The Abilene Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is using social media to reach potential visitors and tourists.

One of the first things CVB Director Julie Roller did after coming onboard in late 2016 was use Facebook to begin promoting the attractions, businesses and just about everything else about Abilene.

While social media doesn’t replace the traditional methods used to reach potential visitors, it’s another way to promote Abilene. 

Since November 2016, the Visit Abilene Kansas page on Facebook has received more than 768 new “likes,” a growth of 16.30 percent, according to Roller’s director’s report presented during the Feb. 28 CVB advisory board meeting.  

More recently, a Facebook post on March 21 noted the page had reached 5,555 likes.

Some of the recent posts include:

• The Ten Best Bookstores in Kansas, which includes Rivendell Bookstore; 

• Two Abilene restaurants (Three One One and LaFiesta) named as finalists in a KANSAS! Magazine favorite restaurant contest;

• Information promoting the Chisholm Trail 150th anniversary festival in September; 

• A video of the Abilene High School wrestling team being recognized on the Kansas House and Senate floors and numerous other posts.

Roller has also posted Facebook Live videos, known as Abilene Travel Talks, focusing on local attractions or businesses. The most popular so far features an interview with Terry Tietjens, owner of the Seelye Mansion, posted on Feb. 7.

That video captured 563 likes, was shared 661 times, received 119 comments and reached 69,816 Facebook users.

“It was so cool because it reached nearly 70,000 people.” Roller told board members. “Several people have now visited as a result and it was a chance for people who hadn’t been inside otherwise to kind of snoop inside the Seelye Mansion.”

People also are interested in reading the CVB’s online weekly newsletter, “The Abilene Tourism Advocate.” Printed copies are distributed to the six lodging establishments in the Abilene area and placed at their front desks so staff knows what’s going on in Abilene.

The first newsletter, published on Nov 23, 2016, went out to 1,270 users. By Feb. 16, that number had increased to 3,704.

As is true of any publication, just because the newsletter is sent out doesn’t mean people are reading it. However, Roller said the open rate for the “Abilene Tourism Advocate” continues to exceed travel/tourism industry standards. The industry standard is 11.56 percent, while the Abilene newsletter is nearly double that with a 22.70 percent open rate.

“People have been really kind in their remarks about the newsletter, but also are sending me additional names and asking if I could add their friends to the list,” Roller related.

Social media enthusiasts who use Instagram can also learn what’s happening in Abilene. The Abilene CVB regularly posts on it, using the hashtags #AbileneProud, #LikeAbilene and #NoPlaceLikeKS. The #NoPlaceLikeKS is the official hashtag for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, which connects users to all Abilene CVB posts.

Travel Kansas

website

The Abilene page on the state’s Travel Kansas website, www.travelks.com, includes information about 62 Abilene attractions and businesses.

Roller said she has been examining the website to see how many people are visiting the pages belonging to the Abilene attractions. While working in previous jobs in the tourism industry, Roller said she felt those organizations never paid enough attention to the Travel Kansas listings.  

“I’ve been looking at some of this data and the number of people who are going to those sites. I think we need to pay good attention and make sure we have current information on the state site and our photos are attractive,” Roller said. “What makes you truly want to visit?”

Roller said that she and Jeana Lawrence, tourism assistant, planned to review the Abilene listings before the travel season got into full swing this year and determine what could be updated and modernized.

“Those listings are free,” Roller said. “It’s the front door to our state.”

A story’s ad value

Any group or organization that has ever sought “free publicity” through a news article or broadcast knows the resulting story can bring people in — be it for a fundraiser, new business, festival or whatever.

Roller told the board the Travel Kansas website can pull data that shows the ad value of a story. She noted that a story about the carousel at the Dickinson County Heritage Center that appeared in AAA Home and Away Magazine in Oklahoma and South Dakota reached large numbers of potential visitors.

“If the Heritage Center had tried to buy that as an ad it would have had a value of over $31,000,” Roller explained, noting it’s important to get those mentions in publications when they’re not buying ad space.

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