West Texas’ Social Media Rock Star – Shanna Smith Snyder

[tweetmeme source=”pagetx”]West Texas is known for a lot of things.  Big skies, ranching, oil, rugged terrain …  One thing it hasn’t always been known for is being a hotbed of social media activity.  Until now.  Enter Shanna Smith Snyder with the Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB).

Shanna and I first got acquainted on Twitter, where I became an instant fan of her work with the CVB in Abilene.  After building our online relationship for a while, we finally got to meet at a Texas Travel Industry Association function.  Shanna impressed me so much that I asked her to speak at a seminar series my organization hosted called “Social Media for Economic Development and Community Marketing”.  As I expected, she did a fantastic job getting our attendees to realize that social media marketing was not out of reach.

I think her story will really resonate with a lot you out there.  ACVB is a small- to mid-sized bureau that does all their social media marketing in-house.  Yes, it’s possible and yes, it can be done.  Shanna is living proof.

So here’s my one-on-one interview with Shanna Smith Snyder.

Q1:  Tell us about your role with the Abilene CVB.  Are you the “Lone Ranger” when it comes to social media there?

A1: My official title at the Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau is “Director of Communication.” We do not have a Communication or Marketing “Department” – so the “Lone Ranger,” in that respect, may be accurate. I am responsible for all of our social media sites (creation, updates, management, campaigns, analytics and any new endeavors); video production; assisting with public relations efforts: writing and sending press releases; working with travel writers and press trips; working with the media; e-mail marketing; writing a weekly tourism article for the Abilene Reporter-News and bigcountryhomepage.com; the weekly news segment, the “Abilene Buzz” on the NBC affiliate – KRBC; assisting with marketing campaigns; assisting with the website; and special projects as needed or assigned.  <Whew!>

Q2:  Was it difficult getting the Abilene social media program off the ground?  What did you do to alleviate any fears or hesitation from management?

A2: I originally started as the “Heritage Tourism and Special Projects Coordinator” nearly three years ago at the Abilene CVB and social media was not a part of our marketing program at that time. Can you believe it? The ACVB without social media sites?! At that point in time, the staff, board and community leaders were all a little bit nervous about how new social media was and where it was all going. I recall they were concerned with the future of social media, would it be relevant to our overall mission and how would I respond to any negativity on our social media platforms. My boss allowed me to start small with a Facebook page and see where the strategy would grow from there (July 2009). In the first week, we had approximately 50 fans and now we are well over 8,000 “likes.” Locals and visitors alike were responding well to our new Facebook page and I was getting antsy and wanting to try something new, so I approached my boss about joining the conversation on Twitter. She gave in and my alter ego (*grin*) @AbileneCVB was born. After that, YouTube, Flickr, Delicious, Foursquare, the Abilene InSite and more came to life!

Here’s several things I did to alleviate fears and hesitation from management:

  1. I aimed to master one platform at a time and gather a solid audience on each. Social media was all so new, it had to “prove” itself.
  2. I initially wrote a Social Media Timeline, sketched a One-Year Plan and now a Two-Year Plan as a strategy to include in our overall marketing plan.
  3. I wrote the official Social Media Policy and Blogger Policy for the Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau. I use our Blogger Policy for staff and guest/community bloggers as well.

The Abilene CVB was the first Chamber affiliate to join a social networking site and adopt a social media policy.

Q3:  You’ve gotten a lot of recognition for your social media marketing initiatives.  What are a few of your favorites and why?

A3: Thank you! I feel very fortunate that they have been so well received. It is both humbling and exciting.

Project365 is one of my favorites because it didn’t cost the ACVB any money; it only “cost” me time. That is one of the things I love most about social media; is that for a smaller bureau, like the Abilene CVB, social media has leveled the playing field, it is no longer ‘pay to play.’ Project365 was also neat in the fact that it became community collaboration by the end of the year. Photographers, locals and visitors – everyone wanted to showcase their work!

I also loved the “Travel Matters” campaign. I enjoyed shooting and editing the photos and videos. Arranging those shoots allowed me the opportunity to meet a lot of people in our city and region who work in our industry or whose jobs are directly impacted by the tourism industry. The entire campaign was a great reminder for our residents, business owners, elected officials, etc. of the effect that the travel and tourism industry has on our community and region.

Q4:  These are some very clever and creative ideas.  What were your goals with these initiatives, and how did you measure your success?

A4: Thank you. I hoped that we would receive the following benefits through the initial initiatives: increased SEO/rankings; increased brand awareness, image and recognition for Abilene as a destination; and direct and real-time communication with our target audience. Both then and now, I use the ACVB’s social media platforms as a way to influence potential visitors before they come to town, as an informational service once they arrive and as a way to reach out to local residents. As far as measuring success, I constantly take a look at the traffic on our social media platforms, interaction with the different types of content on the pages, overall PR and buzz from the campaigns and initiatives amongst the media and industry and potential to gather leads or book business on social media.

Q5:  What conferences or trainings have been the most useful to you in your social media efforts?  What upcoming conferences are on your radar?

