Let’s make a (local) deal

 

How the folks behind ClarkCountyLive.com use social media to drive revenue

The word “neighborhood” is defined as a number of persons living near one another or in a particular locality. It’s a social thing, and therefore it shouldn’t be considered a coincidence that social media is being utilized to bring neighborhoods closer together.

Man sitting at computerWith its network of neighborhood websites, Live! Local Networks is using new media – including blogging, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – to drive new revenues for their business, as well as other businesses in Clark County.

“In today’s business environment, social media is essential,” said Mitch Canton, Live! Local Networks’ director of social marketing. “It’s where your business of tomorrow is at.”

Live! Local Networks launched their first “hyper-local” web site, SalmonCreekLive.com, in 2007. Canton said the site, which concentrates on the people, places, activities and events in Salmon Creek, resonated very well with Salmon Creek residents and businesses. Building on that success, they launched ClarkCountyLive.com in 2008.

Canton’s wife, Melanie, is the director of content creation for Live! Local Networks. Instead of providing national or even regional news, she said the websites serve as the “neighborhood water cooler” – a place local people can go to see what’s going on down the street in their own community.

“Many of our posts are topics that are too small for mainstream media outlets,” said Melanie. “But they are perfect for our neighbors.”

A sampling of the home-page content reveals what Melanie is talking about. You’ll find information about school closures and delays, a jazz concert at Clark College, Fort Vancouver lantern tours and the latest Red Cross blood drive. The site also features a calendar and a things-to-do page. Local residents can post news and events, and others can post comments and feedback.

Hyper-local deals     

Group-buying, as embodied by Groupon and Living Social, are great ways to get deals. However, when Canton researched the specifics of such deals, he says he identified a huge gap.

During a five-month span, Canton said 94 percent of the deals were irrelevant to consumers and businesses located in Clark County. To address this gap, Canton added “Live! Deals” to the ClarkCountyLive.com website in November – a way of offering coupons for local merchant’s products and services. Canton said he tried to launch a similar program in 2007, but that the technology didn’t exist at that time to support it efficiently.

“Our original attempt at the social-group buying model crashed and burned,” said Canton. “We were too early and we didn’t have the tools to make it work.”

This time around is different, according to Canton.

Jodi Tripp, owner of No More Naked Phones (as well as a photography business), was the first participant in the new “Live! Deals” program. Tripp provides “skins” for cell phones, laptops and other electronic devices. The skins feature artwork or company logos, and cost anywhere from $15 to $40.

Tripp said she was excited to have the opportunity to participate in and support the deals program.

“I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” said Tripp. “It’s a great opportunity for a lot of businesses. It doesn’t cost anything to do it – he does all the work, then you get a check and new customers!”

Cantonuses social media to promote the daily deals, which usually go live around 5:00 a.m. Later in the morning, Canton said he posts on FaceBook and Twitter, with a link back to the deal on the ClarkCountyLive! website. He explained that using both venues was important, because there is only about a ten-percent overlap between the two audiences. For certain deals, he may post again in the afternoon, because the morning and evening social media users are again different audiences.

Besides simply posting the availability of the deals, Canton also spends time interacting with potential deal customers, answering their questions and replying to their feedback. This, he said, ensures that the consumers have an “enjoyable experience,” and said research indicates that 89 percent of customers who enjoy a purchase experience will come back, even without a coupon.

While Canton admitted posting to social media sites can be time-consuming, he said it was an “investment in what we’re doing in the future.”

Hyper-local consulting        

Besides trying to promote local businesses through its deals program, Live! Local Networks is expanding its business through social media consulting.

“We want to show other business what they can do with social media,” said Canton. “We want to help small businesses to adapt and survive in the new economy.”

Live! Local Networks recently announced an agreement with the Clark County Events Center, to manage their social media presence.

“There’s probably no bigger, better venue in Southwest Washington than the Clark County Fair and the Events Center to be able to create content around,” said Canton. “We’re really energized to be able to bring new awareness to all the great activities going on out at the fairgrounds complex.”

Tripp was very positive about the effect Live! Local Networks could have on the Clark County economy.

“It’s sad to see local businesses closing their doors,” she said. “Mitch is working really hard to support local businesses – I want his pipeline full!”

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