Winter weather has recently held a fierce grip through Stokes County causing bitter cold temperatures, school cancellations and some slick driving conditions, but the cold spell also ushered in a new local buzzword, #frozenSTOKES.
Last week, Tory Mabe, the county’s Economic Development Tech Analyst, noticed the Dan River at Moratock Park starting to freeze. He pulled over and recorded a live Facebook video using the hashtag #frozenSTOKES.
During the six minute video people began to tune in and comment on the post. Soon after, the hashtag was born and people started to tag their own postings.
Mabe has lived in Stokes County his entire life, and said he couldn’t remember a time when the temperatures remained below freezing for such a long period. At Hanging Rock State Park, waterfalls stopped in their tracks, and rivers and streams were solid ice. About midweek, the area at the Lower Cascades were frozen enough folks could walk up to the waterfall, which many said resembled ice caves.
“Hashtags are an easy way to keep track of public postings, allowing others to get in on the fun, as they share their view and experience of an area or event,” Mabe said.
By using the hashtag, if someone on social media searched for or clicked #frozenSTOKES, they would find a different vantage point and want to venture out to find it and see for themselves.
“In return they capture their own selfie, or another unique perspective, sharing it, for others to see, creating a cycle of user generated content that helps to bring other visitors to Stokes County.”
After the initial video on Wednesday from the Dan River, Mabe noticed an increase of #frozenSTOKES use on Facebook. He began generating content on the county Instagram account on Thursday using the hashtag and hundreds of likes and shares followed, as users were starting to tag their own photos and views near them.
“Locals were sharing their view of #frozenSTOKES from farm life, local ponds and waterways. The hashtag really took off with hundreds of tags and postings occurring over the weekend,” Mabe said. “One user on Instagram commented that the postings made to @stokescounty inspired them to bundle up and make the trip from Greensboro to see frozen waterfalls.”
On Saturday, Hanging Rock State Park’s traffic count estimated 1,509 visitors, a stark contrast to 2016 when only 270 came through on the same day.
Mabe sees the opportunity as a way to grow the county’s social media sites and in turn, help promote Stokes County.
“Social media is free advertising as we generate content for others to share. The tourism website has a section on the homepage where postings to social media using #stokescounty, #hangingrockstatepark and #frozenstokes hashtags are featured to always see fresh comments and postings from those in the area. By continuing to promote and increase our following on social media we have the ability to inform them of local events, places to shop, eat, historic sites, and more that they can save or add to an itinerary for their next visit.”
Since the beginning of 2018, The Hanging Rock – Stokes County, NC Tourism Facebook page has grown by 780 new likes and more than 6,000 fans. The initial video posting of frozen waterfalls taken at the Lower Cascades reached 110,000 people with 50,000 views and more than 1,200 shares. The tourism website received double the hits compared to the first week of 2017 and the county’s smartphone app received nearly 100 new downloads over the weekend.
But it’s more than just increasing statistics and numbers. Mabe hopes the boost in social media sites will spur economic growth and benefit local businesses.
“By attracting visitors to the area to enjoy things outside of the park, this helps further benefit the local economy with tax dollars from increased spending staying locally. The idea of continuing to attract visitors to Stokes County year-round helps to support the small businesses in the area, and encourage anyone wanting to open a business.”
While many think of Stokes County, the Dan River and Hanging Rock State Park as a destination during warmer months, there are plenty of outdoor experiences to do in the winter. In January, Hanging Rock and Stokes County are featured in the Destination Magazine, Southern Travel & Lifestyles and Our State with articles highlighting a brisk winter hike, things to do outside of the state park, and local events to enjoy during the winter months.
“Tourism is important to Stokes County as folks opt to be outside, be active, and get away or disconnect from the technology that we are attached to each day,” Mabe said. “When people travel they’re looking for unique experiences that have meaning, something they can remember and look back on later, or visit and experience from year to year. In Stokes County we have plenty of that from unique local shopping boutique stores, antiquing, outdoor adventures, bluegrass heritage, fantastic local dining and southern favorites. All minus the hustle and bustle of a bigger town or city.”
To follow Stokes County’s social media sites, visit: Facebook (Hanging Rock – Stokes County, NC Tourism), Instagram (StokesCounty) and Twitter (Visit Stokes County).
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.