Cyclists and bike tourism are high priorities at the Hotel Pattee in Perry Iowa, and they're perfect for Main Street marketing (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Cyclists are welcome at the Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa, where bike tourism is a priority (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

We have Main Street on the brain.

Who wouldn’t be excited about something that helps towns and city neighborhoods thrive?

The big annual Main Street Now conference just finished in Milwaukee, and we’re about to kick off a Tourism Currents social media educational program with Wisconsin Main Street.

In the United States, the Main Street America program – part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, one of our early clients – is a force for economic development, historic preservation, tourism promotion, and community revitalization.

After watching and learning from the Main Street #NOW16 conference hashtag on Twitter, we feel a little overwhelmed by all of the ideas and info, and we weren’t even physically there.

We began to think….what if someone asked us for some quick marketing ideas that a Main Street town, or any town, could use for more visibility, especially online?

Here’s what we’d say:

1. Cross-promote your partners on social media using Facebook & Twitter lists

If you organize partner Facebook Pages and Twitter handles into lists, it groups their activities into one place. It’s a lot more efficient for your Main Street marketing if you do not have to go from Page to Page or Twitter account to Twitter account to see what’s going on, leave a Like or Comment, and share with your followers.

(Update 2 Dec 2016 – looks like Facebook is removing the Interest List feature. We are not happy about that; it was so handy to be able to see tourism partner updates all in one place. We’ve had some luck putting Pages we want to watch onto Friend Lists, instead. Another reminder that Facebook controls Facebook, not you.)

When we were keeping track of what 20 state historic site clients were doing on Facebook, we set up a public Interests list (you can make them private if you prefer.)

Here is a link to the list’s activity, and here is a screenshot of how it groups every Page together:

Screenshot of THC Texas historic sites Facebook personal Interests list, a good idea for Main Street marketing
Go here for instructions about setting up a Facebook Interests List (you make them from a personal profile.)

Once you create the list, it will sit on the left sidebar of your News Feed.

It’s the same idea on Twitter – go to one place to see partner tweets, interact with them, and share them with your Twitter followers.

Here is a link to the Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana CVB Twitter list of local partners, businesses, and events. Here is a screen shot of what it looks like….

Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana CVB local businesses Twitter List, a good idea for Main Street marketing
Go here for instructions about setting up a Twitter List.

Once the list is created, you can set it up as a column to monitor in a dashboard like TweetDeck or Hootsuite, or you can find it at the top of your own Twitter account, under the big header photo, where it says “Lists.”

2. Think about bike tourism

As bike tourism experts Russ and Laura with The Path Less Pedaled say, bicycling and bike tourism can save small towns that might struggle to attract visitors in other ways.

Cyclists move at a slower pace, off of the main freeways, through rural destinations, and they stop more frequently to eat and sleep (and go to the local bike shops.)

Russ and Laura from The Path Less Pedaled speakers on bike tourism, which is a good move for Main Street marketing, at the Heartland Byways Conference 2016 in Iowa (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Russ and Laura from The Path Less Pedaled, speakers and consultants on bike tourism, at the Heartland Byways Conference 2016 in Iowa (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The Path Less Pedaled got everyone fired up as speakers during the recent Heartland Byways conference for scenic byways and heritage highways, and they are available to do content marketing packages to help you attract cyclists.

3. Think about culinary tourism

We covered this earlier this year in our post about how culinary tourism is boiling hot, with examples from Europe, Australia, and Africa.

Visitors want to know where their food comes from.

They want to see your farms and try your cooking classes.

They want to eat fresh, imaginatively-prepared food (which does NOT have to be “gourmet”) that is not served in the same chain restaurant that they can go to back home.

They want to try your craft beer, craft spirits, and wine that are made right there in town, or at least in your state or province.

Everyone needs to eat. Your town might as well be the one that serves up the best food and drink in the area.

4. Take a hard look at your signage

When it is your familiar town or big city neighborhood, it’s hard to see it through a visitor’s eyes.

It is hard to remember that just because you know the name of that street or building or park, or you know that a certain area is “midtown,” your visitor does not.

Make sure that navigating your town’s streets and attractions is as easy and crystal-clear as possible.

Signage showing walking distances and local attractions, which are key to Main Street marketing, outside the Frisco TX Discovery Center (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Signage is key to Main Street marketing. Show walking distances to local attractions, like this sign outside the Frisco, TX Discovery Center (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Also make sure that your online presence is supported with offline signage in as many places as possible.

Use signs to tell people how to find you on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, and which hashtag you use to identify your town on social media. Then, of course, monitor the hashtag and respond to people using it to share their experiences in your town.

Don’t simply post a sign with a social media logo – spell out your Instagram or Twitter handle, or title/URL of your Facebook Page.

Don’t make people have to search for it on their phones.

Can your Visitor Center volunteers and staff tell people how to find you on social media accounts? Do they know your hashtag? They should.

5. Know your top local bloggers, Instagrammers, & other online media

Too many destination marketers and hoteliers know their local print, radio, and TV journalists, but they haven’t a clue about digital media who live in the area.

This is a big missed opportunity for content and coverage that can tell your town’s story online in a way that has tremendous reach and impact.

Plug into your local online media. Host an InstaMeet photo event, or attend/sponsor a gathering like the North Iowa Social Media Breakfast Club.

 

Those are our five ways to get your town some more visibility. Try one or two and let us know how it goes!

If you’re interested in a social media marketing training package like we’re doing in Wisconsin, hit us up on our Contact form (it goes to all of us) and let us know what you need.

 

At Tourism Currents, we help you and your tourism partners learn how to use social media and digital destination marketing to bring more visitors to town. Pick what works for you: our self-paced online course in social media for tourism, our coaching/consulting services, or our speaking and workshop services.

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TBEX North America 2016 Media Partner badge

Connect with the travel bloggers who can tell the story of your destination, attraction, or lodging

We’re excited about next week’s TBEX North America conference at the Radisson Blu Hotel at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, where lots of DMOs are gathering to meet today’s online travel media from around the world.

Time has almost run out for the 2016 TBEX North America conference May 29-31 in Minnesota, but there is also TBEX Europe in July 2016 in Stockholm, Sweden, and TBEX Asia Pacific in October 2016 in Manila, the Philippines, which might also make sense depending upon your visitor markets and whether you’d like to get to know the travel bloggers who can reach those markets.

As a Media Partner for these events, we encourage you to attend and we even have a discount code – TourismCurrents20 – that takes 20% off of the registration price.

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