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SMCKC Recap: VML and Snapchat – Building a Millennial Following

At a recent Social Media Club of Kansas City presentation, VML discussed how they built a millennial following on Snapchat for Tennessee Vacation, or the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.

In case you need a refresher on Snapchat, check out my Snapchat 101 blog post. The Snapchat stats I shared have changed since then…and Snapchat has become even more popular, especially with millennials. 71% of the more than 300 million Snapchat monthly active users are under 24 years old (source: Omnicore Agency).

The team from VML explained that the percentage of millennial travelers going to Tennessee and engaging with Tennessee Tourism content was declining. Since Snapchat has such a large millennial audience, the team thought this platform was perfect to “give younger audiences the exclusive content they desire while showcasing the state.”

VML ran into two challenges with this project. First, it’s difficult to generate a large organic following on Snapchat because discovery isn’t the main focus of the platform. The company prefers that brands buy advertising on the platform. They don’t even provide analytics for accounts. Second, millennials aren’t traveling.

Millennials are, however, looking for “share-able” experiences that they can share on platforms like Snapchat. The primary goal of the project was to provide exclusive access to experiences that millennial travelers will only find in Tennessee. The team wanted to offer unique perspectives and giveaways that highlighted the entire state and attract tourists. In order to build a following, VML created a campaign to “Snap Your Way In” to the “world’s most exclusive concert event.”

Garth Brooks Snapchat

That event was a free Garth Brooks concert in Tennessee to celebrate his seventh diamond album certification. He’s the only recording artist in history to reach this milestone, surpassing The Beatles and their six diamond albums. And because all of his music has been made in Tennessee, it was the perfect place to host the concert. The event was free but the only way to get tickets was through the Tennessee Vacation Snapchat account.



The team used paid social media, online advertising, and even print media to get the word out and attract followers to the account. They also worked with Garth Brooks’ publicity team to talk about it on his social platforms. The team also used the Tennessee Vacation website and their email platform to communicate with fans. The VML team called email the “unsung hero” of the campaign because it drove a significant amount of traffic to the site throughout the campaign.

Once the campaign launched, big brands were reaching out to help promote the event. USA Today did a sweepstakes to give away some of the tickets. Soon sponsorships for the actual event followed. Social media influencers were another huge part of the campaign, creating 674,000 content views that drove users to the Tennessee Vacation Snapchat.

The final results of the campaign were very impressive:

  • 6 million+ Snapchat views.
  • 762 million+ earned impressions.
  • Tickets sold out in less than three minutes.
  • Ticket winners were from five countries and 43 U.S. states.
  • The show generated an estimated $701,000 in tourism revenue and hotel bookings increased 7.1% over the previous year.

The VML team offered advice to companies and brands with smaller budgets and fewer resources:

  • Make your Snapchat stories impactful but don’t overdo it with the amount/frequency of stories.
  • Figure out what your audience wants to see and what they will like.
  • Don’t bore your followers. Don’t just sell to them or post the same thing over and over again.
  • Provide unique access content, otherwise it doesn’t belong on Snapchat.

Ultimately fans respond to unique experiences that don’t feel like advertisements. If you are using (or are considering using), Snapchat for your store, use it to showcase exclusive experiences that evoke more personal levels of engagement. Tell your story, show your customers fun/interesting behind-the-scenes pictures and videos, or even show them how to do something or give them helpful tips. Businesses using Snapchat should treat the platform like all other social media platforms: as a way to have a conversation with customers.

Why do I work at AWG? “I like working for a company that supports local, often times family-owned, businesses in everything they do in order to help them succeed and stay competitive. It’s great to interact with the stores on a daily basis and learn about their story and the communities they serve.” -Melanie