Marketing campaign spreads 'love' to boost bus, rail ridership

Posted on April 7, 2015 by Adrienne Hamilton - Also by this author

At the Denton County (Texas) Transportation Authority (DCTA) we’re constantly looking for unique ways to engage with passengers, generate brand awareness and increase ridership. This year with Valentine’s Day being on a Saturday, we saw a great opportunity to launch a campaign in which passengers could ride DCTA’s A-train commuter rail and Connect Bus for free all day by saying “Be Mine” to the agency’s rail and bus operators.

With low trending ridership in February, we needed to find a way to increase ridership and brand awareness within Denton County and surrounding cities. Launching the Valentine’s Day promotion definitely would help us achieve this.

RELATED: Infrastructure Money Tight? Do Better Bus Marketing

Developing Campaign Strategies & Objectives
To meet our campaign goal of increased ridership, we developed a variety of strategies and objectives:
•    Drive campaign and brand awareness through engagement with fans/followers on social media networks.
•    Provide passengers with transit-oriented date ideas for Valentine’s Day to encourage ridership(Media outreach to targeted media to garner campaign publicity and awareness).
•    Drive traffic to campaign webpage.
•    Reach out to local partners and businesses to help promote campaign via social media platforms.

Promoting the Campaign
We utilized various marketing communications tactics to generate buzz and campaign awareness. The four main tactics we used included digital, social media marketing, public relations and partnership outreach:

Social Media Marketing/Advertising
We implemented Facebook and Twitter advertising campaigns and organic post promotion to reach our target audience (current passengers, potential riders and those living in and around Denton County). In addition, we crafted a Valentine’s Day campaign blog post that provided passengers with tips on visiting local restaurants and retail accessible via DCTA to encourage ridership.

RELATED: DCTA launching 'Where's My Ride?' tracking tool

Having a centralized campaign hub was essential, and we developed a campaign webpage within our website that included general campaign promotion information, transit-friendly Valentine’s Day date ideas, trip planning tips utilizing our new vehicle tracking tool Where’s My Ride, and last A-train departure times. In addition, we created four main campaign images that featured a variety of couples riding transit with a color-specific heart labeled #BeMine on each image that were featured on our website, Facebook, Twitter and our Transit Talk blog (WordPress).

Public Relations
Publicity was key for this promotion, and we crafted a pitch that was distributed to local media outlets (local broadcast morning show reporters/producers, newspapers, lifestyle/family magazines and mommy bloggers) announcing the Valentine’s Day promotion.

Partnership Outreach
It was important to us to include our local partners and businesses, so we reached out to retail and restaurant owners featured in our Valentine’s Day blog post and the Denton Convention and Visitors Bureau to enlist their help with campaign promotion.

End Campaign Results
The Valentine’s Day #BeMine campaign was a great success that reached the set goal of increased A-train and Connect Bus ridership over 2014 average Saturday ridership in February, as well as generated campaign awareness. Below are specific campaign results for all implemented tactics:

A-train and Connect Bus Ridership
•    A-train ridership for Valentine’s Day was 782 passenger trips, a 34% increase over last February’s average A-train Saturday ridership of 581.
•    Connect Bus ridership for Valentine’s was 946 passenger trips, a 14% increase over last February’s average Connect bus Saturday ridership of 829.

Social Media Marketing/Advertising
•    Facebook – Garnered more than 70,000 impressions, reached more than 45,000 people with 420 total engagements (likes, shares, comments) for our Facebook advertising campaign and organic posts combined — exceeding the set objective of obtaining 10,000 impressions and 50 total engagements.
•    Twitter – Garnered more than 10,000 impressions with a total of 220 engagements (number of times a user interactive with a tweet) for its Twitter advertising campaign and organic tweets combined — exceeding the set objective of obtaining 3,000 impressions and 15 total engagements.
•    Blog Post – Garnered 109 total views which exceeded the set objective of obtaining 50 views.

Public Relations
•    Secured seven local stories promoting the campaign which resulted in nearly 600,000 media impressions with a publicity value of more than $8,600 – exceeding the set objective of securing coverage from two local media outlets.

Community Outreach
•    11 local businesses (restaurants and retail shops) shared and promoted the campaign on their Facebook and Twitter pages — exceeding the set objective of obtaining participation from eight local partners and businesses.
•    In addition, the Denton Convention and Visitors Bureau (local business partner) featured the campaign on their home page which linked web visitors to DCTA’s campaign webpage.

•    Campaign webpage had nearly 800 views during the promotional period (February 2 through 14, 2015).

With the success of the Valentine’s Day #BeMine campaign, we will continue to implement promotional ride campaigns but will include enhanced marketing communications efforts such as digital discounted fare, special coupon opportunities, and radio and TV advertising to build brand awareness and increase ridership.

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