How Island businesses have embraced social media

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Wesley Doyle, general manager, Vineyard Square Hotel and Suites - Marnely Murray

Social media has become a powerful tool to drive clients to your business, and more and more Island brands have lately dedicated their efforts to putting together a communications and marketing plan that includes focusing on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Living on an island where national brands and corporate businesses are almost nonexistent, the question many owners and managers have is the following: Is social media worthwhile for local businesses?

Absolutely. I consider social media to be the ultimate marketing tool in this day and age. But while scrolling through the most used social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, I note a local presence that puts a smile on my social-media-loving face.

Facebook — where the likes count

When searching for a business on Google, two things will pop up: a business website and its Facebook page. The site, although informative and professional, is not as important as the Facebook page, where the real brand lives. On Facebook, possible consumers can see what the day-to-day life of your company is like, specially if you’re managing a restaurant. Local restaurants like Slice of Life, Wolf’s Den Pizza, Port Hunter, Black Sheep, and Fella’s on Union all post their daily specials on Facebook, in hopes of enticing those hungry Facebook scrollers.

“Social media allows us to share the many things that we’re doing with the Island community multiple times a day. Whether it’s promoting an upcoming program, sharing a photo from one of our kids’ camps or classroom visits, or asking trivia questions about a collection item, social media helps us make history relevant for a large audience. We also work with so many fantastic individuals and organizations at the museum, and love using social media to promote these amazing collaborations. Some people stereotype museums as being old and stuffy. Social media helps us demonstrate how vibrant the Martha’s Vineyard Museum is.” —Katy Fuller, marketing, communications, and events manager, Martha’s Vineyard Museum (facebook.com/MVMuseum)

Facebook tip: Snap a photo of your daily food special or sale along with the information — a picture is worth a thousand words. Always use natural lighting, and post a horizontal photo on your Facebook page — your reach might improve!

Twitter — where the hashtag was born

With the rise of Instagram, Twitter has been slowly forgotten, but is still one of the best and quickest ways to connect with your audience. Whether it’s a guest staying at a local hotel trying to reach you or an upcoming Island visitor wondering where the best place is to eat dinner, Twitter is the platform where all these questions are answered in real time. Also, it’s where the hashtag was born. Hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#), used to identify messages on a specific topic. The most commonly used hashtags on-Island include #marthasvineyard, #edgartown, #oakbluffs, and #capecod — if applicable to your business, use them!

“Social media can change your company, and can change the way YOU view your business. Instagram has become my social media format of choice. Picture is worth 1,000 characters, unlike the 140 characters on Twitter. We started our business on Twitter by letting people know where our product was and when, but we quickly moved on, and now Twitter is more just for fun. Never have been a huge Facebook fan, just because it’s such a mishmash of crazy stuff. It does work, apparently.” —Todd Christy, Chilmark Coffee (twitter.com/ChilmarkCoffee)

Twitter tip: Have a presence on Twitter by responding to queries about the Island — most tourists are using the #marthasvineyard hashtag when searching for hotels, restaurants, and shops.

Instagram — where a picture is literally worth more than a thousand words

Now Instagram, she’s my true love. If I had to pick one social media platform to stick with, it would be this one. Human beings are visual beings, and Instagram showcases the most beautiful photos (when edited gorgeously) in the best way. Some Island businesses, such as Behind the Bookstore, have even created their own hashtags to accompany their posts, creating a loyal following.

“After taking enough iPhone photos of food, I’ve realized there are a few things that help represent the dishes as beautifully as they appear in real life, including lighting, angle, and plating. While it can be a tangible way to attract new customers, I try to have a sense of humor with our content. For instance, this summer we started a photo series called #btbglamourshots, where I take photos of staff in this one particular doorway. We were poking fun at those really serious restaurant portraits.” —Elana Carlson, Behind the Bookstore manager (instagram.com/behindthebookstore/)

Social media on Martha’s Vineyard

It’s 2016, and I think that more than half of the Island businesses are on some sort of social media platform. Not only are brands seeing the direct benefits of social media (more traffic to their sites and more consumers in their shops), but there are some indirect benefits to being active on social:

  • Availability of brand: If a consumer asks a question and you’re the first to respond on social media, a sort of brand loyalty develops quite quickly, even before they step off the ferry. It also builds brand recognition.
  • Search-engine optimization (SEO): Being active on social media helps your website rank better on Google. This means when guests and consumers are searching for “best hotel to stay at on Martha’s Vineyard,” your activity on social media will qualify your sites to show up higher than others.
  • Reputation management: Having various social media profiles allows for a level of insulation from attacks to your business. How so? When a negative review is posted on a review site about your business, your social media activity, if active enough, will push down the reviews on Google searches, making it almost nonexistent. With enough social media content under your business name, it’s almost like insurance!

In conclusion, social media is a tool that should be included in your yearly budget, your everyday life, and planning meetings. Marketing-wise, it’s one of the best places to spend your dollars, even when you don’t see a return on investment as quickly as with other types of marketing. But remember, the indirect benefits, like connecting to consumers and engaging with your audience, carry a heavier weight in the overall scheme of things.

“We like to use social media to keep our guests — and Island lovers who haven’t stayed with us yet — connected with the Vineyard, any time of the year. A lot of times, that means we’re sharing our favorite photos or one of our blog posts about hidden or not-so-hidden highlights of the Island. The very best thing is when we get to see the Island through the eyes of our guests — we love seeing their photos on social media and hearing their stories!” —Wesley Doyle, general manager, Vineyard Square Hotel and Suites (facebook.com/vineyardsquare/)

Marnely Murray is a social media consultant and The MV Times “Good Taste” columnist.