Social Media & Tourism: Market YOUR Main Street


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You can't do it all alone. You need an entire army of social media champions online to carry your message. These are the people who already love your Main Street. Now it's a matter of finding them and helping them.

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  • Picture yourself walking down your Main Street. As you walk along, look inside a few businesses. How many of the businesses do you think have a Facebook Page? How many of the people you pass have a smartphone and share photos online? How many other people around town use Twitter, or Instagram, or YouTube?Imagine all these people as a small army of champions, all around the internet, spreading the word about your town, posting photos and videos, and telling everyone who will listen about your best assets. Who wouldn’t want that?? You are going to build that army of champions, by networking and word of mouth, and by building relationships.
  • Here’s how my Tourism Currentscompadre Leslie McLellan built an army of online champions for Lake Arrowhead, California. She had been in charge of all tourism for the Chamber of Commerce for almost 20 years. Late in 2008, she found out their entire marketing and promotions budget had been cut to zero. Zero! Leslie was shocked, and had to come up with something to replace that advertising budget. Social media marketing suddenly went from “we’re looking into it” to “that’s what we’re going to do!” She threw herself into learning.
  • Once Leslie knew some basics, she started by asking her friends to tweet live from their annual Film Festival. Not to bring more people to the event, but to generate more attention during and after the event. The discussion on Twitter went on for 3 weeks after the event. Leslie was convinced!The next event was their annual Antique and Classic Wooden Boat Show. It had long been just a regional event. Based on the success with the film festival, she started sharing it on Twitter, too. She even found and used the main hashtags used by wooden boat enthusiasts. Suddenly, two national publications were interested in writing up their event, because they saw the mentions on Twitter.
  • Next, she asked the public to help. At the start of their summer concert series, she wrote a short script for the emcee to announce “If you’re having a good time, please Tweet about it or post on Facebook” and she had him read out their hashtag. He didn’t have a clue what he was saying, but it was close enough for the audience to figure out. They continued to announce it at each and every concert. By the Fourth of July weekend concert, Leslie was thrilled to find that fans had tallied 15,000 tweets mentioning Lake Arrowhead in just one weekend.
  • With almost a full year of social media experience, Leslie next ask was the businesses. She started a social media meetup group. She emailed all the Chamber members, and got 35 people together to talk social media. Some were very social savvy, and some had no clue. But they kept meeting. Each monthly meeting consisted of a learning component as well as a discussion of things they could promote via social media. She provided a list each month of pre-written tweets and Facebook posts complete with hashtags and links that businesses could use to fill in their social media posting schedules.  They didn’t have to think about what to say, or who to link to, so it was easy for them to help promote the destination and the town’s events.  Some businesses also provided tweets and posts about their specific business, which most everyone was willing to spread around online, too.
  • In 2008, the Chamber spent $15,000 on advertising. In 2009, they spent $500. Even with some lasting effects from previous advertising, you would expect that the bookings at Lake Arrowhead would drop off pretty significantly. But they didn’t. Bookings in 2009 were actually slightly more than in 2008, and 2010 was a little more than 98% of 2009.Twitter and Facebook alone filled the gap. “Social media was like winning the lottery,” Leslie said. “It took the place of seven months of advertising in a national magazine as well as print media in general for us.”
  • Leslie was very clear that this was a cooperative effort for the businesses, one that supported the whole destination. “For resort area marketing, you have to sell the destination first.  After that you can ‘drill down’ to small businesses that make up the community.  We all have times when we can’t think of what to post, so by all of us combining what we’re offering, we should be able to post more frequently and extend the reach of not only the destination but our small businesses as well.”That’s a lot like Main Street marketing, isn’t it?
  • “It’s almost like we have an extra little army of people out there with second homeowners and concert-goers who talk about Lake Arrowhead and that gets our name out.” You don’t need second homeowners. You just need your local businesses and the people who love your Main Street.
  • It’s not just Facebook and Twitter. There’s a whole spectrum of other social tools out there. Think of it as the stone thrown into the pond – your champions combined have extensive social media networks. They can ripple your news outward. They can help you find and connect with other online people. Through all these different tools and networks,they have audiences that might not discover you any other way. You don’t have to even know about all these hundreds of different tools. You just have to start with the people you know.
  • Ready to start looking for you own champions? Start with the locals and businesses owners. Add your former locals, your alumni. I still brag about Luling, Texas, and I haven’t lived there since 1981! How about your visitors? People who come back year after year, or even ones who only visited once, but they remember it forever!Then how about family ties? And land connections: people come back to hunt, or fish, or help with harvest, or just to visit because they or their family have land in the area. So a lot of people love your place! How many of all those people are online? Lots!
  • You already know most of your best champions. Your Main Street or Chamber of Commerce group keeps some kind of email list. Your partners also have email lists. Check with the economic development group, any other local association that works with business owners. [Brainstorm for examples]
  • You can also ask in your newsletter, website, Facebook, newspaper, etc.: that can be as simple as placing an announcement. I don’t care if you put a sign in your front window, just ask!
  • Some of your potential champions are already looking for you! Have some online presence and respond to people there. Be contactable through your website, and not just by phone. Have a Facebook page and keep up with it. Check your website comments, your Facebook likes, and look for alumni groups on Facebook. See who is already acting like a champion, but just needs some direction.
  • Now you can go searching for other people. On Facebook, you can search by geography or by school (high school and college).For Twitter, tryTwtrlandFor Instagram, there’s Statigram’s search.
  • I put Columbia, Illinois into Facebook, and this is the first big result: a combined city overview page. Facebook pulled some info from Wikipedia, a map, and then started adding places in Columbia that have pages. So each of these businesses or organizations are potential champions. And then each one of them have followers and people who have checked in.
  • When I scrolled on down the page, I got these related groups. They’re full of potential champions! These five people were picked out for me because we have friends in common. So they’ll be easy to reach out to.
  • Then I went back up to the search box, and Facebook got serious. Look at these! Just like a menu of champion choices!
  • Twitter is a bit different. Twtrland is my current favorite local search. Notice it gives lots of results, they’re easy to scan through, and over here on the right was can filter them by their level of influence, or their skills, or gender, or estimated age. Now the info isn’t guaranteed 100% accurate, but it’s a start.
  • Statigram’s search doesn’t work by geography, so you have to rely on user tags of photos. These are tagged Columbia, IL.
  • Before you champions charge out carrying your banner, they need to know what should be printed on it! Your Main Street has a story, a brand. You have a specific way you are trying to be seen. You have to know what that is before you can ask others to help with it. Leslie had honed her Lake Arrowhead brand through 20 years of paid advertising. She knew what she wanted to convey.
  • Provide a list each month of pre-written tweets and Facebook posts complete with hashtags and links.Focus on promoting the destination as a whole and community events. Ask businesses to also provide tweets and posts about their specific business, which everyone can spread around online, too.Here’s a sample from Leslie’s summer 2009 campaign. Remember, it was her first experiment.
  • Announce the hashtag at events. Ask people to post and tweet. Put hashtags on printed materials, signs, shirts, everything.
  • Leslie held monthly meetups with an educational component each time. Now, you don’t have to be the teacher, but you can make that possible. You can have others lead the sessions, you can learn together online, you can Skype in a leader from far away. Get creative, but get educational! The more social media savvy your local businesses are, the more prosperous your Main Street will be.
  • Social Media & Tourism: Market YOUR Main Street

