A Social Society A Look at How Lansing Businesses and Organizations are Using Social Media Today



Each social media platform offers different opportunities — quick hits on Twitter, pictures on Pinterest. Though the formats differ, the message is consistent: Greater Lansing is lively, brimming over with events, the place to be. The goal is engagement with those living here and those who should visit.

The Convention & Visitors Bureau bundles its social media campaign using a brand it terms the “Lansing Social Club.” And what powers the social media strategy is conversation, a person-to-person outreach that pushes out a message and pulls in the audience. On Twitter, it has nearly 3,400 followers, people who subscribe to receive the organization’s regular updates. Its Facebook page has more than 8,500 likes. On YouTube, results vary; some videos score big. A feature advancing the Lansing’s Dragon Boat races received over 650 views. A good showing. Another feature on bowling at the Royal Scot bowling lanes had just16 views, which isn’t necessarily bad.

With social media, there is value in simply showing up, and even a small number of connections can succeed if they touch the right people, said Lori Lanspeary, Leisure Marketing Manager with the Convention & Visitors Bureau. She explained that while the YouTube bowling video may have had very few views, if it reaches someone who is interested in developing bowling events locally, it works.

“The thing you have to always remember is that sometimes niche markets are important,” Lanspeary said.

The Convention & Visitors Bureau is the marketing organization for the Lansing region. “We’re not a huge destination like Las Vegas or Disney World,” Lanspeary said, adding that promotion in this market is more personal, a style of communication nicely tailored to social media.

“When someone from Lansing talks about how much they love living here, people will pay attention. We don’t want to talk at people; we want to engage them,” she said. “Ninety percent of our customers trust ‘earned media,’ ” forms of personal communications that Lanspeary said differ from traditional print advertising.

In order to manage its many social media outlets, the Convention & Visitors Bureau has developed a social media master plan and splits responsibility for the different sites across department lines. Lanspeary said that the traffic from, as well as the use of social media sites is increasing She called it real growth.

“The thing to remember is that you can have a million likes on a Facebook page using sweepstakes or giveaways. All of our likes are organic. We are very pleased that they didn’t just like us because they were going to get something.”

The staff measure social media marketing and branding success using metrics attached to the different sites and where possible measures the success of promotions.

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For the Convention & Visitors Bureau, Lanspeary said, there is one surefire winning topic: Michigan State’s Spartans — a nationally-recognized brand. But not all social media users can tap into that vibrant a market. Others are more targeted in their use of social media, which also makes it easier to measure the impact.

In a fundraising appeal last year, the Lansing-based Firecracker Foundation, developed by Tashmica Torok to help children who have survived sexual trauma, was able to raise the money needed to reach its fundraising target in a way that would not have been possible using traditional appeals.

“My kids came home from school and heard me talking about how I was so close to my goal. I was trying to raise $25,000 or something like that,” Torok said. “I was about $2,000 short.”

She said her children disappeared, but returned quickly. “They brought me their piggy banks and said I could have their money.” Torok shared this touching moment with her social media contacts, posting a picture of the piggy banks and asking donors to match the $10 offered by the children.

“It was crazy,” she said. “I got the money in about two days.”

Torok says her approach is simple: “Talk as if you were speaking to one person.” She said it makes those interested in the foundation, people who might be donors, feel special. The foundation’s primary social media site is Facebook, followed by Twitter and Instagram, which is used mostly for photos.

Torak said she started using social media in 2009 and finds that a conversational approach is vital to success. “The companies that are most successful use their own voice and story. If you try to emulate someone else, it doesn’t really work.”

Social media has proven particularly attractive for restaurants, which use it to strengthen their relationships with customers, old and new.

The Soup Spoon Cafe on Michigan Avenue in Lansing highlights special food or beverage items, primarily on Facebook and Twitter, the using single platforms like Hootsuite. This complements the restaurant’s overall branding strategy.

“Our advertising is word of mouth,” said general manager Keith Buchele.

But crafting the social media message is important. The Soup Spoon owner Nick Gavrilides, Buchele and a few other senior staffers promote what they find interesting, a well-plated dish, for example, “If it get me excited, makes my mouth water, it goes on the site,” Buchele said.

Determining whether the messaging works, Soup Spoon analyzes sales and also less analytical, but important, customer response. “If a customer says something about a cocktail that they saw on Facebook or we get someone to come in and try one. Or if we promote a new wine for dinner and sell out. We count those as successes,” Buchele said.

A notable win was the restaurant special Firkin promotion. Firkin is a naturally-fermented and carbonated beer produced in small casks. It has an avid following. Buchele said that promoting the Soup Spoon’s special promotion through the restaurant’s social media sites led to a 27-minute Firkin sell out. The previous Firkin special, without heavy social media, sold out in 37
minutes.

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