The audience for Texarkana, Ark.'s online marketing is growing, and that could translate to more visitors and more business for local restaurants.
That was the message the city Advertising and Promotion Commission heard Thursday from Sells Agency, the Little Rock marketing firm the Commission hired last year to promote Texarkana tourism and dining. CEO Mike Sells and Vice President Drew Finkbeiner gave an update on their efforts during a quarterly Commission meeting in City Hall.
Their comments focused on how people engaged with the website they created, ourtexarkana.com, and with the associated Facebook and Instagram accounts in the first quarter of 2019.
The website had just over 3,000 users during that time, 74% of which were female. That high a ratio of female visitors is good because research shows women do most travel planning, Finkbeiner said.
The site's visitors live mostly in Texarkana, Texas; Dallas; Texarkana, Ark.; Little Rock and Houston. The high rate of attention from Dallas and Little Rock residents is encouraging as travel between the cities—with Texarkana between—is expected to increase over the summer, Finkbeiner said.
"The idea of Texarkana being a great place to stop, have that kind of unique dining experience, stop and have a nice place to stay for the evening if need be, that's exactly where we want to be," he said.
"Content marketing" via social media, such as video stories about local restaurants, has been the agency's thrust so far, as it creates an audience who can then be reached with more traditional advertising at no cost.
"Social really was our main driver for this first quarter, which has been good. That's continued to really build. The numbers continue to grow, as far as those followers. That's all positive to see," Finkbeiner said.
The Our Texarkana Facebook page went live last summer and as of March 31 gained 4,270 page likes, including 954 added in the first quarter of this year, Sells said.
For context, Rogers, Ark., and Fort Smith, Ark., have had similar Facebook pages up since 2009, and they have 8,300 and 9,100 likes, respectively. Conway, Ark.'s Facebook page has gained 3,150 likes, and El Dorado, Ark.'s has gained 3,630, since 2011.
Launched last summer, the Our Texarkana Instagram account had 1,467 followers as of March 31, including 355 added in 2019's first quarter.
Rogers' Instagram account has been live since 2013 and has 5,400 followers. Fort Smith's has attracted 1,011 followers since 2013, and Conway's 2,277 since 2012.
"We're real pleased with the momentum we're getting in terms of building an audience," Sells said.
Sells noted a lot of enthusiastic engagement with the agency's videos, professionally produced profiles of such local restaurants as Pop's Place and Sue and Carol's Kitchen.
"Why I think these videos are getting such good response is because we are telling stories about not just the people—because you can have a bad restaurant that's got a really interesting person that owns it—but we're telling this unique story that is unique recipes, homegrown recipes, quality prep and quality ingredients in a place, and that's why we're getting the reaction. Because if you haven't been, then you don't know you don't know," he said.
As the marketing campaign continues, more data will make focusing on what works easier, Sells said.
"It's going to be more helpful when we get to a place where we're able to show you stats and compare it with a year ago," he said.
Last spring the Commission agreed to a $134,000, year-long contract with Sells Agency for a wide variety of services, including branding; photography; a website and search engine optimization; a visitor's/facilities guide; social media marketing; sports/event marketing; local restaurant marketing; a community report; marketing and project management; and public relations.
The Commission must approve drafts of all marketing and PR materials before costs are incurred. The Commission will own any intellectual property created by the agency on its behalf.
The A&P Commission allocates revenues from the city's 2% restaurant and 3% hotel taxes to support the Arkansas-side tourism and hospitality industry.
Our Texarkana: ourtexarkana.com
Sells Agency: sellsagency.com