Social Media & Digital Marketing: Bringing business into the modern age

SYDNEY SCHAEFER / NNY BUSINESS
Jessica Piatt, director of marketing at the Greater Watertown North Country Chamber of Commerce, takes a photo of materials on her desk for the Chamber of Commerce’s Instagram story.

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I LOVE Northern NY – How to get in on ILNY promotions

BROOKE ROUSE

Many recognize the I LOVE NY brand and think of it as New York City. In fact, I LOVE NY is the official destination brand of New York State.  Each county government designates an organization be the ‘local boots on the ground,’ or tourism promotion agent (TPA) for I LOVE NY, or more specifically, Empire State Development’s Tourism Division.  An annual grant is then administered, combining state and County funds to be used specifically for marketing the County as a destination to out-of-county visitors.

                In addition to the grant funds, the TPAs work closely with the I LOVE NY team on a number of marketing initiatives and state wide campaigns. So how do you, as a business or community, get a piece of the pie?

                Your County TPA creates a marketing plan annually and always appreciates participation from tourism partners. Sometimes cooperative marketing opportunities exist, where you can buy in at an affordable rate to get a lot more. This is done through regional branding efforts, where you can be highlighted in print or digital platforms.

                Your TPA is actively seeking exposure for your county…one of the best ways to do that is through earned media (we do the work to earn the recognition, but don’t necessarily pay any money). For example, the TPA will communicate with writers or the state may organize a trip of writers (also known as a FAM or familiarization tour) to visit and write, blog, photograph the area. Typically we need businesses to host for overnights, meals, excursions, or tours. Typically these things need to be offered for free or at a discount. The ‘host,’ as an active participant will then be covered in the content. These stories have tremendous value that our tourism marketing budgets could not afford, so this is a great opportunity for the destination and the business, product, etc.

                Your TPA is actively updating websites, social media, visitor guides and requests for story leads. The most important thing…PHOTOS. A picture tells a thousand words. High quality (high resolution) photos, showing people doing things are the best way to really tell the story. Any time your community or business can share high quality photos (not smartphone photos) of a festival, activity, landmark – you are sure to be included in the next promotion.

                The more we know, the more we can help. I LOVE NY is constantly sending out story leads for major publications like USA Today, NY Times, etc. They want to know what is new, what is unique. If we know what you are up to (and have high quality photos!), we can quickly send the word (and image) along. Sometimes its quirky – a top 20 list of breakfast features, or unique requests like spa getaways where you can sleep under the stars. The more unique offerings you can create, the better. The more we know about it, the more you benefit.

                The state and other state partners have also developed several thematic campaigns.; Haunted History Trail, PRIDE, Underground Railroad,  Path Through History, Taste NY, to name a few. If you can create an event or have an attraction that is a fit, be sure to let your TPA know.

                To get connected with your local TPA, call 1000 Islands International Tourism Council (Jefferson County) 315-482-2520, Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism & Planning 315-349-8322, or St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce 315-386-4000.

Brooke Rouse is executive director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and a Tourism Promotion Agent. She is a business owner, holds a master’s degree in tourism and is a former SUNY Canton Small Business Development Center advisor. Contact her at brouse@st.lawrencecountychamber.org.

Branding for Success

Sarah O’Connell

In April, Jefferson Community College presented its annual Jefferson Business Symposium for high school and college students and members of the community.  This year’s theme was “Build Brand U” and featured a variety of presentations during the day about developing yourself a brand as a student, a job seeker, a leader or a businessperson.   Keynote speakers for the event were Jody and Doreen Garrett, founders of several successful local businesses.

    During the day, I gave a presentation called “Building a Winning Brand for Your North Country Business.”  I talked about what it means to be an entrepreneur as well as how to choose what kind of business you might want to start here in Northern New York.   Besides the usual “how to start a business” information, I also highlighted determining what local business opportunities exist in our area and then making sure it suits your passion, your personality and your pocketbook. 

    For example, are you the type of person who would be happy with someone else giving you a blueprint for your business model? In other words, would you be a better fit as a franchisee, or as an independent business that creates your own path?  

    Maybe you’re a fan of the emerging disruptor or collaborative/sharing economy.   Uber, Lyft and AirBnB are examples of this, and they are turning many traditional industries upside down (mass transportation and accommodations) and requiring municipal entities to figure out how to capture licensing and taxation revenues from these new models.

    Again, in a broader sense, there are opportunities in the technology fields as the need for new products and services changes rapidly – software, ecommerce, cybersecurity, digital marketing, games, apps and so on.    The retiring Baby Boomers need services in property maintenance, senior care, etc.  The mobile Fort Drum community and young professionals are markets looking for upcoming trends they would like to see here, such as niche clothing shops and different dining experiences. The resurgence of Watertown’s downtown also offers a refreshing assortment of shopping – fashion eyewear, yoga studios, juice bars, an art gallery, craft brewpubs, wine lounges, spas, thrift and vinyl record shops.  Some of these have been around for quite a while but are seeing an uptick because of increased foot traffic from the new businesses and events designed to bring people to downtown.

    Last but not least, take a look at the distinctive enterprises that make our own north country marketable, whether it’s locally sourced foods (meats, cheese, honey) and beverages (wine, beer, cider, liquors), crafts made by artisans (wood items, candles), tourism and agri-tourism venues and winter/summer sports.

    Still not sure what business to start?  Each year Jefferson Community College’s Center for Community Studies undertakes a Survey of the Community for Jefferson and Lewis counties (available on the JCC website).   Viewing the responses to the survey questions on what people feel is missing may just give you an idea of a need waiting to be filled.

    What’s the next step?   Do a target market analysis, come up with a business plan and then develop a sense of the startup costs.  This is where your purse or wallet comes into play, because it needs to be a concept that you can afford to invest in with or without the assistance of a commercial bank and/or a public lender. (Check out what funds might be available through jcida.com under “Financing Assistance Applications.”)  The SBDC can assist you in developing the business plan and creating financial forecasts for your loan package.  Building a strong business brand will point you on the way to success.

    Note: Planning is underway for our 14th annual Business of Women networking conference in June.  Watch facebook.com/BusinessofWomen/ for more information.

    The New York Small Business Development Center at JCC offers free, individual, confidential counseling to new or existing business owners in Jefferson and Lewis counties.  For more information, contact 315-782-9262, sbdc@sunyjefferson.edu.   St. Lawrence County residents can contact their SBDC at SUNY Canton, 315-386-7312, sbdc@canton.edu.

SARAH O’CONNELL is a certified business advisor with the New York State Small Business Development Center at Jefferson Community College. She is a former small business owner and lifelong Northern New York resident. Contact her at soconnell@sunyjefferson.edu.

Social media requires synergy, plan

Mandee L. Widrick, owner of ChargedUp Media, is a social media coach. Photo by Norm Johnston.

Navigating online waters can be challenging as more options emerge

When researching social media marketing, the options are seemingly endless, often confusing and social network names can be barely pronounced. With the requisite blog, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, there’s the added “newbies” of Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, FourSquare and Spotify.

By now, some of these networks have become household names, with users numbering in the billions; but others are emerging and offering new services that could help businesses expand a brand’s reach and garner future customers. However, is having an online presence on every possible social media network necessary? At the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce June speaker series event titled “Social Media and Your Business,” that same question was asked. One answer yelled from the back of the room: “No, it’s all just a waste of time.”

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