Thursday, February 13, 2014

No Budget? No Problem!

Many people view social media as a joke. They feel it will eventually fade away and people will go back to paying attention to traditional marketing. Unfortunately, this won't be happening anytime in the near future. Before I jump into the blogs about how the Cedar Valley is using social media, I want to tell a social media success story. A couple of weeks ago I attended a social media seminar hosted by the Central Iowa Tourism Region. At first, I thought the seminar was going to be someone telling me how Facebook worked, but it turned out to be a great example of how social media can be beneficial to organizations.

Leslie McLellan from Tourism Currents
The speaker was Leslie McLellan from Tourism Currents. She referred to social media as winning the lottery, because when you use social media properly, and you don't take any shortcuts, it can be like gold. Leslie was able to successfully market and promote a tourism destination for two years without spending any money on advertising. The destination wasLake Arrowhead, California, which is about 90 miles east of Los Angeles with a population of around 13,000. The main thing Lake Arrowhead was known for was their amazing summer events. Leslie was in charge of the marketing department for promoting Lake Arrowhead, and she was also the only person in the marketing department. The main source of income for the marketing department came from the Bed Tax, which is a tax on every hotel room rented by out of towners that goes back to the local governments.

In the fall of 2008 the economy took a turn for the worst. Many small businesses in Lake Arrowhead were closing their doors and all the sponsorship dollars for any events stopped
. So they had to decide what to do with the marketing budget. They had around $7,000-$10,000 to either spend on traditional advertising to get people to town or they could spend it on the sponsorships and bring back the great events. They decided to sponsor the events and give people a reason to come to Lake Arrowhead.

Lake Arrowhead's Twitter Page
This is when Leslie immersed herself into social media for the next six months. She decided that Lake Arrowhead needed to make their social media debut at their film festival, which was in April of 2009. So she grabbed a few of her friends, had them set up a twitter account, and start tweeting about the upcoming film festival.They tweeted for three days before the event, and it lived on for three weeks after! Next was the antique & classic wooden boat show. From Leslie's tweets they were able to gain coverage from two national boating publications who picked it up. They were able to gain national coverage for free! The third big event is Lake Arrowhead's summer concert series that runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. At the first concert Leslie went up to the DJ and encouraged him to ask the audience if they're on twitter and if they are, to please promote the concert using #LakeArrowhead. At first there wasn't much success, but the 4th of July was a turning point. Between TweetDeck and Hootsuite, Leslie was able to track 15,000 people talking about Lake Arrowhead on Twitter. The summer turned out to be a great success, they even had to close down their town a couple times because the concerts got so big.

Even though all the publicity through social media seemed to be working, the real success would come when the county gave them their bed tax for the year. This would tell them how many people had come to Lake Arrowhead and actually spent money in their town and rented a hotel room. And if fact, they actually had earned more in the summer of 2009 than they had the previous five or six years. It wasn't a significant increase, but it was the fact that they were able to raise the same amount of bed tax without spending a single dime on advertising. Her story was so successful the Social Media Examiner even wrote an article about her and the use of social media.

Lake Arrowhead, California
After winter ended Lake Arrowhead was back to their annual film festival again. This time they held a Twitter contest before, during, and after the festival. In May, the Social Media Examiner story came out and Lake Arrowhead, along with Leslie, started receiving a lot of attention. People were starting to realize the potential of social media. Unfortunately though, the management changed and the summer concert series was cancelled. Leslie was forced to take a different approach. Instead she promoted the quality of life and what Lake Arrowhead had to offer. Fortunately, when the fall numbers rolled in again Lake Arrowhead's social media was a success for the second year. They had only earned $300 less than the year before, which was insane considering they didn't have the summer concert series.

Leslie's social media strategy is a success story. Many people have not been able to find a return on their investment when it comes to social media, but her story proves the if used properly social media can be great asset when your budget doesn't allow for a lot of spending. Stay tuned for future blogs about Leslie's advice on how to create successful posts that will generate interaction.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How Sex & the City Influenced my Life

I thought I would take the time to introduce myself before I start creating this masterpiece of a blog. My name is Whitney Johnson and I'm currently a senior at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. When I started college almost four years ago I knew that I wanted to pursue a degree in Public Relations. My reasons for declaring a major in public relations were kind of all over the place though.

  1. My first reason was because I knew that I was good at talking, or as we like to say in college, "a great communicator." To be honest, my skills at communicating mainly came from the fact that I liked to talk a lot. In sixth grade, my teacher informed my Mom that I was a "social butterfly." In sixth grade though that means I talked too much in class and she wanted me to shut my mouth. Eventually, that turned into a skill and all of the sudden I'm a communicator. 
  2. My second reason was because my writing skills weren't too shabby. I liked to write, it came easy to
    me, and multiple people told me I was good at it. Writing and reading were always my favorite subjects in school, while math and science were definitely not my strong suits. 
  3. My last reason for deciding to major in public relations was because of Sex and the City. My junior year, I fell in love with the show, and I absolutely loved Samantha. Not because of her sexual habits, but because how strong and independent she was, and I wanted to be that someday. She ran her own public relations firm and was very determined. I envied her career.
 So my decision to major in public relations took me to Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids to complete my Associate of Arts degree and then to Cedar Falls to finish my bachelors degree. When I started at UNI I decided to minor in marketing because I always thought it was an interesting field, but I had no idea I wanted to pursue a career in it until after a few classes. Fast forward to the spring of 2014.....I now have a second major in Interactive Digital Studies with emphases in digital advertising and digital imaging. I want to pursue a career in digital marketing after graduation next December. Which leads to the reason I'm writing this blog. The main reason is because it's required for my digital advertising class, but I'm also very interested in social media and how it effects our lives. My focus for this blog though will be social media in the Cedar Valley. I want to explore how small businesses utilize social media or how they aren't utilizing it. Thanks for listening to my life story. Stay tuned for more posts!