Summerville could soon become a bright spot on the map for travelers seeking to visit an ideal location that is “AT THE HEART of it ALL.”
The Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce is launching a new marketing campaign to promote tourism by highlighting one of Summerville’s most powerful assets: its location.
Tina Zimmerman, Summerville tourism director, described the campaign during a Chamber meeting on Dec. 5 at the Town Hall Annex.
She said since July her team has met “extensively” with the town, Summerville DREAM, merchants and the owners of bed and breakfasts and hotels, to talk about Summerville and how to promote tourism.
Zimmerman said that after all of those discussions, she went to her “tried and true formula.”
“To surround myself by crazy talented people,” Zimmerman said. “It’s the best way to do it.”
Her first phone call was to Will and Dottie Rizzo, the creators of Azalea magazine.
Will Rizzo started with designing new banners that lead everybody into downtown.
“We took just a very simple approach, let’s just say who we are and show who we are without having to say a lot,” Rizzo said.
The new banners feature a big image of a watercolor of flowers.
“We are Flowertown in the Pines and we don’t want to lose that, we don’t want to forget that,” Rizzo said.
They start near Interstate 26 and direct visitors each mile until they reach downtown, which Rizzo called “our crown jewel of the city.”
First Rizzo and others looked at the things that “Summervillians would say are great about this town.”
“This is the list we came up with: We have a great historic downtown with shopping, dining, bars, historic homes and entertainment. We’ve got the Flowertown Festival that brings in hundreds of thousands of people every year. It’s great liveability, we’ve got a rich history, a sense of community and we’ve got great schools,” Rizzo said. “But that’s thinking from a residents’ perspective.”
From a tourism perspective, Rizzo and his team determined that Summerville’s most powerful asset to draw people is its location.
“Geographically, Summerville is at the center of the South Carolina Lowcountry,” Rizzo said. “We have to leverage our location.”
“We’ve come up with a tagline, “AT THE HEART of it ALL,” Rizzo said.
Summerville is surrounded by attractions including downtown Charleston, Folly Beach and Isle of Palms, plantations, Cypress Gardens, Beidler Forest, Lake Moultrie and the Edisto River
“Not only are we geographically right in the center of the Lowcountry, we’re at the center of all of these wonderful things to do,” Rizzo said. “You can stay here, dine here and have access to everything.”
New print advertisements have been designed showcasing photography of the places and experiences to be had in the Summerville area. Billboards will also promote the new tagline.
Zimmerman said another “very important thing” to be addressed was the visitsummerville.com website. She sought a design that would appeal both to locals and tourists. Zimmerman contacted Larry Collett and Kym Swanger with Net Galaxy Studios to revamp the website by making it more user friendly, easily adaptable to multi screens and provide an events calendar with an interactive map.
The website visitsummerville.com will go up live later this week.
Another technologically-driven challenge Zimmerman faced was social media.
“It’s Facebook and Instagram and they are key to promoting our town,” Zimmerman said. “Everyone is on it and if we all show our Summerville in the positive, we can do amazing things through social media.”
She reached out to local digital content creator, Virgil Bunao, for guidance on extending the marketing campaign into the world of social media.
Bunao launched a Visit Summerville YouTube channel to house videos that celebrate Summerville’s beauty and character. Bunao filmed in various locations throughout the Summerville area to create a video under three minutes. He said his goal was to “grab attention and express positive messages in a short, fast way.”
“This video is about telling a story,” Bunao said. “Telling how wonderful Summerville is and how we are inviting people to come shop, dine and stay with us.”
Bunao plans to share the video on social media. He encouraged small business owners present at the Chamber meeting to use facebook and instagram to promote their business by consistently sharing “honest, genuine and authentic” posts.
Business owners who are not on social media are “missing out,” he said. Because the platform is where all the attention is in today’s market.
“There are other things you can do now such as targeting and geofencing to bring in more people to your store, to your business,” Bunao said.
Bunao emphasized it’s not about the number of likes or followers. Instead, the key is content.
“You have to provide great content, relatable content,” Bunao said. “People are not into being sold to anymore, they see it from a mile away. They want to hear stories, they want to hear what you’re about, what’s your ‘why.’ Express your why and people will come.”
His tips: post consistently, share only good photography and video, engage with people who comment on posts, use hashtags and repost other posts that reference your business.
Zimmerman said the hashtag, #visitsummerville, will continue to be the primary hashtag for posts related to Summerville tourism.
She introduced a new logo for Summerville, an Azalea with “S” woven into the center. Zimmerman said she decided to include the Sweet Tea Trail into the new marketing campaign and encouraged merchants to keep an updated artistic map of the trail in their shops. Summerville businesses are also invited to keep Birthplace of Sweet Tea information cards on site to hand out to tourists.