Five Inexpensive Ways to Jumpstart Your Economy

Here is a link to the slides from our popular webinar from last December. All the ideas can be implemented for under $10,000 and some are at no (financial) cost (although there are man hours involved).

Five Inexpensive Ways to Jumpstart Your Local Economy

Five Elements of a Viral Social Media Communications Plan

by Bob Maples

Bob Maples

Bob Maples

Every economic development organization faces unique challenges and opportunities as it seeks to harness its full potential.  The EDO communications team should be constantly seeking creative, flexible programs that leverage their assets and opportunities to increase the likelihood of success.   Every EDO is different, ranging from start-up efforts in small to large organizations, to very progressive regional and state-level groups, and need to develop a comprehensive suite of programs to guide them toward solutions that respond to their needs.  Every EDO communications plan should incorporate these five key elements:

One:  Strategic Planning and Analysis

I believe a strategic communications plan should not collect dust on a shelf.  It should be an economic development roadmap with identified goals and objectives specific to social media and traditional communications.  These goals should focus EDO outreach efforts and lead to measurable outcomes needed to build buy-in, support, or make a difference.  Depending on an EDO’s needs, a strategic communications planning process may involve a community assessment; appreciative inquiry; stakeholder interviews; group discussions; cluster analysis; targeted industry identification; capital funding requirements; workforce development and education; and other relevant assessments.

 When developing goals, EDO leaders should identify three to five objectives, such as driving legislative change; raising visibility of efforts with the community or with local business leaders; creating buy-in from specific audiences; or raising money or awareness for sustainability of the region’s efforts.  In setting goals, it is important to include short-term and long-term goals, specific audiences, and tactics with milestones to measure success.

 Two:  Target Audience Analysis

Economic development organizations must understand the assets of their state, region, city or community and focus their recruitment efforts in ways that maximize the assets and minimize the challenges.  By identifying targets, an EDO can be much more efficient in its marketing programs and is better positioned to sell to its strengths.

 During this step, EDO leaders must identify and prioritize audiences.  Leadership must work to understand their audiences’ concerns, identify obstacles, and understand the core characteristics that make up each audience segment.  No two audiences will have the same needs in terms of communications, so understanding who they are, how you may best reach them, and the obstacles that may arise are essential.

Three:  Core Messages

One key to successful communications and social media is delivering a powerful and relevant message.  This is true whether the social media activities are designed to sell a product – your community – or recover from a crisis.  Tactics and strategies exist to bring messages to life.  Messages should be audience-specific and answer the all important question, “What’s in it for me?”  The messages should provide a sense of urgency, be simple, use data wisely, and have a clear call to action.  The call to action is simply what you want the audience to do.

Four:  Strategies and Tactics

Identifying and developing strategies and tactics are a natural progression of the social media and communications planning process.  Leadership group strategies and tactics constitute the plan to achieve a particular goal (strategy) and social media/communications vehicles or activities that will be used to disseminate messages (tactics).

The communications team should look to combine traditional and social media tactics that have proven to be successful in other community initiatives with new ideas that may be effective based on having clear messages and a strong call to action.  Public relations strategies may include garnering more press attention for the initiative.  The tactics could include news releases, news conferences, briefings for reporters, op-ed placements in the newspapers, speaking at local events, or other activities as fit for the EDO.  Similarly, if the strategy is to better understand citizens’ and businesses’ concerns, the tactics may include research, briefings, meetings, etc.

Crafting a successful social media campaign is more difficult than it looks.  Using social media in your campaign is the most effective method of combining all of the powerful Internet resources available today such as search engines, social networks, local directories, e-mail marketing, blog posts, and SEO news releases are just but a few examples of how information on a community and its businesses can be exponentially propagated locally and globally at the click of a button – increasing awareness of the community in achieving objectives through self-replicating viral processes.

 Five:  Measure Overall Impact

 It’s no secret that board members and leadership are expecting more quantifiable results and ROI from the resources spent on the campaign.  By the time you are done, you should have a set of metrics to share with the leadership team.  What you measure depends on your initial strategy.  If the goal was to acquire and retain businesses in your community, you will need to use metrics from the economic development team to measure results.

By monitoring the campaign you can react in real time.  You can use a social intelligence solution to accurately monitor keywords related to your campaign and observe what sort of sentiment lift your brand or campaign is experiencing, and what the emerging themes and conversations are.  Set up notifications to detect any unusual changes, allowing the leadership team to make educated decisions in real time.

However you choose to measure, it’s important that you identify areas for campaign improvement based on feedback.  This enables you to identify opportunities to address new target audiences and improve your strategy.

The Takeaway

Traditional communications and social media – creating, publishing and promoting helpful content for your target audiences can earn your community incredible reach, influence and revenue.  Social media and viral marketing tactics are making it easier for your targeted audiences to find information for themselves.  By publishing content that your audiences need and value, you can attract everyone you need to reach – local businesses, prospects, journalists, influencers, bloggers and your citizens.

Crafting a successful viral social media campaign is not easy and requires a commitment.  Once done, it becomes the roadmap to successfully achieving your goals and objectives.  Call or e-mail us if you need help.  It is why we formed Civic 180 – to help communities and cities grow in the right direction.

CiViC 180 to Host Webinar Dec. 12 Focusing on Inexpensive Ways to Jumpstart Your Local Economy

After Redevelopment Agencies and Enterprise Zones, what can a California community do to promote local economic development? The answer is in your own backyard by retaining and growing local businesses. Join in this no-cost webinar to hear about five great ideas to create jobs and positive buzz for your community. We’ll also give you tips on how to finance the costs.

Join the Webinar DEC. 12 from 10:00-10:45 a.m.

