The goal of the Broadband Smart House project is demonstrate the use of the real-world applications of the NBN, including home automation, remote health monitoring, video-conferencing, rehabilitation, education, remote business, sensor monitoring, and environmental sustainability.(Source: RDA Northern Inland, 2013)
A smart home in Armidale, NSW has been created to conduct live workshops & demonstrations on the benefits of this new technology. The house is fitted with functioning installations where a typical family of four can try out the new technologies. At first instance the house will also be used by local TAFE and University students to trial and demonstrate various cutting-edge projects across a range of areas.
Kym & Kaye Bernardi have owned and operated the BIG4 Shepparton East Holiday Park for 14 years. They are an independent member of BIG4 Holiday Parks franchise, which has parks all around Australia. They currently have 23 self-contained cabins, 12 ensuite powered sites, powered caravan & tent sites and 12 mobile homes. The park predominantly caters for the family market. Both Kym & Kaye have made significant capital investment into technology and their park ensuring it has some of the best family friendly facilities like giant jumping pillow, solar heated pool, synthetic grass tennis court, pedal go-karts, recreation room and camp kitchens.
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.
In our latest update, we speak to Peter Fitz – project manager for Moreland City Council‘s Digital Local Government project, in Brunswick. Brunswick is home to one of the early test sites for the NBN, and the council is looking at how the network can be used most effectively.
Moreland Council will use the NBN to improve their customer service via a tool called Moreland Connect. This allows residents to connect to council staff via a video-calling system, using computers at home or work. This allows staff to consult with residents about council issues, such as planning or service improvements. The project pilot is currently limited to the small NBN footprint, but will treble in size in the next 12 months .
An additional benefit will be the ability to film some of those customer encounters, with appropriate permissions, to create video stories that can be watched later – particularly important for after hours communications, when council offices and staff aren’t directly accessible. Later, they will also use the service to give people access to forms and other documents, allowing them to do business with the council after hours.
Peter notes that YouTube is currently the second most popular social media site, attracting hundreds of millions of viewers – and it is an important area for local government to explore. However, the content that we put online will be important. “If we make things boring,” he explains, “no-one is going to use it. Part of our challenge is to increase the content, make it interesting, and use the medium.”
Earlier this week, we covered Peter’s award-winning work on “Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communications” – using visual storyboards and animations to communicate across language barriers. If you missed it, you can read that article here.
We spoke to Peter Fitz at Moreland City Council, about the importance of visual content online, and how to make your content compelling. Peter’s work on Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communication(CALDCOM) has recently won the Victorian Multicultural Commission’s Award for customer service excellence, and the National Multicultural Marketing Award for the Government Category.
Moreland is an extremely diverse council region, where residents speak 132 language groups, and half of the local households speak a language other than English at home. The council initially had translated material available for eight languages, leaving the others to ‘fend for themselves.’
Simple messages and using vision conveys a lot more meaning than dot points on a website. The NBN enables this to be taken to the next level – taking whatever graphics you have and bring them to life. We’ve started animating our drawings, testing them with different migrant groups, neighbourhood house settings, ESL courses, and they work well. While the project began as a way of communicating with CALD audiences, it soon became apparent that this was a powerful tool for communicating with the wider community. People can learn about council business far more quickly via images and video.
The storyboard approach has helped address many community problems by helping to get issues from the classroom into conversations at home. Council service issues, such as improving recycling and reducing contamination, and social issues such as gambling, bullying and domestic violence have used this approach so far.
In a recent example, a truckload of asbestos-containing building materials were dumped on a roadside. When council staff arrived on the scene, they found children playing in the hazardous material. Door-knocking in the area revealed that only one of the 25 nearby households spoke English. The council has now created a storyboard that staff can use to quickly communicate the danger of handling asbestos waste.
The time and effort required to create a storyboard varies, depending on the complexity of the issue – though the cost of production and distribution is coming down, as better software and NBN access become available. Boards typically have 6-8 cells: introducing the issue, finishing with call to action, and tackling 2-3 things in between.