    1. 1. Becky McCray Social Media & Tourism: Market YOUR Main Street
    2. 2. Main Street Photo Walk down Main Street Photo by Robert Keeling Via Illinois Tourism
    3. 3. How Leslie did it in Lake Arrowhead Lake Arrowhead photos courtesy of Leslie McLellan
    4. 4. She asked her friends
    5. 5. She asked the audience
    6. 6. She asked the businesses
    7. 7. Was it enough?
    8. 8. Sell the destination first
    9. 9. An extra army of people
    10. 10. Generate ripples
    11. 11. Looking for champions Locals Business owners Former locals Frequent visitors Family/land connections
    12. 12. Start with your list Email list Partners
    13. 13. Ask! Website Facebook Page Newsletter Newspaper columns
    14. 14. Where you find them Be findable Who ‘Likes’ you?
    15. 15. Search by geography Facebook search Twtrland Statigram search
    16. 16. Know your story Photo (CC) by Anne Hornyak on Flickr
    17. 17. Write it out Summer 2009 suggested tweets from Leslie McLellan in Lake Arrowhead: • Lake Arrowhead Wednesday Weekend Update is posted! VENICE plays Center Stage this Sat. night - Great weekend ahead! • Come up and enjoy our "wild life" at Lake Arrowhead this wkend - • Center Stage Concerts at Lake Arrowhead this weekend: Neil Diamond tribute- Friday, Common Sense (a So. Cal. favorite) reggae band on Sat. • Oh my ~ See our gorgeous Lake Arrowhead weather at • Lake Arrowhead Wkend update with concert schedule found here Takes a couple of minutes to load.....Sorry! • For Lake Arrowhead lodging information visit Come on up and cool off!
    18. 18. Publicize it
    19. 19. Teach others
    20. 20. Bonus: Finding Time for Social Media