If you make it out to South Philadelphia’s rapidly redeveloping East Passyunk corridor, Pennsylvania’s tourism board wants to give you a badge.
Last month, visitPA announced a partnership with location-based social networking juggernaut Foursquare, offering three badges for users who check in at various locations across the Commonwealth.
Visit East Passyunk and a couple others from a list of two dozen stops shops and commercial venues in Pennsylvania and earn the PA Retail Polka badge. Hit up Nat Mechanics on your way to the PA Shooflyer or the Mutter Museum in your quest for the PA 4 Score and 7.
“We have attempted to use our marketing as an effort to effectively interact with people and social media certainly allows for a more intimate conversation than traditional media,” says Richard Bonds, the director of social media for Tourism, Film and Economic Development for visitPA. “There will always be something new and we are not stopping with just Facebook and Twitter and the other currently established social media but will always be looking for that next ‘thing.'”
Bonds tells Technically Philly that it’s another in a step of the Commonwealth’s tourism agency innovating on the web.
“Five years ago we were one of the first destinations to incorporate blogs into our website and have been committed to incorporating user content into everything we do. We [have] developed our own blog site comprised entirely of guest bloggers â€“ so they are authentic voices of folks who love PA,” Bonds says. “We have been at the forefront in utilizing the web whether in the social media environment or the expansion of our website.”
Bonds also pointed to visitPA leading a texting Punxsutawney Phil Groundhog Day campaign for which more than 30,000 folks signed up. Last year, the agency debuted a web series of four episodes called Peter Arthur, which chronicled a road trip in search of love.
The partnership was long in coming. Foursquare has been announcing agreements with organizations and media brands at a remarkable pace, but there’s work to be had. visitPA first entered talks in December. It wasn’t until May 25 that the program launched, says Annie Heckenberger, who handled the deal in her role with Center City branding agency Red Tettemer.
Unique to this partnership is the use of QR codes. Six locations have a poster with a unique QR code that directly checks users in to that venue and unlocks related tips. In Philadelphia, such posters are at Old City’s Nat Mechanics — framed near the front door — PYT in Northern Liberties and The Independence Visitors Center.
Also unlike many partnerships in which Foursquare designs the badges, Heckenberger says, in this case Red Tettemer designed the logos.
If the point is engagement and to remind people in unique ways of the resources that visitPA exists to extol, the Foursquare deal too seems to be working. Bonds says visitPA has some 3,800 Foursquare friends to whom they’ve doled out more than 600 digital badges. It returns to the power that social media has for business and engagement, creating recall among users driven to points of interest, a large part of the organization’s mission.
“We are in a tough environment with our marketing budgets being drastically reduced so in one sense our web campaigns and social media channels are more important than ever,” Bonds says. “They have become of necessity our primary voice.”
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