Instagram Case Study: Pure Michigan Campaign

Pure Michigan Campaign Becomes a Visual Storyteller and Curator

Chad Wiebesick, the Director of Social Media and Interactive Marketing for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, has been using Instagram to grow awareness for the Pure Michigan #PureMichigan brand since July of 2012.  While they were not an early adopter of Instagram, Pure Michigan has successfully used Instagram to drive awareness, build followers and reach influencers.

Background in Tourism

The goal of the Pure Michigan ( campaign is to drive tourism to the state of Michigan.  The objective of social media marketing is to showcase how marvelous and magnificent Michigan can be and to drive people to work, play and vacation in the state.  Pure Michigan has a large and impressive following on many social networks, and recently began using Instagram as well.

One of the primary strategies for social media is to build an emotional connection with fans – people who have an emotional connection tend to be more loyal – so the objective is to build real emotional connections.  The strategic focus for social media is the top of the marketing funnel – building awareness and interest in Michigan.  The goal is to spark interest and follow up with other tools to make it easy for people to pull the trigger.

The target audience is both people in the state of Michigan, to encourage Michiganders to buy local and stay local, and those out of state who they want to convince to go to Michigan.


Pure Michigan joined Instagram in July of 2012, and has achieved a very active and engaged following.  Prior to creating an Instagram account, Instagrammers had picked up on the #PureMichigan hashtag from advertising campaigns and Twitter, and started taking Pure Michigan photos and tagging them.

pure michigan campaign

Upon recognizing this, Pure Michigan realized it was time that they get on board and begin connecting with and taking advantage of Instagram.  They didn’t just join Instagram, post photos and wait for people to take notice – they actively participated on Instagram by liking, commenting on and following other users.

They also encouraged Instagrammers to share their photos with #PureMichigan for an opportunity to be featured on the Pure Michigan Instagram account.  This creates a better mix of content in the feed, and increases buzz as featured photographers share with their friends.  Featuring photos from fans allows the fan to be the center of attention and get their “5 Minutes of Fame”.

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In addition to featuring content from other users, Pure Michigan periodically chooses influencers on Instagram to become the official photographer for a weekend.  With this promotion they hand over the password to their account and allow one of their fans to be Pure Michigan for the weekend.

For the first test, Pure Michigan chose Instagram user TonyDetroit and gave him behind the scenes access to a Nascar race held in Michigan.  Tony was chosen because he has a large following on Instagram (300,000 followers) and takes amazing photos.

He became the Instagram reporter for the event and shared behind the scenes photos with Pure Michigan followers and his own.  The fans loved it – they got to experience the event through the eyes of TonyDetroit, and his pictures were fabulous.

pure michigan campaign


They have over 9,700 followers and are among the top Instagram accounts in the travel and tourism industry.  The Hashtag #PureMichigan has been used over 87,000 times and is growing at about 500 mentions a day.  For perspective, this is more mentions than #Chrysler or #NationalGeographic.

The photographer-for-a-day program has also proven to have tremendous results.  When TonyDetroit took over their Instagram account they saw immediate growth in their fan base.  Since TonyDetroit has over 300,000 fans, his photos of the event became “most popular” on Instagram and received tons of views.

This exposed the Pure Michigan brand to global audiences and created significant exposure for the brand.  Plus, Instagram featured this as a case study for other businesses to learn from.


  • Like photos, be nice, get on the radar – Success on Instagram isn’t just about posting content.  Most brands have to work for their audience by participating.
  • Harness User Generated Content – Asking your audience to participate is a great way to build traction and awareness within new audiences and communities.
  • Find Influencers and Use Them to Help Grow Your Brand – Every brand has influencers.  Find the Influencers with audiences who are already talking about your brand and build relationships with them.
  • Connect to offline marketing. Instagram and social media are great listening tools to see if your broader campaigns are gaining traction and can give you additional reach and awareness.

Chad Wiebesick, the Director of Social Media and Interactive Marketing for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, uses images across social media to drive awareness and engagement.


The goal of the Pure Michigan campaign is to drive tourism to the state of Michigan. The objective of social media marketing is to showcase how marvelous and magnificent Michigan can be and to drive people to work, play and vacation in the state.  Pure Michigan has been successfully using social media marketing for some time now, but has recently found that images have played a bigger role in their success across channels.


Pure Michigan uses images across social networks to drive engagement and get fans involved in the brand.  Since the Pure Michigan brand is highly visual, images are key to gaining traction.

“Our marketing channels are not Silos”, said Wiebesick in a reflection about the role that content plays across social networks.  Content from Facebook may be cross-populated or repositioned on a site like Pinterest.

Pure Michigan ( is posting images to all of their primary social networks including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.

pure michigan campaign

On Facebook, Pure Michigan shares a wide variety of images and sees their role partly as curators of a gallery of stunning images that bring the Pure Michigan brand to life.  In addition to sharing images of stunning landscapes that look like they belong in National Geographic, they also share fun images that are culturally relevant.

In one instance, a fan had posted an image of a cloud that looked like a Mitten (which is also the shape of the state of Michigan).  Pure Michigan shared it on Facebook and it instantly received traction – with some fans even taking screenshots and reposting it on their own Facebook accounts.

In addition to just posting images, they try to make the page fun and engaging.  Pure Michigan will post photos and ask fans to guess the location, have them caption a cartoon or link it back to trivia.  The brand doesn’t always have to be serious, and images seem to drive engagement from people.

Trying and experimenting with different photos is part of the key to success and Pure Michigan shares everything from sweeping and majestic photos, to cartoons, to user-generated content to infographics.

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Key Learning:

  • Don’t just post photos, make them fun – with trivia, fill-in-the-blanks, caption contests or other simple and fun interactive opportunities.
  • Images make great content across social networks – Like Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.
  • Mix it up and try sharing different kinds of photos
  • User generated photos can also be a fun way to engage fans

Aly Chiman

Aly Chiman is a Blogger & Reporter at which covers a wide variety of topics from local news from digital world fashion and beauty . AlyChiTech covers the top notch content from the around the world covering a wide variety of topics. Aly is currently studying BS Mass Communication at University.