By Janis Johnson, Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department received a grant ACI and the Wildlife Management Institute to test the effectiveness of social influencers in recruiting new hunters. This campaign ran in April-May 2021 and targeted young, diverse, “foodie” prospects, using millennial social influencers to create content that would increase awareness of and interest in hunting as a sustainable and healthy food source. Social media posts (by the social influencers and TPWD) drove this audience to TPWD’s campaign landing page, where potential hunters could sign up for a series of “learn to hunt” emails and be entered in a drawing for a wild hog hunt.
What We Learned
Social influencer marketing is a new and growing tool that will be important for state agencies to embrace and use to be successful in R3. The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report showed that 60% of 18-to-34-year-olds trust what influencers say about brands much more than what brands say about themselves in their advertising.
While influencers can help state agencies break through to new constituencies, influencer marketing is a different beast than other forms of digital advertising. Working with an influencer partner is less controlled and involves more risk than other types of digital advertising. Campaign timing and messaging are affected by the content schedule and voice of the influencer partner.
TPWD also found it important not to rely solely on the organic influencer content. Paid organic posts, paid boosted posts and owned content drove significantly more web traffic to the campaign landing page than did the organic influencer content.
Additionally, it was important to have an incentive or “hook” to help generate engagement and capture email addresses/leads. TPWD was able to offer a simple prize drawing with donated prizes: Texas Wildlife Association (guided hog hunt), GameGuard Outdoors ($300 in hunting clothes) and Cabela’s ($50 gift card).
Social influencer strategies can be useful for hunter recruitment. They allow state agencies to reach beyond current user groups and generate more positive perceptions of hunting among younger and more diverse audiences. This campaign was successful in reaching users who likely had very little previous exposure to hunting.
The influencers’ content gave these new audiences a more authentic view of hunting via their own unique perspectives and voices. Their content provided a presence for hunting on TikTok, a platform younger and more diverse audiences widely use, but on which TPWD is not active. Content produced by and featuring social influencers who are trusted by this young, diverse audience of foodies/locavores was key to the success of this campaign. TPWD-owned media effectively used the social influencers’ content to appeal to its own followers and email subscribers.
TPWD will continue to nurture the new potential hunters reached by this campaign by sending a series of five Wild to Table: How to Get Started Hunting emails to these leads throughout the summer and fall of 2021. The email will walk them through the necessary steps to begin hunting in Texas and will aim to convert them to purchase a license this coming hunting season. On the back end, we will measure how many of these young, diverse, food-oriented potential hunters purchased a hunting license.