Local community is key to successful destination marketing here they enjoy Dublin Ireland photo by Leslie McLellan

It doesn’t matter the size or location of your community; don’t forget to engage your residents! Locals enjoying downtown Dublin, Ireland (photo by Leslie McLellan)

Locals are the soul of your community, and a key part of your destination marketing.

More than likely, your locals were tourists before they decided to move to your community and perhaps start a business there, because tourism is key to economic development.

From a tourism standpoint, those then-visitors-now-locals obviously liked what they saw and experienced. They felt a “sense of community” that encouraged them to relocate to your town or city.

Now that they are residents, what are you doing to keep that feeling of “community” strong with your locals, so that they will be your advocates to visitors?

Let’s look at why it’s important to keep locals feeling that powerful sense of community.

  1. Locals are your ambassadors.
  2. They show off the community to their family and friends.
  3. They share what the community is doing.
  4. They take part in local events.
  5. They shop locally.
  6. Many operate businesses locally.
  7. They are the backbone of the community.

You want them to continue to feel a keen sense of ownership, a strong sense of place and belonging, so that visitors will sense that enthusiasm and want to be a part of it.

In our experience, it’s no accident that some of the most successful DMOs do a particularly good job of connecting with (and highlighting social media content from) their locals.

Last month we attended the excellent Main Street Now annual conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Sheila and Leslie from Tourism Currents breakfast at Main Street Now 2017 conference in Pittsburgh

Hey Pittsburgh and Main Street America, we think you’re awesome!

We are proud Allied members of Main Street America and are currently working with a variety of Main Street communities through one of our social media education packages.

At that conference, there were many examples and discussions regarding how communities struggle with keeping their locals engaged. In other words, how they struggle to keep that “tourist feeling” … that feeling that first brought locals to their town … alive in their now-residents.

Three Questions and Ideas to Keep Locals Engaged

1. While we all have plenty of events that attract tourists, what are you doing to make your locals feel special?

A wonderful idea we heard about at the conference was offering block parties or potlucks in the downtown area just for locals.

This gives community members a chance to get together and socialize in your downtown without needing any other reason to visit downtown. No errand-running, no rushing in and out of stores; just a chance to enjoy the downtown and their friends and family.

Leslie took this idea and is doing this once a month in her Lake Arrowhead downtown in southern California. Here is the flyer for the Second Sunday event, to give you ideas:

Second Sunday Block Party for Locals at Lake Arrowhead Village

Second Sunday Block Party just for locals, at Lake Arrowhead Village in the mountains of southern California (courtesy Leslie McLellan)

2. How about “social seating”?  

Have you ever thought about creating the right environment for interaction? Standard benches don’t offer people the chance to be very social and enjoy the downtown.

Think about seating combinations like arranging benches in a circle or semi -circle. Or how about benches shaped in an X where people can engage, kids can climb on, and there’s room to set food and drinks down?

It’s interesting to think about the possibilities of how downtown seating can be reconfigured to give everyone the opportunity to be more social.

3. What can you do to get your locals to have more buy-in in your downtown?

Can you offer them a stake in the success of the downtown?

What if you offered them something to help enhance the area, like adopting flower planters to help keep the downtown beautiful?

Local community supporter name and date on needlepoint cushions in the Layland Museum upstairs Carnegie Theater in Cleburne TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Supporter name and date on needlepoint cushions in the Layland Museum upstairs Carnegie Theater in Cleburne TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

What if you invited community groups to help decorate store windows for the holidays? What if you did something for the local school children to show off their art or school projects throughout the downtown like the city of Hemet, CA does with their Art for Youth program?

The point is to get locals in the downtown, enjoying the downtown, and being social in the downtown.

Keeping Your Local Community Connected

Locals are the soul of the community. They moved to your town or city because they felt a connection.

Keep that sense of community strong by building on what you all share such as a love of the area, entrepreneurship, and quality of life. When your locals came as tourists, they interacted with the community. Now that they are residents, you can’t ignore them.  

You must work at keeping that interaction going if you want them to be strong ambassadors for your community.

Think about what you can do to enhance your downtown to encourage as much social interaction as possible.

We would love to hear from you about what your community does to keep your locals engaged. Please share your thoughts and ideas down in the comments!

 

PS. Last month’s #tourismchat on Twitter was hosted by Main Street America, and the topic was social media marketing for Main Street and downtown organizations and their partners. Here is the chat transcript if you missed it.

 

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Tourism Academy 2017 photo of Long Beach CA (courtesy Tourism Academy on Facebook)

Want to see both of us in person?

We have a late-breaking deal, especially if you are in California or the western U.S.

Both Sheila and Leslie will be attending the iDSS/Tempest Tourism Academy 2017 in Long Beach, California (near Los Angeles) June 20-22.

It started out as an iDSS/Tempest user’s conference, and part of it still is, but the Tourism Academy sessions are open to any DMO.

Use our discount code CURRENTS17 to take $50 off of the registration price!

Go here to learn more and register – we’d love to meet you in Long Beach.

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