It was supposed to be a day for basking in autumn’s outdoor splendor. The itinerary suggested canoeing on Lake Calhoun or exploring the sprawling playground at Hyland Lake Park Reserve.
But it rained. And the Lin family went to the Mall of America. #OnlyinMN.
Known online as Mali Mish — a traveling troop from California that includes mom, dad, three kids and a cat in an Airstream trailer — they were in town as “10-Day Minnesotans.”
Partnering with Explore Minnesota, the family was charged with documenting its North Star State adventures on social media. (They have a well-read blog and 40,000 Instagram followers.) Their pass through the Twin Cities came after a couple of days soaking in the season’s colors in the Taylors Falls area.
“It was awesome there,” said mom Marlene. “The kids had fun stomping and throwing leaves.”
The family’s adventure was the latest installment in Explore Minnesota’s push into social media marketing — getting people who live in and visit the state to share its charms, hashtagging posts #OnlyinMN. After all, there’s nothing like gazing at vacation pictures on Instagram or Facebook to get you in the mood to travel.
“It is fun to watch and see how people are using it in different ways,” said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota.
Judging by the hashtag’s popularity, people are eager to share their Minnesota views. Edman said 40,000 users across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have used the #OnlyinMN hashtag since the campaign launched in the spring. Their posts have been seen by 212 million people in 14 states.
Marlene of Mali Mish said that kind of travel-related social media has been helpful as they plan their cross-country road trips.
“People tell us where to go, what to do,” she said. “It’s nice to have that community there to help us discover.”
Explore Minnesota helped the 10-Day Minnesotans come up with itineraries and provided lodging while the travelers were here. The Mali Mish clan (so-named because that’s what the family calls its Airstream) was the second group invited in October to share Minnesota’s fall scenes. A couple calling themselves Democratic Travelers journeyed around northern Minnesota earlier in the month. Zach Glassman, an Instagram star with 146,000 followers, will begin his 10-day stint in southern Minnesota next week.
The photography from people using the #OnlyinMN hashtag has been so impressive, Edman said, that Explore Minnesota has been using it on billboards and other tourism literature. Travelers’ own experiences make a convincing case.
“Ten years ago, [state travel bureaus] were mostly concerned about getting inquiries, getting people to order a travel guide,” he said. “Things are shifting. We’re finding out that all you need to do is give consumers a little bit — ideas and questions and prompting — and the conversations start.”