Deep-Fried #Hashtags

A 55’ statue.  Exotic deep-fried food.  A grand champion steer.  Do I have your attention yet?  Maybe not, but if you have ever been to the State Fair of Texas (SFoT), their media team likely does.

This year’s fair, which ran from September 26 through October 19, ranks as the most successful in the event's 128-year history.  The fair generated an estimated $41 million from food, ride and ticket sales, breaking the previous record of $37.3 million set in 2010.  Fair-goers enjoyed a fun-packed, 24-day showcase of entertainment, competitions, exhibits and, of course, deep-fried goodness of every imaginable kind.  Make no mistake about it: social played an undeniable roll in the incredible success of this year’s fair.

My family makes the 5-hour pilgrimage from south Texas to Dallas each year for the state fair, generally shaping it a long weekend affair.  Our collective family anticipation runs high beginning months before the fair – and it’s precisely this anticipation which the SFoT team so perfectly taps into and amplifies well before opening day.

You might think that for an annual event there would be say, a two to three month ramp-up period, maximum engagement during the event, then pretty much nothing until the next year’s round; in fact, that’s exactly what I witness frequently across the social spectrum.  SFoT clearly sees things a bit differently – and they nail it.  We all know that in today’s zillion-channel universe, the scarcest commodity is attention; SFoT grabs yours and holds it, with a steady year-round presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest, sharing and curating a perfect blend of what has been and what’s to come.  Seriously – can anyone who enjoys a fair watch this video from 2013 and not get excited?!

Roll-in the annual unveiling of Big Tex and the announcement of the year’s Big Tex Choice Award winners (all of that deep-fried goodness I referred to earlier, and more) just prior to opening day, and you’re hitting on all cylinders with the engagement engine.  It’s hard to describe the flurry of text messages which flew among members of my family for days after the Choice Award winners were announced – everyone chiming-in with what deep-fried goodies they were going to partake in this year (for the record, my favorite turned out to be the fried Sriracha balls!).

And about that precisely tuned engagement engine – push the accelerator to the floor and drive it all the way through the 24-day event with copious user-generated content, daily lists of things to do and visual delights through all social avenues and you have a winning strategy.

We had a wonderful time at this year’s fair; it’s such a perfect opportunity for the family to come together and have fun, eat well and make long-lasting memories.  As someone who counsels and guides clients on all aspects of social, it warms my heart to see something as decidedly old-school as a state fair brought into the social age in such an effective manner – great job SFoT team!