SNOW HILL — Social media could play a much bigger part in Worcester County tourism next year.
Tourism Director Lisa Challenger approached the County Commission Tuesday with the idea of hiring a part-time social media coordinator in her department, It’s a move she said will help Worcester stay ahead of the crowd with social networking online, which is quickly beginning to eclipse more traditional methods.
“Social media, although a relatively recent phenomenon, is becoming an increasingly important part of any business’s marketing and client base development platform,” wrote Challenger in a report to the commission. “What could once be accomplished by a traditional website now needs to be supplemented by a robust and responsive utilization of the tools social media offers.”
Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and several others have boomed within the last few years and now represent a new frontier for tourism departments, explained Challenger.
“People are not on our websites anymore; they’re on all of these social sites,” she said, adding that about half of Maryland counties have some kind of social media coordinator.
The statistics speak volumes. According to Challenger, 94 percent of businesses with a marketing department use social media while 85 percent of businesses with a dedicated social media platform saw an increase in market exposure. Furthermore, 58 percent of businesses that have taken advantage of social media marketing for more than three years have seen increased sales.
As for the media itself, Facebook has over 850 million active users per month, one million accounts are added to Twitter every day, and roughly 80 million people are using Instagram to share photos. Like Facebook, YouTube also has a huge subscriber base with more than 490 million visitors per month. One of the more popular uses of YouTube is for travel videos, the likes of which could be used to highlight Worcester, said Challenger.
Social media is unique in how organic it is and how quickly things can change, she continued, which is why the tourism department would benefit from a part-time social media coordinator who would be responsible for all related county endeavors. This would not include the county website.
“We’re looking to get a lot more followers on Twitter, we want to grow our fans on Facebook and we really want to grow our presence on Instagram,” said Challenger.
The coordinator would be responsible for orchestrating that while working less than 30 hours per week. They would work from home, though be required to meet with Challenger weekly.
The commissioners all acknowledged how prevalent social media has become in the last few years. For some people, especially in younger demographics, it represents at least 10 hours a week or more, Challenger noted.
The position of coordinator is included in Challenger’s upcoming budget, which the commissioners will vote on next month. Commissioner Judy Boggs pointed out that the position seems tailored for a young adult already familiar with personal social media use.
Commissioners Jim Bunting and Louise Gulyas questioned whether having the individual work from home would be productive for the county. Challenger, however, stood by the idea and explained that with home computers, smart phones and tablets a coordinator could be mobile and doing their job at any time.