Do you ever hash tag Alpena on Twitter (#Alpena) and explore what other people are saying about Alpena? I do it regularly and unfortunately they aren't saying a whole lot. In fact, more often than not, I find the same three people tweeting about Alpena and often the tweets are days old. That's acceptable if Alpena doesn't have to care about the rest of the world. But we do. Or at least we should.
Let's consider some statistics. Thesocialskinny.com shares that 91 percent of American adults use social media regularly. They say YouTube users watch more than three billion hours of video every month. They state that 100,000 tweets are sent every minute and that 65 percent of Pinterest traffic is from the United States. Further, they claim that Facebook users spend 10.5 billion minutes online every day that's almost 20,000 years. And one in four Facebook users tag a location at least once a month. Regarding Instagram, they share that one new user joins every second. Nielsen estimates that social media and blogs reach 80 percent of all active U.S. Internet users. eMarketer says 77 percent of buyers say they are more likely to buy from a company whose CEO uses social media. A February 2012 Pew Report says 48 percent of adults ages 18 to 34 were using Twitter and use was increasing daily.
These statistics are fascinating. To me anyway. But let's connect this to growing a community.
There's a lot of political talk going on right now. (Don't let that stop you from continuing to read. I promise this is not a political article). From local to state and national media, candidates running for office are being asked a variety of questions. It is quite common for local and state candidates to include in their answers something about the importance of keeping young people around, retaining young talent, recruiting young talent, or some other form of that same idea. This is also a common goal for many economic and community development organizations.
Many of those users from the statistics above are from the demographic we repeatedly say we want to attract and retain. Doesn't it make sense then that we would have a presence where this demographic is "hanging out"? How attractive of a community are we to that demographic if we don't have a strong presence on social media sites?
Revisit the statistic about YouTube. Three billion hours of video every month is a lot of video. How many of those hours are spent watching videos about your community if there are no, or few, videos promoting your community on YouTube?
How often do you visit someplace that is not your home? Maybe it's a store, restaurant, park or another location. Are you part of the one in four Facebook users who tag your location? How effective are we as a community if we are made up of the three of four Facebook users who don't tag our locations (followed by positive comments about the place we tag of course)?
If you are on Twitter and you aren't tweeting once in a while about #Alpena, how often is the community of Alpena showing up in the 100,000 Tweets that are sent every minute?
The point of this article is not to encourage you to sign up for social media. Although I am a big fan and believe there's at least one social media tool that is a good fit for everyone. Instead, my goal is to encourage you to help promote your community through the social media you are already using. The way social media works is that each individual has the power of a network. By sharing information to your network, and then each person in your network sharing information to their network, information spreads fast. You can be a huge player in promoting your community by doing little more than clicking a few online buttons.
People ask regularly what they can do to get involved. This is one very easy way to do just that. Getting involved in this fast-paced world of technology and social media does not mean we aren't the relaxing sanctuary community being promoted in the new branding effort. Instead it is just the opposite. If we all say the same things on our social media networks we can help quickly spread the positive new Alpena brand. And it doesn't end with the branding effort. The possibilities don't end.
Social media is not going away. It is going to keep evolving and changing and giving us new opportunities to share our community. If you are already involved in social media, keep in mind what you can do with it to help promote your community. As you get more involved with social media, remember that if we all collectively play a role in promoting our community through these avenues, we will all appreciate a more vibrant community.
Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column appears bi-weekly on Tuesdays.