Old School No More

It may have taken a little while, but some of the area's most venerable institutions – such as tourism, governmental and public safety agencies – have turned to Facebook as a primary source of customer engagement.

Once the stomping grounds of in-the-know 20-somethings, having a robust Facebook account is now as equally important as having a good business website.

The TCBN checked in with four local organizations about their strategies, areas of focus and guidelines for cultivating dynamic Facebook accounts.

Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce

– 2,700+ Facebook Fans

– Bill O'Brien, Staff Writer and


Overall mission for page: We try to keep our social media goals consistent with the overall mission of the Chamber – to grow our region's business community, promote our area and provide relevant information to our membership. [Facebook] gives us another vehicle to reach a growing audience that increasingly relies on social media to share information.

Content focus: We try to post on a variety of topics related to the Chamber's mission. We use Facebook extensively to promote Chamber events … and to highlight local business news including regional unemployment rates, retail sales, airport travel numbers and local home sales. We also provide links to articles that affect our business community or that quote Chamber officials.

Determining appropriate posts for page: We try to keep posts consistent with our overall mission of providing unique intelligence for our membership. We don't have specific rules on external posts, but we do monitor them. We want people to have their say, but we don't allow conversations to become vehicles for personal attacks or to promote political ideologies.

Strategy for increasing engagement: We don't have [contests or promotions] at this time, but we are exploring ways to expand our reach through our social media outlets.

Downtown TC

– 5,000+ Facebook Fans

– Colleen Paveglio, Marketing

Director – Downtown Traverse City


Overall mission for page: Our goal is to promote downtown Traverse City as a fun destination. Because the demographic downtown has gotten younger in recent years – which is a demographic active on social media – we felt it was important to speak to them where they were: online.

Content focus: We consider the page to be a Downtown Traverse City Association page rather than a Downtown Development Authority (DDA) page. So we focus on promoting the downtown merchants, special events, local entertainment, dining and shopping.

Determining appropriate posts for page: We don't get into the public sector side of the office or post about DDA issues. We have public meetings and other avenues for feedback that are more appropriate for that. We don't over-manage what people post on our wall – that's an organic process, and we tend to let things ride. We don't get many negative posts anyway, because we keep the page light.

Strategy for increasing engagement: When we first started the page in February 2011, we gave away a $1,500 shopping spree to downtown TC to encourage people to like our page. That got us 2,000 fans almost right off the bat. We occasionally continue to do promotions like that. Many of our fans come to us through our website, especially during busy times like Restaurant Week.

Visit Traverse City

– 32,000+ Facebook Fans

– Brad VanDommelen – President,

Traverse City Convention & Visitors


Overall mission for page: Our mission is to build Traverse City's brand and awareness through the all-important online conversation. We're trying to reach out to potential visitors while also engaging local residents, promoting the attributes of our region and engaging in a dialogue rather than a monologue.

Content focus: We try to post content that creates a response and makes people want to share it. We've found photos are a great way of doing this – people react strongly to images of Traverse City. We also try to highlight why TC is such a great destination, focusing on all the things to see and do and experience here.

Determining appropriate posts for page: We're not a political or controversial organization, so we tend to avoid divisive issues. We take inappropriate comments by users on a case-by-case basis. We don't want to control the messaging, but we also don't want people using our social media platforms as tools to spread their own agendas. We haven't had many issues – for the most part everyone is positive.

Strategy for increasing engagement: We just hired a digital marketing expert [John Stocki] to help take our social media to the next level. We hope to start digging in soon on things like campaigns, contests and promotions to encourage participation and interaction.

Grand Traverse 911

– 7,600+ Facebook Fans

– Jamel Anderson, Director –

Grand Traverse Central Dispatch

Overall mission for page: The purpose is to allow people to access important public safety information in an efficient and timely manner. In emergency situations – such as the flooding of the Brown Bridge Dam – the site can be a hugely helpful resource in getting people crucial information and assistance quickly.

Content focus: There are two kinds of posts we focus on. One, we typically post anything that may be some type of public hazard – whether that's traffic-blocking accidents, weather information, cars sliding off the road, etc. Secondly, we like to share public education posts, such as information about car seats or programs like Adopt-A-Highway.

Determining appropriate posts for page: We're very cautious about what we post. We don't post information that would compromise an ongoing criminal investigation. We don't post injury descriptions related to accidents, or describe a vehicle – someone could read that and be worried it's a friend or family member. In terms of user content, we don't respond to requests for service (for example, someone reporting a stolen bike), and we tend to remove comments that are venting – it's not an appropriate forum for that.

Strategy for increasing engagement: We've encouraged people in the public safety community to become familiar with our page and share it with their circles. Users have been key in getting the word out as well. We're also working on an app for smart phones that will push alerts and updates right to your phone, similar to the content on Facebook.