Visuals like storyboards and animations quickly convey meaning. Peter notes that writing for them is always a challenge, as you can’t do everything. Treat them as conversation starters instead, to get the audience thinking and asking questions. YouTube has shown that people can create small videos, without needing huge productions, that can can help to solve problems.
We recently spoke to Sue Beatty, Community Relations Manager at Wodonga City Council. She explained how social media has become an important part of her council’s communication strategy.
Wodonga Council’s social media campaigns have allowed them to reach and engage with an audience that previously had little involvement with council services and affairs. They adopted a measured approach to building their social media presence – making sure that each development had been properly considered, and putting policies in place before acting.
Like many councils, one of Wodonga’s earliest social media forays involved a Facebook council page. In order to overcome initial difficulties in getting enough Likes for their content, they ran Facebook competitions that helped them attract more followers.
Wodonga Council was also the joint winner of the 2012 Government Communications Australia award for Best New or Digital Media. This award was received for their YouTube channel, featuring “Mrs Mac’s story time.” Every fortnight, new story book readings are added to the channel – watched by local primary school students, and a growing audience of fans around the world.
Sue’s advice to other councils that are considering their move into social media is to take your time making sure that you have appropriate processes in place. Resourcing is particularly important to consider – make sure you have the staff to react and respond as needed.
Mansfield’s Walker Events is an events management business with an environmentally friendly ethos at its core. We spoke with business owner Alli Walker about how she uses social media and the web to promote her business.
We started in 2009, and run a suite of three core events, aimed at promoting the many facets of sustainability. These are the monthly Mansfield Farmers’ Market, the twice yearly Sustainable House Tours and the newly introduced Regional Farm Gate Tours. Our customers are mostly Victorian, with a mix of locals, regional and Melbourne-based.
Which web or social media technologies are you using in your business?
We started off with a farmer’s market web page – this was used as the portal for all information pertaining to the market. Stallholder enquiries and applications are all handled online through the web page.
As the other events grew in their following and strengths, we created a second web page for Walker Events. This allowed us to introduce devotees of the farmers’ market to the other facets of our business. Both web pages are updated on average once per week and cross-promote each other.
Both web pages are attached to a MailChimp database, allowing people to sign up to our email newsletter. This is used for promoting all facets of the business. Using MailChimp takes away a lot of the work (subscribers/unsusbcribers, etc) involved with keeping the database up to date.
Twitter and Facebook also play a large part in the marketing of the business. The farmers’ market has its own Facebook business page which is used to communicate general foodie news and promotions as well as market information. Twitter is used as a means to create relationships with producers, other markets, people interested in food as well as media contacts.
We are just starting to use YouTube to record different experiences – we have a business YouTube channel which is another way to showcase our experiences.
As a business that prides itself on being environmentally sustainable, being a part of the digital space in such a big way helps us to reduce the amount of paper and other resources that we use.
What have been the benefits of using these?
We embraced digital marketing from the very beginning, simply because it was something that could be managed in-house. The media contacts that we have made online have been of enormous assistance with PR and marketing.
Contacts made through Twitter have created some huge benefits for the business, as well as for individual producers who attend the market. In particular, one of our producers was “introduced” over Twitter. This was noticed by some high-level chefs, and as a consequence is now supplying product to several hatted restaurants. Word of mouth recommendations are vitally important when it comes to local produce and the use of Twitter in this instance was hugely successful.
What benefits do you think the NBN will have for your business?
At the moment, slow internet and frequent drop outs that can occur through our wireless internet connection mean that something that should take half an hour ends up taking half a day. Constant and controlled broadband access will make many of our tasks much easier.
Do you have any tips for other business managers who may be looking at getting online?
Don’t be scared! There is no need to jump into everything all at once – start slowly. Ask questions. Read books and blogs. Attend workshops and professional development. Keep learning and make the most of the opportunities that are available.
You can connect with Walker Events on Twitter at @MansfieldFM, and on the Mansfield Farmer’s Market Facebook page.