The Zionsville IN Chamber of Commerce (just northwest of Indianapolis) recently announced a new marketing initiative using technology to promote their community. However, several of the community's business owners are not exactly enamored with the plan. Read the full article here.
The Chamber has purchased advertising on electronic billboards at the baggage claim area of Indianapolis International Airport. While this is a technology used by many companies to reach their target audience, I wonder how effective it could be for a community such as Zionsville.
If you have already landed at an airport, you probably already have an agenda or schedule of things you need/want to accomplish. Would a billboard advertising a nearby community influence you to stop by?
To be fair, the Zionsville Chamber will also place ads in the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Authority's promotional materials. These may do a better job or reaching potential visitors before they are already in the area.
I don't mean to beat up on the Zionsville Chamber by any means. I've worked for a chamber and know there can be many challenges, especially with chambers in small towns. But, I do think there are several other ways to use technology to promote the community that could be even more effective.
Search-optimized website with great content
Chambers of commerce along with convention and visitors bureaus have a great resource of content sitting right in their membership management software. By leveraging the business names, categories, contact information and business descriptions effectively, chambers can create huge numbers of content-rich pages to be indexed by search engines.
Coming up high in Google, Yahoo and other search engines is more CRITICAL than ever if chambers of commerce want to attract more business to their community and drive referrals to fuel local members’ business success. The higher they come up on search engines, the more traffic their websites will receive and thus create more opportunities to attract more business to the community and their members. More website traffic also enables chambers to generate significant non-dues revenue via website advertising.
And, you can reach potential visitors before they arrive in your community.
Social media engagement plan
Social media is fast becoming the ultimate word of mouth tool. It allows your members and their customers be more engaged and share information quickly with dozens (or hundreds) of their friends. Chambers of commerce have the opportunity to use social media not only to promote their own benefits to members and prospects, but to promote their members as well.
Chambers such as Oceanside, CA, Clovis, CA, and Nashville, TN do a great job of communicating their chamber's agenda and mission, AND spotlighting their members, too. Find and follow these chambers on Twitter. Read their blogs. Become fans of them on Facebook. You'll see the many ways they use social media to gain exposure for their members and community.
Teach your members how to use social media
I see chambers of commerce across the country offering workshops and seminars for their small business members on how to use social media and improve their websites. They bring in local or national experts to teach their members about the tools and strategies for effectively using social media.
This is a fantastic opportunity for the chamber and their members to all work together to promote the community and engage potential visitors. Social media is SOCIAL, so use these communications to help each other, make referrals and share information.
See this post from Mashable on how the resort industry is using social media. There are several ideas that chambers of commerce and their members can adapt and use to strengthen their community's marketing efforts.
Using social media in this way allows the groups to also reach a potentially under-accessed group of visitors - people who already live in the larger surrounding communities. While they may know you're "nearby," they may not know about many of the great things to do, places to eat or shopping opportunities in your town. Reaching out via social media can be the first step in getting them to visit.
All of these methods help you generate additional word of mouth for your organization and your community. And generally, they can be accomplished with little additional expense - at least when compared to other advertising options.
What other ways have you seen chambers of commerce or convention and visitors bureaus use technology to promote their members and their community?