No one will visit if they can’t find you

Autumn maze near Golden Spike Tower in North Platte, Nebraska (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Where are you, and can you be found? Autumn maze near Golden Spike Tower in North Platte, Nebraska (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

How can you rise above the noise to be more visible?

Get found with the framework below; a simple plan to make your destination, attraction, or hotel more find-able, both online and off.

As we mentioned in our mid-year trends in tourism report, we pick up many ideas and insights at the SXSWi (South by Southwest Interactive) tech conference. One of the 2015 sessions was called “Cultural Placemaking Through Interactive Storytelling,” which included an audience discussion about how we can use technology to revitalize cultural institutions, including historic neighborhoods and communities.

How to do that, exactly?

Here is a suggested basic framework that our co-founder Sheila Scarborough presented in that session as a starting point, based on the input of an informal group of session attendees that included people from Washington DC, Denver, Newark, Chicago, Austin, and Athens, Greece.

First, Integrate Online & Offline Plans

The world does not live entirely online, nor does it live entirely offline.

You simply have to have a vibrant, up-to-date presence in both places if you want people to find out about you. One feeds the other.

Yes, it is extra work. Yes, you have to do it to be successful.

We can help you brainstorm the best ways to do it in minimal time.

Second, Be Find-able Offline

Ideas to help you succeed….

**   Visible, clear, and helpful signage. Your own familiarity with your area can be your downfall. YOU may know how to get to that cool restaurant or museum on Elm Street, but does your visitor? Integration tip – signs can also be a social media photo opportunity for visitors.

**   Connecting with your neighborhood associations, including homeowner associations, to tell them who you are and why they matter to tourism. This helps when out-of-town friends and family ask what there is to do during a visit.

**   Consider conducting guided neighborhood walking tours, especially local food tours. Integration tip – visitors will share their tour experiences online to friends and family via the social network apps on their phones (many times this will happen during the tour itself.)

It doesn’t have to be too complicated; our travel writer friend Tim Leffel set up street food tours in Guanajuato, Mexico when people kept asking him for suggestions about where to eat.

**   What sort of neighborhood business partnerships make sense for you? We recently talked about a cyclist discount program in San Diego, California that involves local businesses. Integration tip – customers like to share such positive business interactions on social networks, through their phones and as it happens.

**   Would geocaching or other sorts of scavenger hunts work for you?

Third, Be Find-able Online

Ideas to help you succeed….

**   Make sure that you and your partners claim your online business profiles in Google’s My Business for brick-and-mortar shops, attractions, restaurants, and hotels/lodging. It gives you the best chance at being visible and find-able when people whip out their phones and start Googling, “things to do in XYZtown,” “hotels in downtown XYZtown,” and “places to eat in XYZtown.”

**   Are you a nonprofit? You may be eligible for Google Ad Grantsgrants from Google to run AdWords campaigns that can buy you top positioning for certain search terms.

**   Make sure that whenever you upload images or video (which are very powerful in search) that you tag and describe them with location and detailed information. For example, the ALT tag of an historic building photo could read, “Smith House in the historic Jones neighborhood near downtown XYZcity.” All of those words are search terms.

What is the visual perception of your destination when people search for information about it? Find out by searching Google Images here.

**   Consider encouraging people to use a specific hashtag, particularly for Instagram and Twitter. Here are the current tweets for #ThisIsOTR: tweets related to Cincinnati, Ohio’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and urban historic district. Integration tip – your signage and print brochures can include the hashtag.

**   Is your destination, attraction, or hotel find-able on apps that travelers use all the time like Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Field Trip? What do you find when you search for it on Instagram or Pinterest? Google is not the only search game in town.

How do your visitors and guests find you? Let us know down in the comments!

(Special thanks to SXSWi 2015 Cultural Placemaking session leaders Lisa Byrd and Matthew Gossage from Austin’s African-American Cultural Heritage District.)

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Leslie McLellan on community engagement

How can you identify key stakeholders in your community and get them excited about your destination?

Our social media training team pro Leslie McLellan can help you with a new download on her budget-minded marketing site Just A Small Town Girl.

Click here to learn more about her Community Engagement Checklist – build a better team for your town.

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