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John Ream is co-founder and managing partner of Connect Marketing Agency.
Jax Daily Record Friday, May. 23, 201412:00 PM EST

Changing minds about urban core one tweet at a time

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Changing perceptions 140 characters at a time.

That’s one of the concepts behind marketing via social media, said John Ream, co-founder and managing partner of Connect Marketing Agency.

With offices in Jacksonville and New York City, Connect serves clients in several areas, including market research, consumer insights, public relations, brand development and reputation management.

Ream said social media takes the tried-and-true marketing concept that success is based on who is reached with a message and how often they are exposed to the message and adds a powerful personal element.

“You can have a better focus on the ideal customer base with social media. It connects with people in the same circles with similar habits and buying patterns,” he said. “You can create a much more personal campaign.”

Social media allows a marketer to rapidly access basic human nature, and that can apply to any product or brand promotion.

“It’s fast, it’s real time and it’s conversationally driven,” said Ream. “Social influence is the key. It involves people we trust and who have similar tastes. Those are elements of friendship.”

Ream, who serves on Downtown Vision Inc.’s board of directors and chairs the marketing committee, tested the social media concept with a campaign to change perceptions about Downtown.

Working with DVI staff, Ream first analyzed DVI’s more than 7,000 Twitter followers with the most people who follow them by using Klout. It’s an online service to help marketers identify social media users who likely could influence others. The scale is from 1-100, based on how many followers they have.

The No. 1 DVI follower, Anthony O’Neal, had a rating of 54.7, based on 33,959 followers.

“Only people like Justin Bieber and President Obama get a 100,” Ream said.

A perception modification campaign focused on DVI’s top 20 followers was developed and then the top tweeters were contacted and offered the opportunity to participate.

“Almost all of them live or work Downtown or close by. We knew they were passionate about Downtown and engaged,” Ream said.

Three issues were identified as the most prominent misconceptions about Downtown: Finding a place to park is difficult, there is little to do, and it is not a safe place to visit.

The focus group attended an information session to make them aware of the facts behind the three issues, Ream said.

“We didn’t tell them what to say, we educated them. We didn’t give them talking points. We wanted them to tweet in their own voice,” he said.

The next step was for Downtown venues and businesses to donate incentives to the group to motivate them to come Downtown to visit entertainment and cultural venues, restaurants and nightclubs. Ream said the idea was to get the top 20 to experience Downtown and then tweet about it.

The campaign ran Nov. 25- April 14. During that period, generated 8,738,514 impressions through 5,556 posts.

The last four weeks of the campaign showed an 85 percent increase in posts and a 38 percent increase in impressions compared to the first four weeks.

Downtown Vision’s Twitter handle, @DTJax, gained 3,700 new followers, an increase of 49 percent, Ream said.

Katherine Hardwick, DVI director of marketing, said the tremendous increase in social media visibility is remarkable.

“This was innovative. We got impressions at absolutely no cost. We wanted to reach out to new people and get new advocates to come forward and be cheerleaders for Downtown,” she said.

Ream said one concept made clear by the campaign is that interest in Downtown is driven by events. Twitter posting spikes occurred in November during the annual lighted boat parade and in December during shows and concerts at the Times-Union Center.

New Year’s Eve and the Tax- Bowl created spikes in January, as did the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade. Art Walk also led each month to higher than average tweet traffic.

The largest spike in activity was April 7-14, when 670,729 impressions were recorded.

“It was no surprise that One Spark created the most conversations,” said Ream.

Hardwick said the campaign likely took the message about Downtown beyond the urban core.

“Over the past year, new people are talking more about Downtown. Jacksonville is such a big city. Social media is a low-cost or no-cost way to reach beyond the neighborhood,” she said.

While it’s too soon to measure the long-term impact of the campaign, Ream said it’s important to “keep the conversation going” now that a larger follower base has been established.

The first “Twitter Chat” promoted by DVI was conducted May 9.

Hardwick said the top 20 tweeters from the campaign invited their followers to participate in a real-time conversation from 2-2:30 p.m. on the topic of changes they’d like to see Downtown along the St. Johns River.

Two dozen people participated and DVI plans to do one each month, she said.

“The more that people talk about Downtown, the more likely we’ll be to get what we want for Downtown,” she said.

Twitter name followers*

1. @AnthonyOneal 33,959

2. @blogbrevity 9,335

3. @CruiseRadio 8,569

4. @JohnPhillips 8,371

5. @dbounds 7,811

6. @CarrieWChildren 7,773

7. @LaurenTee 5,168

8. @MelissainJax 4,805

9. @bonnieupright 4,271

10. @AbelHarding 3,777

11. @JasonPratt 3,456

12. @markkayeshow 2,644

13. @kklausser 2,071

14. @devonstiles 2,031

15. @varick 1,975

16. @EconTiff 1,881

17. @JA_Castillo 1,841

18. @TheSpecktator 1,594

19. @CamBrownJax 1,530

20. @MattGalnor 1,165


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