For me, the most engaging and powerful Facebook Pages have a distinctive, friendly, human voice. They nurture their Page community, share all kinds of helpful information (plus the occasional just-for-fun item) and post often enough that I see them fairly regularly in my News feed.
This does not require money, or being a big city DMO (Destination Marketing Organization.)
It requires energy, commitment and planning. The “big guys” sometimes have the most boring, plastic Pages, so never let yourself be intimidated if all you have is you. Small is often better!
** A mid-sized town, but excellent – Beaumont, Texas CVB. Disclosure: I went to high school there and couldn’t wait to get out, and now they’re one of my go-to examples for social media in tourism. Never say never!
Not small towns but not expected, either, these Pages impress me with how they share interesting items:
Thanks to a diverse social network that includes interesting people in small towns and rural areas, I’ve learned so much over the last few years about the hopes, dreams, troubles and blissful moments of people who live in what I used to call “out in the middle of nowhere.”
You know that ongoing discussion about getting broadband internet access out into rural areas? It sure seems similar to efforts in the 1930′s to get electricity and telephone service out to less-populated places, and the same objections are being raised; it’s too expensive, there aren’t enough people to justify it, it’s a “luxury” they don’t really need, etc. I never really thought about this problem until I got to know some small town geeks.
At last fall’s 140 Characters/State of NOW Small Town communications conference in Hutchinson, Kansas, I was honored to be chosen as one of the speakers, and I talked about this personal awakening.
There were some video problems at first, so all I have for you is the audio recording, but it’s only about 10 minutes and I talk fast.
For those who are not surrounded by like-minded people (whether you’re into chess, growing roses or technology) the world can feel like a lonely place.
“Am I the only one who understands chess problems like Allumwandlung and Maximummer and Zepler doubling?”
“Am I some sort of nutball because I really like deciding between spotted-bloom roses like Cramoisi Picoté and striped ones like Patriot Kordana?”
“No one else in my small town seems to ‘get’ why I care about broadband Internet access, why I blog and what in the world I’m doing on Twitter.”
Fortunately, social web tools like blogs, Twitter, Facebook and the still-relevant forum/BBS make it so much easier than it used to be to find people who share your enthusiasms and interests. I’m not up to speed on where chess or rose people hang out online, but I can tell you where a bunch of rural and small town technology and social media enthusiasts will be on September 20, 2011.
Right; so if you’re a city kid like me, you’re probably thinking….geesh, look at all that empty space, and those absolutely straight roads going through nothingness, it’s probably flat as a pancake, and I think I recognize the name Wichita for that nearby city….look, did I hear correctly….this is a technology event in the middle of Kansas?
It is, and I give it my City Kid Stamp of Approval.
Not that rural folks need any approval from anyone, and that’s partly the point of this particular event – rural and small town people are geeks and communicators just like urbanites, but it’s a bit harder for them to find one another, learn and socialize when they’re all spread out in less populated areas. This is the first technology-based conference that brings them all together, on their terms but with a global audience, in a cool small town like “Hutch,” with speakers that include farmers, ranchers and small town economic development experts who don’t think a one-stoplight community is a bad idea at all.
After attending the first version of 140 Small Town in 2010, I knew I’d return this year, and I’m honored to be one of many speakers from 17 states on the schedule. My topic is “City Kid Among the Cattle - How Twitter Connects Me to Another World,” wherein I’ll talk about my newfound appreciation, thanks to Twitter, of wide-open spaces, cattle management and farm equipment with mysterious prongy things.
Each speaker only gets one 10-15 minute time slot (better make it snappy!) and no PowerPoint is allowed. WIN.
For a quick 90 second overview of the conference, here’s my Tourism Currents business partner Becky McCray (who organizes Small Town along with its original founder Jeff Pulver) on an Oklahoma Horizon TV episode (direct link to video here.)
Hope I meet you in Hutchinson!
