When Visit San Antonio, the destination management organization for the nation’s 7th largest city, sought to develop a social media campaign to boost online referrals about San Antonio’s desirability as a travel destination, it tapped Step In Communication, in partnership with its agency of record The Atkins Group, to develop and execute this.

It was clear as we envisioned a “local experts” influencer program for our client that we could leverage the power of social referrals to enhance the experiences of future visitors. It was also becoming evident that an underlying distrust or overexposure of traditional influencers was part of the broader social conversation. Our challenge was: How could we achieve the delicate balance of sharing knowledge from local experts with future travelers and maintain authenticity and program integrity?


Our strategy focused on identifying experts who had a special skill or unique perspective on their hometown of San Antonio, who had social presence on at least one mainstream channel (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and who were unencumbered by conflicting brand commitments.

Our intention was to create an element of surprise in this client’s ambitious content machine. Visit San Antonio has 12 social channels in its network, with combined followers of 700k+ and regularly schedules more than 500 pieces of content per month. The content for each local expert would be showcased on Instagram, but also featured throughout the Visit San Antonio channels whenever practical in the 7-10-day promotional window created for each. 


To execute this campaign, five local experts were selected for the campaign, with an eye toward growing the program in future years.  Each had an expertise that reflected what this client wanted to portray through direct storytelling. 

Our objectives were threefold:

  • Drive traffic to the website for potential visitors to learn more about this expert and their San Antonio favorites.
  • Create Instagram story views over the life of the campaign equal to at least 25% of current Instagram followers.
  • Integrate content into other social channels over time, adding to the client’s image library.
  • Each participant was asked to create a narrative for the NEW City Stories section of the Visit San Antonio website. This created excitement in the days prior to their social elements going live on the Visit San Antonio channels. Each participant contributed a minimum of 12 photos and videos for the channels and relayed them to the social media team in near real time during the events they covered.  


  • Web traffic spiked as a result of four of the five local experts during their promotional period, with their City Stories reaching the top traffic spots in social referrals.
  • One story was in the top 5, two were top 10 and one was in top 20 for social referrals.
  • The City Stories landing page on their website reached number 21 during this time period, an amazing feat for a website with more than 6,000 pages.
  • The live Instagram story segments created by this group got views far higher than expected, exceeding the objective of content views in excess of 25% of total following to nearly 50%.   
  • Content from these five local experts was wrapped into other promotions throughout the year.
This campaign won an award of Excellence in 2020 in the Campaigns Category from PRSA San Antonio.