Franklin's Tourism Development Authority (TDA) held its monthly meeting Monday night at Town Hall. At the meeting, board members were given an update of the marketing strategy that is currently being implemented and they also considered the grant request to fund PumpkinFest.
Jessica Mason of Premiere Marketing was present to provide details about the results of the strategic campaign that focuses on the city of Atlanta, Ga.
According to Mason, from Aug. 15 through Sept. 3, 3,153 visitors logged in to Franklin's website.
“You can see the top ten keywords and see what they were searching to get to the Franklin website,” said Mason. “You can see 'franklin nc, franklin nc restaurants, things to do in franklin nc, gem mining in nc. These are the things that people are searching. I think that's important information for us to have as we look at the data each month.”
The report that was distributed at the meeting notes that traffic to the website came from different outlets, including social networks like Facebook which generated 279 visitors to the website.
The location of visitors was also reported with seven percent coming from Franklin itself, 6.98 percent coming from Atlanta, 3.01 percent coming from Charlotte and places like Sylva, Asheville, Nashville, Raleigh, Lawrenceville, Hialeah and Clarksville falling between 1.71 and .86 percent.
“The most comes from Franklin because there are a lot of people here using the site, but right behind it is Atlanta which is where we have our billboards,” said Mason
Internet savvy people can also become fans of Franklin, N.C. on Facebook where in July, 494 fans were listed. The marketing campaign, which began on July 15, has bumped the number to more than 1,600 fans.
“I checked it before I came in today and we're right at 1,700 fans,” Mason said. “The ads are working. Our top performing ad is the one with the waterfall. This is important data that we can use.”
Mason also requested that the board keep her updated with things that may be going on in Franklin so that she can add them to the Facebook page.
“Stuff like the upcoming PumpkinFest or interesting facts or just things that you think will help the page, please let me know,” she said.
The board then unanimously approved two billboard designs that will be going up in the fall months promoting the upcoming PumpkinFest and the town itself.
Justin Belleme, owner and operator of JB Media in Asheville, discussed with the board, their Google Adwords strategy. Belleme is experienced in working with other TDAs in Western North Carolina. His agency has also worked to expand internet traffic for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and he runs www.ashevillenow.com, a website designed to attract visitors to Asheville and to give them ideas of what to do once they are there.
“We do marketing, planning, and strategy mostly for businesses,” said Belleme. “We manage SEO (search engine optimization), social media, public relations, and online advertising. Google Adwords and so forth.”
SEO is the process of increasing the amount of visitors to a website by ranking higher in the search results of a search engine. The higher a site ranks in the results of a search, the greater the chance is that the site will be visited.
Belleme said that 80 percent of searches on the internet are conducted through Google.
“The process is to determine what people are looking for. Google has tools that allow you to understand how people are searching for different things such as 'gem mining in N.C.' or 'white water rafting in WNC' and it can tell us exactly how many people are searching for it and where your site currently ranks and determine whether or not it makes sense to build a page specifically about that topic to attempt to beat out other tourism sites in the region and other counties.”
Belleme suggested optimizing existing information and writing new content to add more key words that may be used in searches.
“As an example, searching for 'white water rafting in North Carolina,' Franklin currently ranks at about page four on Google. No one is getting to page four. Your page is optimized for 'rafting in Franklin' so if somebody searches that then obviously you'll be number one, but what percentage of people are looking for that as opposed to maybe looking more generally for 'rafting in WNC' where you're on page four,” said Belleme.
The proposal made by Belleme would cost $4,000 of the sum already allocated to to Premiere Marketing.
Both Mason and Belleme also endorsed the use of Word Press, a program that would allow for blogging on behalf of the Tourism Development Authority. Belleme thought that it would be beneficial to SEO content.
“If you have an event, you can throw up Adwords tomorrow,” he said.
Board member Josh Drake suggested that though the members themselves may be overwhelmed and unable to participate with blogging, there may be other people in town who would be willing to participate.
“There's probably a lot of people in town that would be willing to submit things to be posted,” said Drake.
“That's a good idea and we could still control the content through Premiere,” said board member Mike Gruberman.
Gruberman made the motion to approve paying $4,000 for the services suggested by Belleme with the exception of any training that may be needed with the blogging feature. Drake seconded.
A long tabled request from the Smoky Mountain Center for Performing Arts came up briefly, but as a result of the Macon County Tourism Development Commission's decision to table the request until more information could be presented, the TDA chose to do the same with Drake motioning to table it for a month. The TDC meets today (Thursday) and will address the funding request.
Previously the TDA had said they would fund $15,000 for advertising of the Performing Arts Center in hopes that the TDC would match the grant. The issue will be revisited at next month's meeting.
The board also voted unanimously to approve the $1,500 requested by the Franklin Main Street Program to go towards PumpkinFest that will take place Oct. 25-26.
“I think the PumpkinFest is beneficial to the Town of Franklin and I think we should approve the amount requested,” said Drake.
Board member Cheryl Pulliam made a motion to approve the grant. Leland Rykse seconded.
At last month's meeting, the board also discussed the possiblity of reducing its $100,000 reserve to 25 percent of the board's budget. In the TDA bylaws, Town Attorney John Henning Jr. made this change, but procedure requires that the board have the changes in hand for a month before adopting the changes. The issue will be revisited at the Oct. 14 meeting that will take place at Town Hall.