Regional Thinking and Linking

How do you rise above the noise and get the word out about your great attraction, tour or fascinating new program?

If you don’t have a big marketing budget - most of us in other words - it can feel almost impossible. But if you take off the blinders and see your neighbors, associates and competitors as potential collaboration partners, you may discover it’s much easier than you imagined.  

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The Tweetfolk

A group of small towns in southern Ontario, Canada is participating in a fascinating experiment called Tweetfolk Tours. Created and managed by a local social media firm, the program is designed to promote the region's businesses. It is based entirely on Twitter.

Each Tweetfolk Tour includes two components: an organization or business willing to host an event and the Tweetfolk, which is what the tour participants are called.

Potential hosts - restaurants, wineries, museums, historic houses, shops, local tour companies, bakeries - apply to the social media firm that coordinates the tours. To be selected, a host must meet the following criteria:

  • It must be a local business or organization, not a franchise or part of a chain.
  • It must be active on Twitter, which means it must have a track record of tweeting on a regular basis. Opening an account simply to qualify as a host does not work.
  • It must offer a complimentary experience-based event that lasts an hour to two hours. The experience must be exclusive, not something anyone can get any day of the week. It does not have to be complex, however. A restaurant might offer a tour of the kitchen followed by a dessert tasting.  A nature preserve might offer an introduction to bird identification followed by a make-your-own birdhouse workshop.  

The social media firm reveals the location of each program on Twitter 3 – 5 days prior to the event. Space is limited and the Tweetfolk register as quickly as they can, also over Twitter. The tours always fill up, often within minutes. The Tweetfolk agree to show up on time and to bring their smartphones.  

During the event the Tweetfolk generate a storm of live tweets.  They describe what they are doing, talk about what fun they are having, rave about the food and post dozens of photos. If you visit the Tweetfolk Tours website, you’ll see pictures of people in various venues looking intently at their phones. They’re not disconnected from their surroundings; they are intimately connected to the location, to each other and to the people near and far who are following along on Twitter.

Not only does this innovative program generate valuable word of mouth referrals for the hosts, local people are discovering great businesses in their own backyards.

The Tweetfolk benefit too. They are forging new friendships and business connections.  People who were hesitant about using Twitter or just didn’t understand it are learning about its potential as a marketing channel. Throughout the events the Tweetfolk help each other improve their Twitter skills, recommend interesting accounts to follow and share tips to make tweeting easier and more fun.

The Tweetfolk Tours concept is just one way businesses, organizations and attractions can work together. Traditional forms of collaboration – joining forces with another organization to offer a new tour or cross-promoting by linking several attractions via a history trail – still work too. Collaboration is a great way to bridge skill and knowledge gaps, share costs and reduce risk. It can also be the easiest and fastest way to get new programs and events off the ground.

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The Collaboration Kit

To help you think about how linking with others in your region could work, we’ve created The Collaboration Kit. It is a practical, how-to guide written specifically for people working in local history and tourism.  

Topics include:

  • The benefits of collaborating
  • How to find and approach potential partners
  • What to do if you’re approached
  • Why to consider working with competitors
  • Program suggestions
  • Red flags
  • Four case studies from the real world of local history tourism, including a detailed analysis of a single doomed program that went off the rails twice with two different partners
  • There's even a sample agreement you can adopt and adapt

The Collaboration Kit is available here