Stratford, Ontario has to be one of the most picturesque cities in the world. It is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting. It is also one of the most intelligent communities in the world.
It’s everywhere in Stratford. The people are very friendly. Everywhere you go people are saying hello and good morning. And I’m not talking about retailers or hosts. People going for walks along the river or biking on the trails all saying hello to us.
And it translated to the way we were treated online too. But remember, it’s not about the tools but about the people. Stratford has just figured out that the tools will allow them to extend their “friendly” brand.
The Stratford Festival can be found on Twitter at @stratfest. But their customer service and community engagement does not start there. Nor does it end there. When I went online to purchase tickets for a show, I was able to talk to someone on the phone to help me find the best seats. And then when I was having trouble finding suitable accommodations for the night, the lady behind @stratfest suggested I call the customer service line first thing in the morning. Their ticket operator was actually going to help me find and book a place to stay the evening.
And when I called they also asked if I needed to make reservations for dinner! Amazing!
And the entire city seems to be connected. And not just to the internet. They are connected to each other.
Almost every retailer and restaurant encourages their patrons to connect to Foursquare for the purpose of discovering deals and specials.
And when it comes to online integration, Stratford is second to none. All their brochures and marketing material, including their websites, don’t just encourage people to follow and connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. They actually tell you where to find them on these spaces!
So rather than: “Follow us on Twitter!” they will say, “Follow us on twitter.com/stratfest”.
Finally, a brand (city) that “get’s it”.
The role of social media needs to be understood on context. It is not a stand alone tool or solution. Rather, it needs to be viewed as a partner within a business – or in this case, a city/town.
Stratford uses social media to help all their partners do better. Social media helps Stratford’s theaters give a better experience to their patrons. Tools like websites, Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook allow everyone from visitors and residents, to retailers and restaurants stay connected to each other via another platform.
And my IRL experience last weekend was actually enhanced as a result.