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Special Project

Special Project
From the 10th Annual Shorty Awards

Welcome to the Outer Banks

Winner in Large Media Buying Strategy

Audience Honor in Large Media Buying Strategy


Visit the Outer Banks of North Carolina (Outer Banks) came to us seeking a partner to drive engagement and increase off-season travel using social media. Their overall objective: elevate the Outer Banks as a year-round destination to new fans and repeat visitation with existing fans. On social media, the goal was to extend the engagement they were seeing on their existing content as well as drive to key pages on their website that indicate intent to visit. These intent pages were comprised of a free downloadable travel guide and newsletter sign-up for ongoing communication.

The desired target audience was females in their mid-20's to mid-60's, with families, and located on the east coast of the United States. Research identified this group as those who are typically researching and booking vacations for their families and friends. The focus on specific geo-locations was important as we knew that most of their visitors are within driving distance to the Outer Banks.

Strategy and Execution

To drive visitation of the Outer Banks during the off season, we developed a paid social media strategy that outlined our objectives, targeting, placements, ad units, optimizations and success KPIs.


We built social personas based on the demographics and psychographics of our audience. Our research identified where they engage on social, and how they interact with travel brands. We focused our paid media efforts on Facebook for conversion and Instagram for engagements with prospective travelers.

Utilizing the targeting options on these platforms, we implemented the Facebook pixel on the Outer Banks website to retarget visitors and developed Custom and Lookalike Audiences from this group. We also created Custom and Lookalike Audiences based on the Outer Banks' managed email repository.

To create the best customer experience, we excluded users from our targeting that had been served the "Thank you" page for Travel Guide and E-news to make sure we were not reaching the same users that had already converted.

We used location data to identify select states to geo-target our content. We also honed in on specific DMA's that were top performing locations in terms of conversions and engagements.

Ad units & Placements

User-generated content (UGC) has been top performing across the Outer Banks social channels. Given this insight, we paired UGC with conversion focused calls-to-action to download the free travel guide and sign-up for the newsletter.

Ad units included Facebook Link Posts to drive to Travel Guide Downloads and E-News Sign-ups as well as promoted video and image posts for engagement. To further support visiting the Outer Banks in the off-season, we created a spring Canvas Ad that highlighted activities to do in the area during that time of year.

Our ad placements focused on prime inventory within the Facebook and Instagram Feeds on mobile devices. We had some units running on desktop given the age range of our target audience and their device preferences.

Optimizations & Success KPIs

Paid media content was optimized daily based on the post objective, top performing targets and creative performance. Budget was reallocated based on the best performing targets to increase efficiency.


We successfully increased social awareness, engagements and intent to visit the Outer Banks, year-round.

In 2017, we generated a:

90% increase in intent to visit actions Y-o-Y

88% increase in engagements Y-o-Y

20% increase in impressions Y-o-Y

Our paid media approach, focused on KPIs tied to the Outer Banks' marketing objectives, led to the creation of 200 ad sets with varying targets and creative to maximize efficiency. Promoted video and user-generated content increased our CPE efficiency by 40%.

Website page views from social increased in 2017. More importantly, the traffic social sent to the Outer Banks website was highly-qualified. Visitors converted on key pages twice as much as they did in 2016. Implementing the Facebook pixel and switching the optimization goal from traffic driving to website conversion increased conversions 120% over the previous year. The experiential Facebook Canvas Ad successfully drove awareness of the Outer Banks during the spring The ad was highly engaging as each person spent about 40 seconds interacting with it.

A key part of our success was being nimble with the media budget. This allowed us to make strategic shifts to ensure we stayed ahead of our goals. We optimized ads daily based on KPIs for efficiency in spend. This strategy successfully helped us more than double conversions from 2016.


Video for Welcome to the Outer Banks

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Ignite Social Media, The Outer Banks of North Carolina


Entry Credits