For the latest addition to our series on local government in Victoria’s North East, we spoke to Emma Keith – Tourism Development Officer at the Rural City of Wangaratta.
Key facilities in the Wangaratta council all have active social media platforms, chosen to complement their existing promotions. These are being used to build and engaging with local audiences, and to reach out to prospective visitors. Wangaratta’s visitor information centre currently uses a YouTube channel, lists their walking tours on TripAdvisor and Facebook, and has begun dabbling in Twitter and Pinterest. Similarly, the Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre has built up a successful Facebook presence, with over 900 followers and 1,000 location check-ins. They have taken a personable approach, sharing ‘behind the scenes’ photos and stories with friends of the Arts Centre.
Another example of successful online activity in the region is the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail – a cycling route connecting Wangaratta, Rutherglen, Beechworth, Myrtleford and Bright, linking visitors to local food, wine and accommodation. The trail is actively promoted on many social media channels, such as TripAdvisor, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
Emma notes that the local wine makers are very active in regional promotion, particularly through initiatives like King Valley Prosecco Road wine trail. Wineries like Dal Zotto, Pizzini and Brown Brothers use Twitter to share stories from the region, helping to raise awareness of the region, and engage people during their stay. “When they come to the vineyard, they feel like they are already part of that conversation – like they already know the people behind the cellar doors.” The council has also heard of local wineries using Twitter to organise direct sales to B2B and wholesale customers.
While many of Wangaratta’s arts and tourism promotions are highly active on social media, Emma also discusses ways to help those who are still lagging behind. Some businesses are reluctant to start as they feel that setting up and learning to use a social media account may be too complex or time consuming. Improving access to social media training and mentoring helps to overcome this barrier, giving businesses the confidence to get involved in this new economy.
Wangaratta Council is beginning a 12 month project on YouTube that will encourage local residents to contribute user generated content in the form of a 90 second video grab. These give people the opportunity to share the “best things in their own back yard” in their own words. For this, the council hopes to act as facilitators – allowing people to talk within the community, instead of sending official messages in to them.
The council also began trialling Facebook ads earlier in 2012, for tourism promotions around the NAB Cup match to be held at the Wangaratta Showgrounds. They created a series of ads with destination-focussed imagery, designed to inspire and motivate different groups, improving attendance at these events. Initial ads targeted fairly broad demographics, aimed at people in Melbourne and regional NSW. Local operators saw an immediate increase in demand, with some selling out events across the long weekend. The range of statistics available from these campaigns provide a great deal of insight to council into the demographics for these events, such as the location, age, and other interests of the people involved. These can be used to further refine the promotion of other events in the region.