Friday, April 26, 2019

Wildwood dog beach em-barks on social media expansion with new Instagram account

Since its debut just off the Boardwalk at Maple Avenue two summers ago, the expanded Wildwood Dog Park & Beach has become one of the island's most popular and talked-about attractions.

Believed to be the world's largest dedicated dog beach, the year-round, free-access recreation space is at the center of the city's effort to become more proactive via social media.

Recently, the dog park augmented its networking reach by adding an Instagram account, to go along with its active presence on Facebook. Recognizing social media as a viable asset was key for Mayor Ernie Troiano, who worked alongside his Department of Beach Services to develop promotional strategies for the new outlet.

"In today's world, social media is the means by which people communicate," said Troiano. "If you want to get a message out, you use social media."

Instagram currently boasts a plethora of pet and dog-related pages, with many dogs becoming bona fide celebrities through the medium. With hundreds of popular dog accounts in the tri-state area, the decision to add Instagram to the dog park's online presence was viewed as a "no-brainer."

From dogs romping in the ocean to the park's signature 30-foot, bright red fire hydrant, the scene offers a variety of "insta-worthy" subjects that the city hopes to showcase to the world.

But the overall marketing strategy goes beyond the dog park, as viral possibilities highlight loftier goals.

Social media marketing isn't just about the present, of course; the medium offers opportunities to reach into and shape the future. Instagram's audience ranges from young adults to the 35-44 age range, with a majority focus on millenials and Generation Z. Both generations have the potential to be future residents, homeowners and vacationers.

Wildwood's dedicated approach hopes to effectively reach the next generation of 20-30-year-olds, a group that will have many options ahead of them.

"We are always looking towards the future, and the future includes the next generations that will hopefully come to love Wildwood as much as we all do," said Troiano. "Social media is a way to reach those people who are looking to buy homes and start families at the Jersey Shore.

"Any positive social media presence relating to Wildwood, no matter if it's pictures of the beach, boardwalk, or dog park, makes our town more attractive to newcomers and potential residents."

A Facebook boost

On April 17, Wildwood Dog Park & Beach's Facebook page unveiled a minute-long promotional video, showcasing the park from both ground level and aerial viewpoints (the latter via drone).

In the week since, the page's post reach has increased by 30 percent, while the actual video has received over 20,000 views and has reached almost 100,000 people. Of these, the majority are local and potential visitors.

This is another example of the interactive approach to social marketing the city is taking.

New signage at the park encourages visitors to share photos and videos to social media. In the week following installation of these signs, check-ins and shared posts (comments, dog photos/vides) have also increased.

Google biz matters

Wildwood also recently claimed its Google Business listing for the dog park, where over 700 4-5 star reviews and hundreds of photos have been posted in recent years. While the Google Business platform doesn’t offer a “social networking” type of opportunity, it does allow for the city to post photos and updates for Google users to see.

The dog park listing had previously been reaching approximately 20,000 people per month. Now that the city has claimed the listing, along with replies to reviewers and frequent posting of content from social media, the listing is seeing over 40,000 views per month. 

Google Business offers another very useful feature: analytics.

The data it provides adds to info already collected from Facebook and Instagram, including zip codes of visitors requesting directions to the dog park. This gives a more precise breakdown of overall visitor demographics, a valuable tool in the city's quest for future growth.

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