Originally a passion project, the Richmond Experience Instagram page was founded in January 2017 by two young people, Samantha and Sean Kanipe, who were creating daily posts to highlight their favorite local spots and upcoming events.
When their account passed 10,000 followers, they decided to offer a weekly newsletter rounding up what their followers, later to become paying members, should know each week. The Kanipes built the idea out, adding discounts for local businesses, now called member perks, and original content articles, now called city guides, as well as a curated event calendar. Initially, the account remained a free resource though the founders determined they’d need to charge a fee to support membership offerings, which launched in October 2019.
From the beginning, the Kanipes were interested in highlighting “the best things to eat, drink, see and do” in Richmond, according to chief executive Samantha Kanipe. She says her team dedicates hours upon hours of research on social media, reading local publications, email newsletters and engaging with members and followers to determine relevant topics each week to share on their site. The page now has 81,400 followers.
“Sometimes it’s based on historical metrics we’ve gathered around what performs well with our audience overall. They’re big fans of unique food and dining options, what brand new spots have opened up most recently and what hidden gems they shouldn’t forget about,” she explains. “And sometimes it’s based on our own preferences and what we think we’d want to learn from us if we were one of our followers.” Sweet.
Kanipe says her favorite parts are connecting directly with the community and supporting local businesses. “The best feeling is getting a message from a business owner or Richmonder saying how much we’ve helped them – getting a DM that says, ‘thank you so much for posting, we saw a huge surge in customers today!’”
The Richmond Experience employs an all-female writing staff, though Kanipe says the site is actively working to recruit a more diverse team that better reflects the community. Right now it produces around 75 to 85% what she calls “organic content” and 15-20% business sponsored content – adding that it loves hosting giveaways independently or with business partners. Currently the staff consists of a full-time managing editor and media director, Alicia Valenski, and part-time content coordinator, Rachel Dawson, while Kanipe says she is in the process of adding Alex Smith-Scales in a part-time role as social media coordinator.