A5: I attended DMAI’s DMMI in late 2009 and it was very helpful. I also enjoy seeing all of my Texas tourism friends at TACVB and TTIA events. This year, I am really looking forward to attending #SoMeT.

Q6:  Do you have any social media promotions you’re working on now?

A6: Always! The ACVB is in the middle of our first-ever video contest. It’s called “Your24” and there are four categories – students, locals, visitors and businesses/professionals. Your24 is all about a segment of hours or even the entire twenty-four that make up (or made up) your day in Abilene.  Last year, I shared the CVB’s Abilene adventures through Project365 and now it’s time for locals and visitors alike to share their Abilene adventures with us and be rewarded for it! The winner in each category will be rewarded $500. There will also be a “social vote” on our Facebook page, YouTube channel and blog. All category winners, plus the social vote winner will be notified by April 30. The prize for the social winner is $100. All winners will be honored at the Abilene/U.S. Travel Rally on May 10 during National Travel and Tourism Week. For additional details, visit www.abilenevisitors.com/your24.

Q7:  I covered your National Tourism Week promotions in 2010.  What are you planning for this year?

A7: Yes and thank you for doing so! We will be hosting another Travel Rally during that week and I will be shooting another series of videos and photos. This year, the ACVB decided to revive our “HOT” Host ceremony – so those videos and photos will definitely have a different twist to them this year. Be sure to keep an eye out! J

Q8:  What is your favorite social media tool for business and personal use?  Why?

A8: I like HootSuite for both business and personal use. The desktop version and the app are both very user-friendly. It allows me to save time because I can schedule posts, shrink links, get stats and upload photos all in one place.

Q9:  And finally, tell us something about yourself that doesn’t involve social media.

A9: When I’m not tweeting, writing, shooting video or doing something ACVB-related; I teach yoga at several fitness centers in town throughout the week. I also compete with Team Abilene all over the state, a competitive karate team at Abilene Mixed Martial Arts. I also enjoy doing “extreme runs” around Texas when I can (think Warrior Dash). Anything athletic – I’m there! Lastly, I enjoy participating in community theatre when I can and I serve on various boards and committees in Abilene.

If you’d like a closer look at what Shanna and Abilene are doing in social media, here’s where to find them:

Well?  Was I right or was I right?  Shanna and ACVB have been recognized for their work in social media lately, and deservedly so.  The Austin American-Statesman hosts the annual Texas Social Media Awards each year in March.  Of the hundreds of people and organizations that were nominated this year, Abilene landed in the top 25!  Considering some of the social media “heavy hitters” that were in the running, I’d say their spot in the Top 25 speaks volumes about the quality of their work.  My congratulations to ACVB and Shanna for this honor.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Shanna, it’s that she loves what she does.  She tirelessly promotes the community she loves, and because of that, Shanna will continue to cook up some clever and effective ways of doing so.  I, for one, am on the edge of my seat in anticipation of what she comes up with next.

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15 Responses

  1. I get to see Shanna on KTAB and KRBC. She has impressed me by being well “put together” at, what to me is, a very young age. She is easy to listen to and understand and makes me go to suggested sites to learn more about the topics.
    Thanks Sarah, for highlighting her on our blog.

    • Aurora,
      I’m glad you’e able to “see” Shanna on a regular basis. She is indeed very well put together and incredibly skilled at her job. I was (and still am) happy to shine a little light on the good work she does for Abilene specifically, as well as for the Texas tourism industry as a whole.
      — Sarah

  2. Great blog, very interesting and useful for my travel research, thank you!

  3. Huge congrats to Shanna on her Texas Social Media Award; well deserved.

    We’re excited that Shanna agreed to join us as a speaker at BlogWorld & New Media Expo later this year; it’s great that medium-sized places like Abilene and Beaumont have taken the lead in social communications in Texas. They hustle!

    • Hustle indeed! Shanna is great at what she does, and I’m thrilled she’ll be joining you at BlogWorld. Shanna is truly a leader in the DMO community of Texas when it comes to social media marketing. You couldn’t have picked a better person to join you, Sheila!
      — Sarah

  4. […] Shanna Smith Snyder from the Abilene TX CVB (a 2011 Texas Social Media Award winner!) and Doug Anweiler from Authentic Seacoast Resorts in Nova Scotia will join us to help teach you more effective use of social media in your destination and hospitality marketing. […]

  5. Thank you all SO much for your kind words! @Aurora – I really enjoy doing the Buzz spot for KRBC News, so I greatly appreciate and value your feedback. @Sarah & Sheila – Thank you both so very much! I am SO excited about BlogWorld and about getting to go to SoMeT this year! Cannot wait! 🙂

  6. […] you are and build a competent team to spread the load. Why is the Abilene CVB successful? Because Shanna Smith-Snyder works her tail off. Is she working harder than you are? Look in the mirror, think hard and answer […]

  7. […] you anywhere. Integrating social along with traditional media is what moves you toward your goals. Shanna’s social media work with ACVB won two ADDY awards and an Austin-American Statesman statewide Texas Social Media […]

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