social media case studiesDoes your company use hashtag campaigns?

Would you like to get the most out of your hashtag campaigns?

In this article you will discover how Travelocity successfully implemented the most successful social campaign in the company’s history.

tips for hashtag marketing campaigns

Follow these 6 tips for a killer hashtag campaign.

Social Media Handles & Stats

Company: Travelocity



Facebook – 293,110 followers

Twitter – 143,000 followers, @RoamingGnome – 80,883 followers

Instagram – 6,904 followers

Google+ – 2,487,020 followers

YouTube – 2,812 subscribers


  • Social impressions during the 3 months of the #IWannaGo campaign in 2014 increased 23% over those from the entire 2013 year, and Twitter engagement increased 4 times over their previous highest average.
  • 95% of visitors to the #IWannaGo landing page scrolled below the “loading” level to view more posts.
  • Travelocity led competitors by an average of 5% in unaided brand awareness during the #IWannaGo campaign.
  • Travelocity increased purchase consideration 11% for key consumers during the first half of the #IWannaGo campaign.

For the follow-up to their 2013 campaign, “Go and Smell the Roses,” Travelocity wanted to match the number of social impressions from 2013. That doesn’t sound like much of a stretch, except that they wanted to accomplish it in only three months.

#iwannago entry

Travelocity’s #IWannaGo campaign was the most successful social campaign in the company’s history.

The #IWannaGo campaign ran from early March to early May 2014. Two grand prize trips were given away, one in April and one in June. The campaign was so successful, Travelocity not only matched the social impressions from 2013 in three months, they exceeded them by 23%, from 158 million to 200 million. They also increased their Twitter following on @RoamingGnome by 118%.

Here’s what Travelocity did to make this campaign so successful.

#1: Find Out What Your Audience Is Already Talking About

In planning for 2014 marketing, Travelocity wanted to follow up their “Go and Smell the Roses” idea to include two-way communication with their audience. “We’re telling them to go and smell the roses,” said director of brand marketing Brett Steiger. “Let’s find out where they want to go and help them get there if we can.”

They realized during the previous campaign that followers were interested in engaging with their mascot, the Roaming Gnome. So they decided with #IWannaGo to have followers tell him directly where their dream destination was.

#iwannago entry

#IWannaGo was an outgrowth of the 2013 “Go and Smell the Roses” campaign.

#2: Use Appropriate Channels and a Low Barrier to Entry

All participants needed to do to enter the #IWannaGo campaign was to follow @RoamingGnome on Twitter or Instagram, and post to either platform with their dream travel destination, including the #IWannaGo hashtag. Then they would be entered into the drawing to receive one of two grand prizes of a weeklong trip to their destination.

Travelocity used only Twitter and Instagram for the contest entries because that is where the Roaming Gnome “lives” the most. “The Roaming Gnome is very much a person, a character,” said Steiger. “And like a lot of travelers, [Twitter and Instagram] are the key ways [he] engages on social media.”

#iwannago rules

Travelocity designed the #IWannaGo campaign to be very easy to enter.

Contestants did not need to go to a separate website or fill out any forms. They were not required to include any photos or videos, although they were encouraged to do so if they wished. Steiger explained that they wanted to have as low a barrier to entry as possible.

Participants did not have to go to the campaign landing page, but if they did, they found content that was more engaging than simply a link to the contest rules. Travelocity used Tint to turn the landing page into a social hub with all of the #IWannaGo posts from Twitter and Instagram.

#iwannago landing page

The #IWannaGo landing page was a social hub powered by Tint.

#3: Be Genuine

Turning the campaign landing page into a social hub is just one example of how Travelocity used opportunities to be genuine with their followers. “We wanted a place where we could aggregate a lot of the other entries to really inspire other consumers to participate as well,” said Steiger.

It worked. The landing page itself received over 32 million impressions, and 95% of visitors scrolled below the “loading” level of the page to see more content.

