Inviting operators to take advantage of free training
Kim Cook has been sold on the power of social media since the late 1990s. Now she is helping Tignish and area tourism operators to learn how to use social media to grow their businesses.Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer
TIGNISH — "People are wired in a lot to the Internet and they use it for information," notes Tignish tourism ambassador, Kim Cook. "If the area does not have information there, if there is a void, people are not going to see it."
As ambassador, it is Cook's job to convince local tourism operators that they need to be active on social media or risk being left behind.
"In these days of Internet and tablets, smartphones and hashtags, there is no reason for Tignish or anywhere 'Upwest' to lag behind Charlottetown and Cavendish in the global eye," Cook insists.
She explains it like this: If there were two restaurants in a community and one regularly updated its Facebook page and the other didn't use social media, local customers would get in the habit of checking the Facebook page. "Which one is going to get proportionately more customers?" she asks before pointing out it would be the one that keeps customers informed.
But social media, she stressed, extends far beyond the local community.
"Travellers now are using all of these Internet tools, so the people who are trying to market themselves need to know how people are using those tools to find their information, so that they can put themselves in the right place," she said.
During a six-month project last year, Cook spent months populating Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Flickr with information and images of Tignish and area. The area, she noted, has much to offer - beautiful scenery, the Louis Mitchell tracker organ, feeding giant tuna, or helping to harvest Irish moss with draft horses.
"It's such a rich area for experiencing what P.E.I. is really like," she said.
"Like the Kevin Costner movie, I had to make it so they would come," she said.
Then she started reaching out to tourism operators to explain the importance of social media.
"Social media is personal. You can get emotionally invested through social media," she emphasized.
But it was a hard sell at first.
"It is not a familiar concept with a lot of people." Group sessions were not panning out, so she started calling individual business people to set up free training sessions.
"I feel like I'm hounding them," she chuckled.
"I feel like I'm trying to sell them a Filter Queen or something, but I'm only trying to help them."
She told of one individual, Teresa Marleau, who attended regularly for training sessions and now keeps the Palmer Road Parish social media pages up to date.
"It was like a light bulb went off and she just totally embraced it. It was wonderful to see."
She even has the Pope on the parish's Twitter page.
Marleau agrees the training was beneficial.
"It just really taught me how to work behind the scenes on the website and how to post things and import pictures."
It's all done on a volunteer basis. A weekly bulletin and calendar of events are on the website. There are also several links on the site, including the Vatican and the Diocese of Charlottetown.
"It really opened up the whole world of the Internet for the parish."
Area business people can book free training time by calling Cook at 882-2392 or by visiting tignisharea.com.
"I like teaching people about the Internet," Cook said, "and I like people being able to use it as a tool."