The Washington Town and Country Fair captured the top award for its overall social media campaign at the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) convention.
The 2013 Fair also snagged two other awards —second place in Advertising Specialties and third place in Printed Promotional Material — at last month’s convention and trade show held in Las Vegas.
Washington competes in Division I which includes fairs and festivals with attendance up to 100,000.
The Fair is a division of the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber Marketing Director Amanda Griesheimer said the IAFE convention is the largest event serving fairs, shows, exhibitions and expositions.
Griesheimer said attendees network and learn from each other and top professionals during the intensive four days of workshops, special seminars, round table discussions and social events.
“It’s always a great event and you come home with so many ideas and contacts,” she said.
The Washington Fair was well represented at the convention with two staff members, Griesheimer and Chamber President and Fair Coordinator Jennifer Gieseke attending, along with eight Fair Board members, including 2014 Chairman Paul Brune and his co-chair Erma Wehmeyer.
Griesheimer said the first-place award for social media was a pleasant surprise. She said it was a goal of the Fair Board last year to try and reach every person, through every medium.
“We have never entered this category before so it’s exciting to win first,” she said. “We had to write an essay and provide supporting documents demonstrating our social media campaign.”
Griesheimer said the essay detailed how the Fair utilizes Facebook and set up a Twitter account linked to the Facebook profile for automatic updates.
Because of an increasingly mobile society, she said social media provides a great opportunity to reach people where they are, at all hours of the day and night.
She said the number of Fair Facebook fans grew 50 percent to reach 5,200 by the start of the 2013 Fair.
For the fans, Griesheimer said the page is a way to stay connected with an event that is near and dear to their hearts.
“For the Fair, it is a way to connect with fans on a somewhat more personal level, sharing behind the scenes looks at how the Fair comes together, and helping them get to know the Fair Board and staff,” she said.
Goals of the Facebook page included increasing the number of fans and their level of engagement in an attempt to, ultimately, create more loyal fairgoers, she added.
Griesheimer said one of the most effective strategies for addressing both goals was utilizing the resources the Fair had in the form of people.
“Our Fair Board members (the ones who use social media) were already aware of and actively engaged with the page,” she said. “The next step was to educate our 25 queen candidates and 17 Junior Board members. They were encouraged to like the page and share, comment on, and like posts as much as possible. A Facebook app was also added to our website.”
The best thing about social media is its ability to share news at an unprecedented speed, said Griesheimer. Of course, that is also the worst thing about social media, she noted.
“People don’t always have a filter for their posts, and criticism and complaints can easily get out of hand,” she said. “For that reason, we have guidelines posted, clearly spelling out what will and will not be tolerated on our page.”
For the Advertising Specialties category, the Washington Fair entered six souvenir items — its coolie cup, shirt, visor, beer bucket and auction binder.
“We’ve won this award before and it’s always great to see our souvenir items do well,” she said.
The third-place award for Printed Promotional Material was for the Fair’s supplement which runs in The Missourian two weeks prior to opening day.
The tab is designed and produced in cooperation with The Missourian staff and features photos, stories and general information about the upcoming event.
The supplement has won awards many times at past conventions.
Although winning awards at the international conference has become something of a tradition for Washington since it started attending in 1996, Griesheimer said it’s always exciting to receive recognition at such a prestigious event.