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Time for Inuvik to go social
Expert says town has great opportunity to market itself on social media

T. Shawn Giilck
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, February 28, 2013

An expert on social media is in town to help local businesses and government navigate the murky water of Facebook and its kin.

NNSL photo/graphic

Ben Vadasz: Is working with Inuvik on developing a social media policy and presence. - NNSL file photo

Ben Vadasz, the founder of Think! Social Media, met with a small group of town representatives Feb. 22 in advance of a larger and more public session on Feb. 26. Vadasz, who operates out of Vancouver, had some encouraging things to say about how the town and its businesses are poised to handle social media. He also had some constructive criticism to offer about how the town and also the NWT is missing the social media express.

"I think it's the first of many steps we need to pull in the community organizations," said economic development officer Jackie Challis, who seemed to be by far the most active person on social media sites who attended the meeting.

Vadasz pointed to her as an example of how the town should be functioning on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

"She's becoming the voice of the area," he said.

Others, including Mayor Floyd Roland, acknowledged they had relatively little experience or comfort with social media, even the ubiquitous Facebook. Roland said he might update his account perhaps once a month, while chamber of commerce president Newton Grey said he was on daily but rarely posted anything. Instead, he uses the site to track what other people are doing.

Vadasz wasn't surprised by that, as he said he had examined the digital presence of the town and tourism-related businesses such as accommodations, tours and festivals and found them wanting. He delivered a report card on each to the group. He said the town has the resources to do great things on social media, and it was lacking only in motivation and organization.

"I looked at 17 businesses and websites in Inuvik," Vadasz said. "One of the two festivals has a website, and overall the Facebook score is pretty low."

Lower still was the use of Twitter and some of the other forms of social media, including Trip Advisor, one of the monster entities in the field, he said.

He pointed to some entries on the Trip Advisor forums for Inuvik and the NWT, including a question from a prospective visitor wondering if it was possible to drive to Inuvik. Luckily, several local people had hopped on the forum to answer the question in the affirmative. Vadasz said he's seen cases where questions have been left unanswered for months at a time.

"There's also no business-related blog here," he said.

Vadasz concentrated initially on Facebook, which is likely the most familiar social media site. Marketing through Facebook and other social media sites is "all about trust," he told the group. People tend to trust what their friends post on the sites, and that is potentially an enormous market waiting to be tapped.

"Canadians are the heaviest users of Facebook in the world," he said. "Every Canadian has an average of 190 friends on Facebook, so you do the math. The magic is with friends of friends.

"Every local should be a fan (of local pages), because they beat the drum loudest.

"Facebook is an ecosystem, and you need to promote your experiences."

There is plenty of opportunity to be some of the pioneers of social media in the NWT, he added, particularly since the Canadian Tourism Commission is "practically begging" for material from the territory, since it has virtually none.

"You have those resources, particularly photos," Vadasz told the group. "Use them."

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