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From the 8th Annual Shorty Awards

Pure Michigan Live: Virtual Tours of Mackinac Island and the Detroit Zoo

Entered in Travel & Tourism


Michigan offers picturesque destinations and locations for residents and visitors to explore yearlong, many of which are known worldwide. Pure Michigan believes in the power of authentic, user-generated photos and experiences to entice travelers to visit the state. Last summer, Pure Michigan took this one step further with real-time virtual tours of two popular leisure travel destinations.

Pure Michigan partnered with Georama and Tom Daldin, host of PBS' show "Under The Radar Michigan" (UTR), to become the first tourism entity in North America to conduct a real-time virtual guided tour, showcasing two iconic Pure Michigan destinations—Mackinac Island and the Detroit Zoo.

The objective was to utilize technology to showcase Michigan and two notable destinations to audiences and potential travelers on a global scale and to show the authenticity of Pure Michigan and its people through a live, unedited feed. Users were able to view and interact via mobile and desktop. Georama's technology allowed live-streaming in HD quality with high reliability when being mobile outdoors, and doing so with low-latency to facilitate real-time interaction.

As travelers increasingly rely on technology and third-party recommendations to inspire their travel plans, the virtual tours proved to be an excellent way to spur curiosity about Michigan, and allow people to participate in real-time.

Additionally, the partnership grew Pure Michigan's social media following and engagement—as well as web traffic to where the videos were hosted—as participants tagged their family and friends, encouraging them to join.

Strategy and Execution

When deciding on the locations for the tours to take place, Mackinac Island was an ideal choice as it is a global attraction visited by nearly one million guests each year. In 2014, National Geographic named Mackinac as one of the top five best island destinations to visit in the world. The Detroit Zoo was another clear choice as it is a national leader in animal conservation and home to North America's largest polar bear exhibit.

Leading up to the respective launches, Pure Michigan promoted the virtual tours via press releases, on its website and social media channels. The live streams were hosted on on June 11 and July 17, respectively, to audiences across the globe. Social posts that announced the activation and directed users to the landing page were pinned on Facebook and Twitter leading up to the launches, serving as featured posts and first things fans saw when visiting Pure Michigan's channels. Two photos of Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island promoting the tour were also posted via Pure Michigan's Instagram leading up to and on June 11.

To help promote the chat as it was live, Pure Michigan posted screenshots of memorable stops during the broadcast via Twitter as Tom continued his travels. Pure Michigan also engaged with fans and partner social media channels throughout the tour. In addition to hosting the videos on, Pure Michigan partnered with local news outlets, such as The Detroit News and MLive, to also host the tours on their respective websites in real-time.

One feature that proved to be popular with users was the ability to comment on the video stream and interact with Tom in real-time. Through an ear bud, the Pure Michigan and Georama teams were able to share questions and comments from users with Tom and direct him to what they wanted to see as the tour progressed. By Utilizing Georama's technology, users weren't required to have a mobile app to watch or engage. The feed was accessible via desktop and mobile browsers, with participants able to comment or ask a question via Facebook and Twitter.

Tom followed an itinerary of notable stops at each location, including landmarks, restaurants and shops, and asked travel-inspiring questions along the way. From taking a ferry and horse-drawn buggy to the world-renowned Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island to feeding giraffes and walking inside the kangaroo habitat at the Detroit Zoo, and countless other memories, users had the unique chance to get an exclusive look at two of Pure Michigan's most popular attractions. In addition to the social media channels for Pure Michigan, Georama and UTR, the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau and Detroit Zoo also posted on social media, encouraging fans to join the virtual tour.

After the conclusion of the live broadcasts, Pure Michigan archived the videos on so they could be viewed at any time.


More than 3,500 users watched the first-ever live, virtual tour of Mackinac Island on June 11, 2015. There were 845 interactions during the live viewing, with users commenting and influencing the itinerary of the tour. Since then, more than 15,550 people have visited the tour's landing page, representing at least six continents, 72 countries and 1,958 cities around the world.

In July, Pure Michigan traveled to the Detroit Zoo where Tom interacted with animals, zookeepers and zoo-goers while showcasing 125 acres of naturalistic exhibits to a live audience of 1,070 users. There were also 209 interactions during the tour. To date, 7,441 visitors have clicked onto the tour's landing page, reaching 65 countries and 1,009 cities worldwide.

Surrounding the launch of the virtual tour, Pure Michigan shared the news via press releases and social media. Results included:

6 Facebook posts, generating a combined reach of 826,102 and 47,445 engaged users.

oFacebook posts included photos and tagged partner channels.

oThree of the Facebook posts for the Mackinac Island tour were promoted and targeted to audiences interested in Mackinac Island and summer vacation ideas.

36 tweets, generating a combined 457,983 impressions and 7,013 engagements.

oTweets included photos and screenshots before, during and after the respective tours and tagged partner channels.

2 Instagram posts, generating 18,386 engagements.

oInstagram photos showed Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island and encouraged users to participate in chat.


Video for Pure Michigan Live: Virtual Tours of Mackinac Island and the Detroit Zoo

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Weber Shandwick, Pure Michigan


Entry Credits