Tweetfolk Tours teaches local businesses the power of social media to get the word out

Smiling women are tweeting pictures from a room full of wine barrels.

In the barrel room of a local winery, it’s all smiles as #twtfolks tweet and take photographs during one of their unique weekly tour experiences in Norfolk County (pop. 60,000), Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Gregg McLachlan)

TweetFolkTours all the talk in rural Norfolk County
Businesses, organizations learning the power of social media to get the word out

Guest Post by Gregg McLachlan

Rural earned marketing on steroids.

That’s probably the best way to sum up the TweetFolkTours, a new social media initiative now taking rural Norfolk County, Ontario (pop. 60,000), Canada by storm.

What are TweetFolkTours? Think one big happy Twitter chat at a selected business or organization each week. The concept is simple: The host business or organization provides a unique experience to enthusiastic Twitter users who can’t wait to tweet to other local folk about the incredible places and experiences in their own backyard.

And tweet they do. These are events where the etiquette is all about tweeting as a host tells a story about their business, and, most importantly, sample an experience.

The concept is proving to be wildly successful because it brings together businesses who are engaged on Twitter with users who are excited about using the platform to talk up their community.

It’s a win-win for rural and this agriculture-based county on the shores of Lake Erie.

The tours have become so popular that events are being booked weeks in advance with interested businesses and organizations.

Businesses are loving how the events are extending social media conversations about their establishments. Twitter users are talking up each business days before and days after each event with the businesses themselves joining the tweeting.

Some of the unique events have included craft beer sampling at a brewhouse and meeting the brewmaster, boating on Lake Erie aboard a former coast guard vessel now being used for ecotourism tours, enjoying cupcakes at a pastry shop, watching migratory birds being banded at an avian observatory, savouring a full course meal at a restaurant, tasting wine directly from tanks at a winery, and exploring history at a local museum and taking selfies with relics of the past.

Every rural community has these kinds of unique and amazing places. The trouble has always been spreading the word and doing it affordably.

The tours are helping businesses learn how to better use social media, and they are encouraging more people to get involved in social media if they wish to participate in the tours and enjoy unique experiences being offered only to the event’s attendees. (Registration is only via Twitter.)

Businesses come away from each event with dozens of testimonial-like tweets that can be retweeted to further spread the word.

What’s more, the events are helping to take conversations offline too, as attendees rave about each activity and spread positive street-level talk.

Attendees not only tweet about their experiences at each event, but they also tweet large volumes of photos that demonstrate the power of ‘showing’ rather than just ‘telling’. If you’re a business that makes custom cupcakes, you’ll quickly have the local twitterverse salivating over your cupcakes as event attendees (perhaps on a slight sugar high!) blast out a stream of cupcake photos with delicious comments.

Anyone not attending a tour stop can easily follow the Twitter stream for each event and experience a virtual visit thanks to the efforts of attendees (affectionately called #twtfolks). More importantly, those not in attendance also join the conversation on Twitter helping to further extend each event into the Twitterverse.

The attendees also have a larger network than just locals. The same tweets and coverage reach far beyond local borders. People outside our area are retweeting the local tweets, favouriting them, saying they miss Norfolk, or that they have to come to Norfolk. There really is something powerful about seeing on social media what your peers and friends are experiencing and how that influences our behaviours today.

The @TweetFolkTours are co-founded by local social media marketing strategists Amy Van Kessel (@amyvankessel), Gregg McLachlan (@greggmclachlan) and Mike McArthur (@sipnzip). The @TweetFolkTours were created to shine a spotlight on Norfolk County after it declared 2014 to be the Year of Social Media.

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