Cape May’s first business event at the new $10.5 million Convention Hall was declared a success Monday, as Social Media Day drew a large crowd and most seemed pleased with the venue.
The one-day free event, sponsored by the city and produced by the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May and the private email marketing company Constant Contact, drew 150 to 200 people for each of four seminars promoting the use of social media to increase business.
The seminars were a test of sorts of the systems needed to host business groups at the new hall, which opened Memorial Day weekend and had its performing arts capabilities tested during the summer with a series of concerts. The hall features fiber optic connections (both Comcast and Verizon), digital systems, wireless Internet, and audio visual, lighting and other systems.
“This is the first event of this type we’ve held in the hall. They liked the hall and said the amenities were set up just the way they want,” Mayor Ed Mahaney said.
The goal is to use the hall for a number of community functions but also to draw business groups and try to extend the shoulder seasons in the spring and fall. Monday’s event was unlikely to lead to hotel stays, but Mahaney said most participants were planning to eat lunch in town and some would stay for dinner.
Chamber President John Cooke said the city was very supportive of the event because it wanted to test all of the hall’s systems. He also declared it a success.
“We had close to 200 reservations. We had to bring in some extra chairs,” Cooke said.
It seemed appropriate that a test of the building’s ability to draw business uses was about new high-tech ways businesses can improve their bottom line. A live Twitter feed was displayed on one wall. Cooke noted some tweets were responses to participants at the event sending out tweets themselves. One came in from a hotel owner in Scotland.
“Someone just tweeted that they’re following the live twitter comments at home. This is the wave of the future. It’s not even the wave. It’s here now,” Cooke said.
The crowd included many local business people as well as others who traveled a distance to learn how Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media sites can increase business.
“This helps a lot. I’m still beating two rocks together to create sparks,” said Michael Giletto, a caterer from Mount Laurel, Burlington County.
Alicia Grasso, marketing director of Cape May Stage, said she is already using social media but wanted to learn more.
“I’m looking for ways to improve what we’re doing,” Grasso said.
Tina Giaimo, who owns a local photography business and has been online for nine years, said she still doesn’t think much social media is “relevant, yet” for her business, but she attended because in the future she believes “some of it will be useful.” Giaimo also has other concerns, such as protecting photographs she puts online from being used.
Dave Yunghans and Carolinn Pocher Woody, of Constant Contact, gave instructions on how to set up social media sites. They also answered specific questions, even staying during the lunch break to do so.
“None of this stuff is hard if you simply follow instructions,” said Yunghans as he handed out Social Media Quick Starter Cards.
Woody pushed Facebook, the largest social media site at 901 million users, as a way to boost business. She said it can start with a couple of people visiting the site and can quickly reach 20,000 or more. She advised treating the biggest fans of the business “like gold” because they will “promote the business for you.”
She described some interesting marketing strategies, including a pet supply store that offered Facebook customers a $20 coupon for “doggie treats,” but only if the promotion reached 5,000 customers. It took off with Facebook and blogs, drawing 14,140 new subscribers to the Facebook page.
“Monthly sales grew 22 percent. That’s the power of social media,” Woody said.
She also advised that online consumer recommendations can boost business and are more trusted than advertising. She said online sites should have engaging content. As an example, she cited the Wilbraham Mansion in West Cape May, which put its “secret recipe” for baked French toast online.
“Don’t overly promote, but don’t mix in topics that have nothing to do with your business,” Woody said.
The city declared Monday “Social Media Day.”
“It’s a positive for the city of Cape May. It allows us to progress and expand in the area of holding conferences that require technology,” Mahaney said.
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