourism

The Salt Lake Convention & Visitor’s Bureau mounted a Facebook fan drive this month to grow their Visit Sale Lake Page to 5,000 fans and create an online community pulling together information about the city’s skiing, convention, Mormon, genealogical and natural attractions.

The #1 Fan Sweepstakes began January 15 and runs until February 12. The bureau’s Director of Communications Shawn Stinson tells us that the page has gone from about 1,200 fans to 2,200 since the contest began; the goal is to get to 5,000 by mid-March, he said.

Salt Lake City is the capital of the U.S. state of Utah with a population of about 181,000. The primary tourist activity is skiing, as area resorts receive 500 inches of snow annually, consequently there are four ski resorts nearby and in 2002 the city hosted the Winter Olympics.

The convention and visitor’s bureau is a quasi-government entity. As a non-profit organization funded by a Salt Lake County tax on hotel rooms, it’s on a mission to get people to visit Salt Lake City — stay in the hotels there, eat at the restaurants and patronize some of the 700 businesses that are members, Stinson said.

The bureau started the #1 Fan Sweepstakes in hopes of introducing Facebook users to all that Salt Lake City had to offer. Although this isn’t the bureau’s first foray into Facebook marketing, Stinson said, it is the culmination of lessons learned.

“We started with a number of different Facebook fan pages: ski, visit, genealogy, meetings, and that didn’t work. It was too littered. So we went to simply Visit Salt Lake,” Stinson said. “This contest in particular is being used to drive an increase in our fan base because we are looking to distribute more and more information via Facebook.”

Another reason the bureau opted for a Facebook fan drive was the hope that a Facebook page can be used as a more intimate version of a brochure. “It’s the dissemination of all things Salt Lake,” Stinson said of the Facebook page, “We want to keep (Facebook fans) engaged and entertained and seriously consider Salt Lake as a vacation or meeting destination well past this and we know in order to do that you’ve got to present fresh and relevant information.”

Currently the convention and visitor’s bureau is not only promoting its sweepstakes on Facebook, but also participating in Travelocity’s Cabin Fever Facebook promotion where voters decide whether the iconic gnome will visit Utah or Tahoe to ski. Stinson said the bureau is still experimenting with social media, but that the current sweepstakes has been successful and will “definitely” be a cost-effective part of their marketing campaigns in the future.

The bureau’s #1 Fan Sweepstakes’ grand prize is a ski trip for two that includes airfare, lodging, ski passes and a FLIP video camera for the winner to create a v-blog of their trip for the Visit Salt Lake Page. First prize is a set of Dynastar skis and bindings, second prize is a two-day Ski Salt Lake pass valid at any of the four ski resorts in the city and 20 third place prizes of Ski Salt Lake belt buckles or t-shirts will be awarded.

In order to enter Facebook users must become a Fan of the Visit Salt Lake Facebook page, fill out a form with their personal information and then may invite friends to become fans — each referred friend that fans the page earns a user another entry.