Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Old Kentucky Home…for a week, that is

By: Jonathan Miller, Project Associate

I spent last week in Kentucky, attending the Kentucky Basic Economic Development Course in Lexington. Lexington is not a large city, but it is home to the University of Kentucky, which if you ask any Wildcat, shames other great Southern cities such as Atlanta and Nashville. More importantly, Rupp Arena is in Lexington. While it is clear Kentucky football is a sport best enjoyed from a bandwagon, basketball has the power to make or break the quality of a weekend.

One of the themes that became apparent during my week in Kentucky was the importance of return on investment (ROI). The ability to do more with less is becoming a hallmark of successful community economic development organizations and chambers of commerce. Further, communities are being tasked with justifying their activities to stakeholders and investors. 

One of the difficult areas to show ROI is on time spent developing an online presence. Many sites such as Twitter and Facebook are often dismissed as non-relevant or mildly effective for economic development. The following tools, which were presented in a session on community websites, can help chambers and economic development organizations justify, optimize, and show the impact of their online activity.

Analytics Tools…Benchmarks for your time online tracks daily tweets, followers, and replies. The output, “Twitter statistics”, can be aggregated into monthly, 3 month, and 6 month intervals, allowing benchmarking and implementation of metrics. in addition to tweets, tracks posts and activity on LinkedIn, Facebook, and FourSquare. Based on 1) how many people you influence 2) how your message is amplified and 3) the influence of the people you reach, the website creates a score that measures your influence. 

Search Engine Optimization…make Google work for you

Key Word Density: The most common search for economic development is “state name” or “community name” followed by “economic development.” Having these words in the opening text on a website will increase the likelihood that a page is filtered to the top of search results. 

* this tool allows users to see how their websites ranks when certain key words are used in search engines. this site analyzes how many other websites have links to yours, giving an idea of the how your message is being spread. This tool also analyzes site traffic, social media, site optimization, and blog hits. this site provides the latest news and information on search engines, search engine optimization, and analytics. this site analyzes a website for broken links, misspellings, and web site speed.

Google Place Page: a free listing tool from Google that can be customized with photos, reviews, and links to important websites. A Place Page is an easy way to filter up in search results, especially since Google likes to take care of their own. 

Marketing Tools…Repurposing web staples

Flickr: a free online photo sharing site can be used to create low-cost site inventories. With the ability to house many pictures of available sites and buildings, the site can also accommodate location data, building or site specs, and infrastructure information. A complementary tool, iMapFlickr, allows Flickr users to create Google maps, which show the location of the site or building on an interactive map. The site allows users to produce shorter and more compact URLs for their websites. However, the real value-add is that tracks website activity, such as clicks and views, in real time. is also the producer of QR codes (see the code for our blog below), which provides smartphone users an easy way to access website information. Using a free QR reader app, smartphone users can take a picture of the code and then are directed to the content or website contained in the code. Not only do these codes look better than a URL, they are more compact and don’t require remembering a lengthy web address.

These sites can be useful tools to purposefully leveraging and showing the impact of establishing an online presence. While I had never been to Kentucky prior to the Basic Economic Development Course, I can truly say that I spent a week with a group of professionals (see below) who are committed to making their communities better.