Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Beyond Promotions: Using Facebook For Your Downtown

As a die-hard downtown promotions girl, it's hard for me to talk about downtowns using Facebook without mentioning events and promotions.  But so many downtowners use social media exclusively for this purpose without exploring the vast opportunities that a Facebook Page provides.  It connects you instantly with people who choose to "like" your downtown.  Are you maximizing your fan base?

Here are a few of my favorite ideas:

Business Recruitment:  Ask people what new businesses they would like to see open in your downtown.  It shows that you are interested in their input, plus it allows you do to a little bit of amateur market research.  With so many people interested in starting a small business in their own community, you might be surprised by the response you receive.

Business Retention: Many of your businesses are on Facebook, so why not help to get the word out?  Feature a daily link to a downtown business Facebook page. Encourage your businesses to do the same by featuring their fellow merchants.  Ask them to post downtown events and make sure they tag your downtown page in their posts.

Fundraising:  The goal of any successful fundraising campaign is to raise maximum funds with minimal overhead costs.  Facebook is a great platform for this effort because it raises awareness of your fundraising goals to a targeted audience beyond what traditional media outlets can provide.  And did I mention it’s free?

In Case of Emergency:  Ever have an event sponsor drop out at the last minute?  What about a new project that needs more volunteers than you originally anticipated?  Last year we lost a presenting sponsor two weeks before an event.  We posted our plight on Facebook and landed a new sponsor within 24 hours.  Does that happen all the time?  Maybe not, but it is an easy and efficient way to put out a call to action.

Make The Ordinary Extraordinary:  Some things that happen downtown may be just routine to you, but not to your fans.  Try posting photos of those everyday activities.  Photos of spring flowers being planted, tents going up for an event or a new business under construction are all ideal ways to show that there is always something new happening in your downtown.

The possibilities that a Facebook Page can provide are endless.  Promotions and events are key, but are far from the only uses for Facebook.  Not sure where to start?  Create a post asking people what they want to see on your page.  This will not only confirm what they do like, but provide you with a road map to continue creating engaging content that will benefit your downtown for years to come.

Want more?  Seek The Geek on Facebook!

Monday, April 11, 2011

When Is The Right Time?

I recently attended an event and overheard a politician explaining to his constituents that with state of the economy and impending budget cuts that "this is not the time for new ideas". Not the right time? Really? I can't think of a better time to come up with new ideas. What could happen? It's not like you could make things worse.

Without overstating it, this statement haunted me for days to follow.  Nevertheless, it made me think. Is this same sentiment ringing through downtowns across the country? Have we been so paralyzed by the economic pressures around us that we have stopped generating new ideas?  It's easy to fall into the routine of waiting for opportunities, but it's so much more satisfying to get out there and create them yourself.

In true geek form, I have a good brainstorming session at least once a week, even going so far as to keep paper and pen on my nightstand in anticipation of those inevitable 2 a.m. revelations. When was the last time you brainstormed? It could be about a specific project, committee or event. Maybe an age-old problem that you set aside long ago. It's a great way to engage and re-energize your committees and staff.

Do all good ideas cost money? Absolutely not. Simple, easy ideas can yield some valuable results. For example, in my downtown we host Facebook Fridays. During these monthly events, merchants can come in for Facebook "Tech Support". Whether they need help setting up a page or are looking for suggestions to use their page more effectively, we set aside hour-long appointments to address their needs. Since its inception two years ago, over 140 of our downtown businesses are now on Facebook.

Something unexpected happened along the way on Facebook Fridays. Within that hour-long period, we started talking. Not about Facebook, but about what was happening in their business. Over the two years of hosting these trainings, we have gained supporters & volunteers, identified and addressed businesses needs and most importantly, we found new ideas.

So go ahead and get those ideas flowing?  What's the worst thing that could happen?

Don't forget to seek The Geek on Facebook.