“The more we can talk with consumers about things that they care about … versus always forcing something a little too branded, we found that we get we get better engagement, better conversations and less attrition from our consumers,” said Steiger.

roaming gnome instagram post

Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome Instagram account posts about vacations and travel.

Keith Nowak, Travelocity director of communications and brand integration, added that having a topic that people care about passionately such as travel could be a double-edged sword. “It gives us the opportunity to engage with something that people are naturally excited about, but you’d better be authentic and on-point when talking about it,” he said.

#4: Partner With Traditional Media

Travelocity has a 10-year relationship with the television show The Amazing Race. This longtime association gave them a great existing platform to kick off the #IWannaGo campaign. “TV is still extremely powerful to generate larger brand awareness of any type of contest or program or new product,” said Steiger.

amazing race image

Travelocity used their long association with The Amazing Race to promote #IWannaGo.

Steiger was quick to add, however, that while TV provided a great launching platform for the campaign, “If we didn’t actually have something that was engaging to consumers, it would have jumpstarted and then finished very quickly.”

#5: Be Strategic With Paid Promotion

In addition to paying for exposure on TV, Travelocity also bought the rights to promote the #IWannaGo hashtag on Twitter for a day. “That was big,” said Steiger, “Because then you have 70, 80 million people that may see that on any given day.”

Travelocity did not buy the hashtag on Twitter the first day of the campaign launch. They used their Amazing Race tie-in to kickstart interest, and in the first two days of the campaign after that, #IWannaGo trended organically on Twitter. The third day they used the promoted hashtag to “add more fuel to the fire,” as Steiger put it.

amazing race image

#IWannaGo trended organically on Twitter its first two days.

#6: Look for Creative Real-time Marketing Opportunities

To keep the campaign fresh, Travelocity looked for ways to engage in real-time marketing with consumers. One of the ways they did this was using Vine videos. On April 14th, about two-thirds of the way through the entry period, Travelocity encouraged followers to tweet, and let them know that they might get a Vine response.

roaming gnome video responses

Travelocity picked one day to respond to followers’ tweets with Vine videos.

Then they created over 60 Vine videos in response, each within 20-30 minutes of when they were submitted.

“It was a way to show consumers that it’s not just a computer back here that’s typing for itself. The gnome and his entourage are listening to you and paying attention and wanting to get back to you—not in two days, not in a week, but 20 or 30 minutes,” said Steiger.

roaming gnome vine response

Travelocity responded to tweets in 20-30 minutes.

Even though they know he’s not real, people are “totally psyched” when they get a Vine or a tweet from the gnome, he added.

It’s all about the results.

The success of any campaign is measured by its results. In addition to measuring social metrics such as impressions and engagement, Travelocity uses YouGov research to track brand metrics. According to YouGov, during the first month and a half of the campaign, Travelocity increased purchase consideration by 11% for key consumers.

This means consumers said yes when asked if they would consider Travelocity if they were looking into booking travel. They also led competitors in unaided brand awareness by 5% during the campaign; for example, when survey participants were asked what travel companies they thought of, Travelocity was mentioned first.

Many factors contributed to this success, but Steiger says it boils down to one simple concept: “Letting the consumer’s voice be the main piece, and letting our consumers inspire other consumers,” he said.

What do you think? How can you create a killer hashtag campaign for your company? Include your comments and questions below.

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  • treb072410

    Thanks for sharing Louise Juli.. I really had a great read, very informative and useful post you shared here

  • teamtint

    Thanks for sharing this amazing Travelocity case study and the shoutout for TINT! Much appreciated and let us know if we can help with anything else :). I hope all your readers can learn a lot from this #iwannago campaign.


  • Great post Louise!

    This article has given me much to think about with regards to hashtags on Twitter. I could start a campaign for our local chamber of commerce for their Pride Awards. I found out that voting begins soon.


    I’d like to know how much Travelocity paid for the #IWannaGo hashtag for one day. Does anyone know the amount?