The presentation will present ideas on inexpensive programs to create jobs through:

  • Business Retention
  • Entrepreneurship
  • International Connections
  • Vital Marketing
  • Smart Cities Technologies

The program will conclude with a discussion of strategies to find funding to support these projects through innovative public-private partnerships. CiViC 180 will make time available to all participants  to discuss local needs following the program.

The presentation will be led by CiViC 180 Co-Founders:

Christopher Lynch, an economic developer with experience in Irvine, Santa Rosa and Silicon Valley. He also was an international economic and trade policy expert with the US Department of State.

Bob Maples, PR and social media expert. Bob has worked with most of the major IT companies developing their PR strategies, winning seven national PRSA “Silver Anvil” awards.

To register, send YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION to OR call 949-236-9637

About the Community Vitalization Council:  CiViC 180 creates, manages and finances programs to help communities develop their local businesses. As a 501(C)3 non-profit, CiViC 180 gives special focus to working with underserved communities.

Viral Marketing For Local Business

Maples Photo

by Bob Maples

Across the country, local businesses are struggling to reach new customers with traditional local marketing.

The view on the ground is grim.  Local newspapers are floundering and closing.  Customers are ignoring classified advertising.  Free business directories lie bleached and molding on a million suburban lawns from California to Connecticut.

Online, however, it’s a different story.  Online, customers are doing more than paying attention; they’re actively looking for local businesses.  Let’s look at the figures:

  •  50 percent of mobile searches are now local, says Google.
  • 51 percent of adults look online for information about restaurants, bars and clubs, says Pew.
  • 73 percent of smartphone owners use them to locate stores, says Nielsen.

The challenge isn’t the customers.  The challenge is that local businesses are struggling to connect with customers.  A city, chamber of commerce, or a community needs to help their local businesses of all sizes connect with customers through an integrated set of the most important local, viral marketing channels: social media, e-mail marketing, local listings, search engines, PR and content marketing.  A city can be a valuable resource if it steps up and provides effective strategies and tactics for connecting businesses with local customers looking for products or services.  This can be achieved easily when a city engages a few online viral marketing experts to provide tips and advice with a few case studies on how other businesses have engaged with viral marketing.  Civic 180, a non-profit council that guarantees a 180 degree change in business communities, provides a powerful viral marketing program for cities to take their communities out of the Yellow Pages and into the powerful Internet world.

Local viral marketing isn’t just about search.  Customers also turn to social media to find out about nearby businesses.

People trust word-of-mouth and recommendations from family and friends, which makes social networks and review sites incredibly valuable to the community and to a business’ marketing efforts.  Desktop and mobile accessible apps like Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp! and Pinterest allow customers to quickly see what their social connections and other customers have to say about a business.  This makes them incredibly valuable.

Like tiny waves spreading ever farther from a single pebble dropped into a pond, a carefully designed viral marketing strategy ripples outward extremely rapidly.  An effective viral marketing strategy will include:

  1.  Give a way products or services;
  2. Provide for effortless transfer to others;
  3. Scale easily from small to very large;
  4. Exploit common motivations and behaviors;
  5. Utilize existing communication networks;
  6. Take advantage of others’ resources.

Some viral marketing campaigns work better than others.  Below are a few basic elements you should include in a local business viral marketing campaign.  A viral marketing program need not contain all these elements, but the more elements it embraces, the more powerful the results are likely to be.  An effective viral marketing campaign may include, but not limited to:

Yelp!:  Online review sites like Yelp! and TripAdvisor are crucial for location-based businesses.  “Claim” your business profiles on these sites to verify your information and be responsive.  Try to respond to every new review within 24 hours.  Thank customers for their business and attempt to remedy any negative experiences that customers share.  This encourages repeat business and shows how much you value each customer.

  • Facebook:  A new Graph Search feature allows customers to search for businesses according to both location and friends’ recommendations.  For example, “Restaurants in Irvine my friends have been to” or “Bike shops in San Juan Capistrano my friends like.”  Search results are based on how many people within a searcher’s social graph already “like” your business, as well as how much engagement your posts generate.  Cultivate your fan base with engaging content to help search results.  Keep your brand page on Facebook updated with relevant information and categorized correctly.  Are you an architecture firm?  Restaurant or landscaping business?  Specify it.
  • Foursquare:  This allows customers to find, check into and rate local businesses.  Keep Foursquare users engaged by sharing offers and tips that they can amplify with their network.  Try different offers on different days, occasions and for “milestone” check-ins to keep customers coming back.  Offer rewards for the most checked-in “mayor” of your business and consider soliciting feedback from your most loyal patrons.
  • Pinterest:  This is a social bookmarking site where users collect and share photos of their favorite events, interests and hobbies. One of the fastest growing social networks online, Pinterest is the third largest such network behind only Facebook and Twitter.

Social channels can drive significant new business for location-based businesses.  Be present, active and responsive on these networks to grow your fans, customer base and your bottomline.

Crafting a successful viral marketing campaign for a business is more difficult that it looks.  It requires careful planning, strategy and research.  Viral marketing campaigns are the most effective method of combining all of the powerful Internet resources available today such as:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO):  This includes Meta-Tags, Titles, Text, Keyword Density, Image Alt-Tags and more.
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM):  Every business should proactively submit their website sitemap to major search engines like Google, Yahoo!, Bing and others every two weeks.
  • Local Directory Marketing:  There are over 25 major local directories a business should place their company information, complete with contact information, hours of operation, map and directions, products, services, photos, videos and much more.
  • Local Coupons:  Every business loves to run promotions and promotions need visibility to succeed – a city, chamber of commerce or community should invest to help their members succeed by making it easy to share every businesses’ promotion through the most popular and highly visited coupon marketplaces on the web.