(If you like this post, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS feed or by email – the email signup box is on the right sidebar near the Search box. Thanks!)
There is an exciting new development for anyone who has ever wondered how to attract buzz and interest to their small town or rural area….and I’ll explain what a pump jack photo (to the left) has to do with it.
The popular 140 Characters Conference series – about Twitter and other communications in the “State of Now” – has added a location to their event lineup that previously included gatherings in Los Angeles, Boston, Tel Aviv, New York London, San Francisco and Detroit.
If you’ve ever wanted to see how small towns and their economic development can benefit from technology, join me in “Hutch,” because I will not miss this one.
How did this thing end up in small town Kansas? Because of social media connections over a photo, and a blogger familiarization tour/press trip.
My Tourism Currents business partner Becky McCray posted a pump jack photo of her own onto Twitter Update: Becky says it was the other way around - Hutchinson business guy Cody Heitschmidt put up a pump jack TwitPic photo and Becky saw and commented on it.
Becky and Cody then kept up a friendly chatter on Twitter for months. When Cody said that he’d like to work with his local CVB and the Cosmosphere space museum to bring some bloggers to see his hometown, Becky agreed to be one of them….and convinced me to go, too, despite my general skepticism about blogger fam (familiarization) tours.
So, guess which town was top of mind when Becky started organizing 140 Conference SmallTown?
It was solid social networking by some of the Hutch townsfolk, pure and simple. They’re going to bring WiFi into the gorgeous Art Deco Fox Theatre, fill it with a bunch of blogging/Facebooking/video-ing/Tweeting geeks, and connect that town to the whole planet.
“Flyover country,” my hind end.
This is truly groundbreaking; it speaks to how the Web is starting to allow us to live where we want and connect with people worldwide from wherever we want to, as long as we have an Internet connection.
Want to attend? There’s still time – use code 140disc when you register here, and save $40 off of the ticket price.
It’s hard to take something called “Twitter” seriously, I know, but the various cutesy-named social media tools and applications are not important in and of themselves.
It is what people are doing with them.
These are early days for Web connection technology, very much akin to the early days of the automobile. Sure, the first cars were loud, stupid and rather unreliable, compared to Ye Olde Horse.
Why bother, said most folks. Aren’t those silly new machines a ridiculous extravagance?
If, however, one looked beyond how to make the danged things work, and finding decent roads to drive them on, and locating places that sold gas, tires and parts, one could see the Big Picture….fast and affordable personal transportation across vast distances, anywhere, anytime.
That’s the social Web, too: human connection, anywhere and anytime.
Who the hell cares, you ask? I care. Here is why, from the article:
“Tucker is proof that smartphones are starting to put down roots in rural America. He lives in a 150-person town near Brandon, Nebraska — a place even he calls ‘the middle of nowhere.’ The nearest neighbor to his 4,000-acre farm is about 2 miles away.
Yet, farmers like Tucker are using Internet-enabled phones to gain a foothold on online social networks — both for business and personal reasons. (Follow him on Twitter)
‘I can be in the most remote place and just with the power of having a BlackBerry … I can communicate with anybody at anytime about anything,’ he said. ‘It is just amazing.’
The growth of smartphones on farms is important because many people don’t think about where their food comes from, much less associate a specific farmer with that process, said Andy Kleinschmidt, a farmer and agricultural extension educator at Ohio State University.
‘When you can put a name or personality with someone who’s actually raising corn and soybeans or actually milking cows, that’s the most important thing that’s come about in my opinion,’ he said.”
We are watching our society knit itself together, making far-reaching human connections across timezones and cultures, in totally new and unexpected ways. I learned about Steve in Nebraska on the same day that I reconnected with a wonderful travel writer in Florida; I first heard Tom Swick speak at the best annual book festival anywhere, and now he’s figuring out what to do with Twitter, just like Steve on the tractor.
I would not miss this moment in history for anything, even if it does come laden with goofy names for the tools we are using to make that history.