  • Jack Nargundkar

    “This means consumers said yes when asked if they would consider Travelocity if they were looking into booking travel.”

    If indeed “The success of any campaign is measured by its results” – how many of these key consumers actually booked travel subsequently through Travelocity? Conversion to revenue is the only true measure of success!

  • Pingback: Marketing Day: When To Send Push Messages, YouTube's Top October Ads & More()

  • Louise Julig

    Thanks for the kind words! I’m glad you found the article helpful.

  • Ishita Ganguly

    Great post with minute details! But Travelocity is a famous brand. Had this been a new name in the industry, would it have received equal or half of the attention?

  • Jay Manangan

    Thanks Louise Juli for sharing this tips using hashtags, the @RoamingGnome really helps the marketing campaign!

  • Great read and a really effective case study. I agree with Ishita to a degree, that it may not have got as much attention as quickly if it wasn’t already a popular/ well known brand, however, this doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t have been as effective. Look at Dollar Shave Club, a cool video and snappy strapline that caused consumers to talk rocketed them to success. Same here, a cool hashtag and a solid involvement with the community = Success!

  • Keith Flaherty

    Do you know what other social sites besides Twitter use #hashtags?

  • Since I read Gary Vaynerchkuck’s article on hashtags, I thought it was a bad idea to create a hashtag campaign. But this case study proves if you are strategic about it, you can find what your audience is talking about and ride your way up to a successful campaign. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Chad Harnish

    Instagram is a big one and I think Facebook uses them now as well, although I am not sure how successfully.

  • Rosa Elvira Rios

    I enjoyed reading the article and how the brand engaged potential users to participate in the buzz. It is so difficult for big brands to remain salient. Thank you for sharing and I have shared with my marketers.

  • treb072410

    Definitely, cant wait to read your next post..

  • Keith Nowak – Travelocity

    Hi Jack – One challenge in the travel space is that it is a rare consumer who purchases travel on impulse – making it extremely difficult to measure how a specific campaign element resulted in a booking – as an impression may result in a booking weeks or months down the road.

    That said, we do our best to continue to track lifetime value of consumers and are also monitoring how that is increasing based upon the campaign.

  • Keith Nowak

    Hi Amandah – Twitter offers a lot of different options based on the campaign’s size, goal, etc. Because of that, sharing what Travelocity spent with Twitter is probably not all that helpful as it wouldn’t be applicable to anyone else. But Twitter is a good partner to work with, so I would encourage that you reach out to them with any needs and then work on a cost for your specific program.

  • Byron Gordon

    Used television. Not impressed.

  • Louise Julig

    Can you elaborate a little on your comment? In what way are you not impressed?

  • Louise Julig

    Thank you for the kind words on the piece and for sharing it!

  • Louise Julig

    Thanks for your comments, Jay. Travelocity has put a lot of effort building up their Roaming Gnome character as a brand icon and in cultivating a key audience through television with The Amazing Race. When it came to this hashtag campaign, they had a lot to build on. Using what you have is a smart strategy. When you’re just starting out, you have less to build on, but each success will give you a step up the next time.

  • Exactly! Great Article and great campaign

  • Facebook does use Hashtags now

  • Sabrina Kizzie

    Awesome article! This case study really helps in terms of understanding the stretch of social media and hashtags in business promotion, thanks!
    Sabrina Kizzie, Author & Social Media Lecturer
    -Twitter & Instagram: @Sabrinaonmove

  • dz

    question, what is a common way of determining a winner of big hashtag campaigns like this? Is it a random winner?

  • Hi Louise,

    Can’t believe, how easy it is to create killer hashtag campaign. I didn’t hear it before. Nice post thanks for sharing!

  • Valentin Papilon

    Thanks for sharing this great insight!

  • Louise Zhou

    Thanks for this wonderful post!!

  • Kenzie does!

  • Awesome, thanks, now how about an article for the 99.9% of the the rest of us company builders that don’t have multi-million ad budgets. Thanks!