Social media is pervasive in our society. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube, businesses are quickly incorporating these technologies into their marketing strategies, and so is the town of Camden. Recent reports from a number of online news sites provide some very interesting statistics:
These statistics can go on and on, but they tell us that social media is an advertising medium that can leverage a significant return on investment. A number of projects are under way in Camden to take advantage of the power of social media.
The town has partnered with the Camden Downtown Business Group and the Mid Coast School of Technology to create social videos — videos designed with the intent to share and prompt discussion. These will be locally produced videos using a Flip camera and hosted on YouTube, but with a clear business element. Videos will be grouped together under a "channel," in this case, Camden. A video may feature a particular Camden business, the historic Camden Opera House or even Camden's unique Free Land for Jobs incentive program.
A key element of social videos is to include a wrapper at the beginning of the video, similar to the opening clip you see every night on your favorite TV news program. This wrapper — no more than 8 seconds long — will be used to tie together all the videos housed under that channel and branding them with "Camden."
The Mid Coast School of Technology's curriculum includes courses on the technology to produce wrappers, such as 3D graphics and stop-motion tools. They are using that instruction to produce a high-quality wrapper, custom designed to reflect Camden, and will be added to the beginning of all the social videos. The project is providing students with some real-life experience. Additionally, the videos can be linked from many sources such as traditional business websites, Facebook pages or even QR codes. We anticipate increased visitors from our social videos who, in turn, will patronize other establishments in town. Any business could find value in a similar project.
Another project under way is blending old and new by integrating QR codes with historic sites. These codes are quickly showing up on everything from ketchup bottles to storefronts, from magazine ads to television commercials. If a QR code is a foreign concept to you, think barcode for the Internet. The code is scanned using a mobile device such as an iPhone or Blackberry and the user is automatically taken to a designated web page. That page may be on Facebook, LinkedIn or a traditional website page, or it can automatically dial a number or send an email.
Our regional chamber of commerce has teamed up with Camden's Historic Resources committee and a local business to create a virtual walking tour of Camden's historic sites. Signs will be affixed on or next to the sites. A visitor scans the QR code that takes him or her to a description of the site. Directions lead to the next site on the walking tour. This will be rolled out for the summer tourist season and we anticipate it will draw a broader audience intrigued by the new technologies. Ideally, these visitors learn more about Camden's many offerings and extend their stay. And hopefully, area businesses and lodging establishments will benefit from the increased foot traffic.
LinkedIn is often defined as a professional networking site. However, there are many other opportunities. Camden has a Free Land for Jobs incentive that we are using to attract new business. We use a mix of advertising media, but we have also utilized LinkedIn to identify professionals potentially interested in the program. We then created an ad that appears only to that target audience and we send to them direct emails promoting Free Land for Jobs. This approach has increased the inquiry rate for the incentive program, and produced a few replies that, while not a fit for the Free Land for Jobs program, have put Camden on the radar screen for future possibilities. The cost was low and the LinkedIn approach effective as part of an overall advertising strategy. The same tactic is available to a traditional business to recruit staff, to sell a service or to promote a product.
The opportunities for business and municipalities to integrate social media are relatively endless. I recommend connecting with your local schools and involving the students who use this technology on a routine basis. In the end, the partnerships formed create a win-win for all.