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The SCENE in Union Gap: #smalltowntourismchat

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UNION GAP, Wash. -- I love doing “chats” on Twitter. If you’ve never done one, you can find a chat on a wide variety of topics. I frequently participate in chats regarding social media and tourism.

Whatever your interest might be, I guarantee you will find a chat on Twitter that will allow you to engage, share and build a community of people who share the same interests as you. It’s fun and relatively simple; all you need is a Twitter account and an interest and you’re off to the races.

Travel chats have been one of my main areas of interest, and after participating in several related chats over this past year, we decided to launch the #smalltowntourismchat hosted by Union Gap Tourism. We want to build a community of small towns throughout North America and share our collective ideas on tourism.

We encourage travel/tourism influencers and bloggers to participate as well as local businesses that may benefit from tourism.

Chats are typically set up in a question-and-answer format. The chats I follow are held on a set day of each week or month and are hosted by a consistent moderator; there are occasionally guest contributors.

For example, on Thursdays I have participated in #CultureTrav, which is hosted (and was founded) by Nicolette Orlemans, a social media and content manager. She has more than 27,000 followers and is based in New York City. When we participate as @uniongapwa, not only do I learn and get inspired about great travel and tourism ideas, we also get Union Gap on the radar screen of other participants.

In fact, we have had discussions with Nicolette about hosting her for a tourism tour to Union Gap in the future.

Our first #smalltown
tourismchat was in November, and our next will be on Dec. 20 at 1:30 p.m. We are using these last two months of 2018 as our “beta” test to get the flow down, and in 2019 we will be pushing hard to build our community. We are planning on the third Thursday of each month as our scheduled chat time.

The first chat focused on small town tourism in general, and we had interactions with a diverse community that already includes wineries, event facilities, travel writers/bloggers, marketing agencies and a food photographer. The James Beard Foundation “liked” one of our questions and answers regarding, “What is your town’s main tourist attraction?” Of course, the James Beard Award-winning restaurant Los Hernandez Tamales was one of the answers.

The Dec. 20 chat will focus on holiday tourism and 2019 travel and tourism New Year’s resolutions.

These chats are great for businesses to share their own travel and tourism opportunities. In the November chat, one of the questions was “Do you have an event that brings tourists to your town?” The Yakima Valley Carriage Co. (@yakimacarriage) replied, saying that wine events bring thousands of tourists to town, and that these events are critical for their business, which provides horse-drawn carriage rides to wineries.

The #smalltowntourismchat gives businesses like this an opportunity to comment on tourism while getting the word out about their own business.

Chats can be a dynamic way to build your business network. I have another Twitter account, @cherrydude, where I follow several chats, including some that help you improve your social media performance. For example, one social media influencer, @madalynsklar, hosts two chats, #TwitterSmarter and #socialroi.

Recently I was participating in one of the #socialroi chats and Madalyn’s special guest was @Roberts_Ben_M. I interacted on several questions, found Ben’s comments insightful, learned he had a podcast and now have binge-listened to his podcast, “Marketing Buzzword Podcast.” It has been full of some great and executable ideas that I can introduce to our Union Gap social media platforms.

I’ve even had direct interactions with Ben himself, which is always rewarding when you get engagement with a community you’re involved in.

So please join Union Gap Tourism on Dec. 20 at 1:30 p.m. on Twitter for the next 
#smalltowntourismchat. It’s a terrific and fun way to expand your own tourism and travel knowledge, and it introduces more people to the community of Union Gap and all we have to offer.

• Eric Patrick is director of tourism for Union Gap. Email him at info@visituniongap.com.

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