Caution, Care, and Continuing to Connect Online During COVID-19: A Discussion with Visit Austin
As we all adjust to our new normal, we at Bound are here to help through every step of the process. Our new series will highlight ways that our clients continue to connect with their audience – both locals and visitors – and their approach to destination marketing during this time.
We’re excited to kick off this new series by highlighting our hometown and sharing how the Visit Austin team is adapting their website marketing to respond to these changing times. Living in Austin ourselves, we have relied on and been inspired by the ways Visit Austin is supporting our community.
First Response Content
Visit Austin’s start to COVID content began with the cancellation of the SXSW festival and the need to get information to travelers as quickly as possible. The team launched a fly-in for desktop visitors and a banner for mobile visitors to ensure that both the local community and out of town travelers had the information they needed to adjust to the cancellation. The Visit Austin team typically sees strong engagement on their fly-in and banner content, and they have seen exceptionally high click through rates on their emergency response content as it has continued to run.
After adjusting to the current climate with emergency fly-ins and banners, the team turned their attention to expanding COVID-related content throughout the rest of the site. These updates include changes to the overall structure and messaging of the site as well as targeting a different audience than usual: their In Market visitors.
“We have expanded our audience targeting to include Austin residents – a demographic we have historically excluded, given our mission to promote Austin as a tourism and convention destination,” shared Susan Richardson, Director of Content and Digital Marketing for Visit Austin. “However, local engagement on our website and other channels has grown over time. This is due in part to a natural organic growth, but also because of our team’s incredible SEO work. Austin residents represent anywhere between 10-30% of our audience. On our website, that is approximately 500,000 local residents. As the stay-at-home orders went into effect, we had this existing audience built into our channels that we could immediately begin developing content for.”
The team mobilized to quickly redesign their homepage, highlighting the opportunity to experience Austin from home. The streamlined homepage allows visitors (the Bound team included!) to quickly access the most important information, visit updated blog posts to support local businesses, and stay up to date with the latest information. “The ‘Visit Austin, From Home’ campaign direction was born out of the desire to support our local businesses, while continuing to be a source of entertainment for our followers, especially during the stay-at-home orders,” Susan added.
Event Calendar Header
Building upon an existing campaign on their Events Calendar page, the team is now promoting live streaming events and concerts to both their In Market and Out of Market visitors who land on this section of the site, ensuring that Austin keeps its proud title of Live Music Capital of the World even during a stay at home order! Since the launch of this content, the In Market has seen especially high engagement.
Food and Drink Header
Similarly, the team is promoting restaurants in the community offering carryout and delivery to the In Market segment. While I am often inspired by our client’s content, I am especially inspired by food-related content. I confess that after working on this content, I ended up treating myself to a take out dinner from one of the very restaurants in this image! Thankfully, our neighbors agree – this content has the highest click through rates of the new COVID response content launched.
When I shared this with Susan on our last call, we had a good laugh about it, adding that we were happy to know this content did its job. As true Austinites, the Visit Austin team deeply values our close-knit Austin hospitality community and wants to support them however possible. “As part of our commitment to them,” she shared, “we are bringing additional attention to the businesses and content Austinites and visitors can take advantage of from home.”
Lastly, the team identified several outdoor activity pages and launched content promoting gym and fitness streaming events for both In Market and Out of Market visitors. We have had some truly beautiful spring weather recently and promoting these content pieces ensures visitors are able to enjoy it while also staying safe. Given the nature of the embedded content, the Visit Austin team was able to easily expand this content to show on popular blog post pages that see increases in traffic in the spring.
In looking towards the immediate future, Susan shared that while their paid advertising efforts are on pause, the Visit Austin team is working hard to ensure their website and social media accounts remain active, engaging with their audience with timely, relevant and inspiring content. She noted that she also spends 15 minutes each morning reviewing partner resources (her favorites are Bound, Miles Marketing and Adara) she has bookmarked, catching up on the latest blog content and webinar recaps. More than anything, Susan shared that her personal mantra has been “this is temporary” – a good reminder for us all!
As residents of Austin, we’re grateful to be more engaged than ever with ways to connect with and support our community. As partners of Visit Austin, we’re amazed at the creativity and thoughtfulness the Visit Austin team has shown through meaningful content and local targeting to best support the community during this time. We hope highlighting the Visit Austin team’s approach is helpful as we navigate this new normal together.