The goal of social media is to turn visitors into a volunteer marketing army.
I am preparing a presentation for a seminar on small community place branding. It is a unique opportunity to reflect on what can (and should) be done on a limited budget and with limited branding expertise on staff.
One area that quickly came to mind is the need to maximize interactive media as a tactical communication choice. No other vehicle offers such promise to reach a target audience in such a cost effective way. However, it is not as simple as build a website and the RFPs will beat a path to your community. It still takes a branding perspective to ensure the tactic is effective, and a level of commitment to sustaining the effort in order to generate awareness and interest among your strategic target. But, if done correctly and integrated into an overall place sales effort, an investment in optimizing your online presence can generate quality capital investment leads and strengthen the pride of business leaders in your location. In fact, the second benefit may be as or more important than the first since your current business leaders are your most believable ambassadors.
The following are six quick tips on how to get the most value from any interactive investment you make to promote your place. It is not a comprehensive overview of the topic, but a reasonable starting place for small communities thinking about their interactive place promotion.
- Be coldly objective in assessing your current website presence. It is a numbers game to a large extent. The value of interactive is realized when you can achieve the right reach and frequency among your target audience. Search engine optimization is a way to help you improve the probability of success. While it is not the “be all, end all”, it is an important measure of website visibility. One free tool to get a quantitative score for your website is offered by Summit Media. If you score below a 90, there is room for improvement. Another place you can start is to get a free assessment from HubSpot’s Marketing Grader. This assessment goes beyond simple search engine optimization and may be helpful to you in thinking even more strategically about your place web presence.
- Get social. It is amazing how quickly social media tools are being adopted. There are a number of options out there, each servicing a community of practitioners. The key is to be selective about which you focus on because you will need to maintain a level of resource investment to get value from participation. My advice is to select the tool based upon its ability to reach a relevant target audience. As a start, I would suggest checking out LinkedIn, Twitter and MySpace to get a handle on what is possible. Leveraging social media tools as part of your overall interactive communication media plan will help you extend reach for your place messaging. Think of it as a cost effective way to turbo charge your online place promotion efforts.
- Leverage professionals. Interactive promotion is a fast changing field and full of confusing terminology. But, that is no reason to be afraid of including it in your media mix. It is such an important communication tool, that most of the businesses in your area will either have a professional on staff or have access to one. Ask for their guidance as a starting point. You will find they have a lot of practical expertise that will guide your thinking. Eventually, you will want the help of an interactive Agency to ensure your place web presence is as strong as possible within the constraints of the budget you have allocated. Typically, you will find hiring an interactive agency is money well invested.
- Cross-Link. As a small community, it is critically important to leverage the investment and resources made by your county, region and state economic development Organizations. The more you can cross-link to and with their websites the more visible your website will be with potential capital investors. This tactic allows you to leverage their investment to your full advantage and will help extend the reach of your place promotion efforts.
- Proactively share your urls. In all email correspondence, be sure to include the appropriate web addresses for your readers to get additional information on your place. And, enroll your local business community to be advocates by asking them to share the addresses whenever appropriate. You may be surprised how willing people in your community will be to help. It is a no-cost way for them to support your economic development mission.
- Blog prolifically. Find blogs that deal with industries of relevance to your place promotion plan. When appropriate, actively comment on blog postings and provide your website address as a follow-up for the reader. Be sure to add value to the blog conversation though. Simply creating an advertisement will guarantee your message is not posted. Consider enrolling industry experts in your area in the process. They will have some valuable information and a unique perspective that can be shared.
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