Social media helping market town

Duane Hicks

The Rainy River Future Development Corp. began to use social media to market Fort Frances this summer, serving as a way to not only promote the town to tourists but provide a way for young people living away from here to keep in touch with the community.
Economic development officer Geoff Gillon told town council last week that thanks to help from summer students this year, four platforms are in place to promote the town is different ways.
“We’ve been very active in positioning Fort Frances more on social media, with the blog, with Twitter, with YouTube, with Trip Advisor,” noted Gillon.
“It’s actually a significant amount of work,” he added. “I am hoping that you get a chance when you are on your computers to check these sites.”
A photo blog—found at fortfrancesontariocanada.blogspot.ca—provides “visual highlights of Fort Frances,” said Gillon, adding the blog has more than 850 views to date.
The blog displays photos of Fort Frances and local tourist attractions such as the Lookout Tower, the Hallett, and Pither’s Point, as well as various parks around town.
Meanwhile, Gillon said the town’s Twitter account “shares positive information on the town.”
Twitter generally is used by those in the 16-23 age range. The town is “following” 417 local young people and has 174 followers.
“We are reaching a completely demographic with the social media, and they’re talking about Fort Frances and their experiences in Fort Frances and what they like about Fort Frances,” he remarked.
Gillon said it’s a very positive thing for the town to be
engaging with the youth because most of the followers are students who are away.
“They re-engage with the town and it’s our hope that some of them will come back,” he reasoned.
The Twitter account was used this summer to share photos of locations and events in Fort Frances. These tweets had the hash tag #Ilivehere and #Iplayhere.
You can follow the town on Twitter at @fort_frances
The town also has a presence on the poplar video website YouTube, with Gillon noting videos made by four summer students were posted on YouTube at the end of the summer.
The videos describe various experiences in Fort Frances, such as “Shop,” “Relax,” and “Explore.”
“The summer students that we had did a very good job of creating YouTube videos on the Town of Fort Frances,” said Gillon.
“They’re very good, they’re very delightful,” he added. “They represent the town well.”
Still, Gillon conceded viewership on these remains rather low—and that work will need to be done to move them up on the YouTube results.
Gillon noted information on Fort Frances, and sites such as the lookout tower and Hallett, also was added to the Trip Advisor website.
“It’s interesting,” he said. “Many, many people who travel go to Trip Advisor.
“[So] the more comments we can put on Trip Advisor that are positive to Fort Frances, the more amenities—whether they’re the library, Townshend Theatre, various businesses—the better the town is reflected to the travellers,” he explained.
Gillon added that when work started on the town’s Trip Advisor profile, there was no or very little information about the town on there.
For their part, councillors were happy to hear about efforts to keep up the town’s presence in the world of social media.
“I am really intrigued by the potential use of social media to promote the town,” said Coun. Andrew Hallikas, noting Twitter could be used to inform people of the annual International Tug-of-War between the Fort and International Falls and to recruit people to pull for the Fort Frances team.
He added Twitter also could be used to keep students away from home connected to their hometown.
“Using Twitter is giving us both access to those students as they left but also insight into what is important to that demographic,” noted consultant Tannis Drysdale.
“So as we look to encourage the young miners who may be moving here with potential opportunities in the future, we looked at the demographic this summer,” she said.
“We held a competition and said, ‘What do you like about Fort Frances? Tell us about that.’
“And it wasn’t the same things that people my age and up might enjoy about Fort Frances,” Drysdale added.
“So we sort of gathered that data and better understood what that demographic was interested in. . . .
“It’s been a good learning experience for us,” she said.
“I am just impressed by how far we moved, in a positive direction as far as I am concerned, away from a billboard and ‘MOM’s Way’ being our tourist attraction,” said Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft.
“Now we’re really expanding into what is happening these days.
“I am really impressed with the direction we are going. Keep it up,” he added.