By Steve White, Grand Island Bureau Chief - bio | email
There's a new addition to downtown Hastings -- a hashtag, as folks embrace the power of social media to turn clicks into customers.
"It seems like everyone has Facebook anymore," Jake Rundle said. "One of my grandmas is on Facebook."
Facebooking from his iPad is almost second nature to librarian Jake Rundle. Not so for Tammy Orthmann.
"I started Facebook as most people do, as a personal tool to find pictures," she said.
Their faces lit by their glowing devices, Hastings business people decided to forego clicking "share" on Facebook to instead share over coffee.
They came together to talk about how they can promote themselves through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and more.
"To post more about my store and to let people know about it. I have people come in daily that said I saw a specific item on Facebook and want to know more information about it," Orthmann said.
Orthmann, the owner of Bath Bliss Gifts says it's to Hastings' credit they don't have lots of big chain stores but a lot of interesting niche businesses.
But without big marketing dollars, social media is one way to find an audience.
"Get people to explore Hastings," she said.
At the first-ever "Social Media Roundtable" organized by the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Downtown Hastings Association, they learned of interstate travelers who stayed in a hotel and checked out Kool-Aid Days, all because of a Google search for a wine bar which led them to WineStyles.
Orthmann said, "I'm always referring other people. People come in and say where else can we go, we want to do more shopping."
Social media is a way to share that word of mouth, from Jake Rundle's iPad to Tammy Orthmann's laptop to a stranger's Android phone.
Rundle said, "The public library and a lot of downtown businesses definitely have Facebook presence. They definitely work with people connected to them to drive business and bring in new people."
Tammy thought she was too old for Facebook, but now can't do business without it.
She said, "You do build strong customer base that make comments about special things and they encourage other people to share pictures and grow the customer base."
They hope to turn 'likes' on Facebook into happy customers.
And they unveiled the newest addition to downtown Hastings, a "hashtag" to identify the community in messages on Twitter. They encourage users to use #HastingsNE in their tweets about the city.
The Social Media Roundtable went so well, organizers say they'd like to host more events like this in the future.