Getting social in Webster City

Webster City might be a small community, but each person in it has access to technology which allows them to be seen across the world.

That was the message of Sheila Scarborough, a speaker who hosted a workshop on Wednesday at Webster City High School. In order for businesses, nonprofits and communities to “get on the map,” Scarborough said they have to adapt to the changing landscape of social media.

“What I find particularly exciting about the social web is that it is made for the little guy,” Scarborough said. “It is not necessarily easy to get visibility online as a little guy, but you have access to the same tools, the same ability to tell stories.”

The workshop began Wednesday morning with a session aimed at those who are new to social media. At that session, Scarborough discussed how people find things online, how businesses and nonprofits can work social media into their marketing plans and how to engage with customers through those websites.

Scarborough said having an online presence is important because it’s a widely used platform. She cited a study by Forrester Research which said Americans spend more time on social media than volunteering, praying, talking on the phone, emailing or exercising. Additionally, she said seniors are the fastest-growing group of social media users.

“This isn’t a fad, this isn’t a toy, this is the most powerful communications device ever devised, except maybe the printing press,” Scarborough said.

Before the advent of social media, Scarborough said businesses and nonprofits would have to buy large ads or host splashy events to promote themselves. While advertising on sites like Facebook isn’t always free, Scarborough said social media advertises on a much larger scale.

“Now, you have the ability to connect with your customers, your visitors, whoever you’re trying to reach online. You have the ability to do that with tools that are incredibly powerful, they’re available 24 hours a day, they’re visible across all timezones so you have worldwide reach no matter how small your organization or town is,” Scarborough said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Scarborough hosted a workshop session which focused on teaching attendees with intermediate and advanced social media skills. Participants at either session will have access to online classes as well.

Scarborough said that when she and Becky McCray launched Tourism Currents in 2009, a business which offers training, consulting and speaking events on social media, their first goal was to build an online course. She said many of the lesson modules reinforce and expand on topics discussed at Wednesday’s workshop.

“I want people to have the chance, at their own pace, to go learn or relearn about some of the same subjects,” Scarborough said.

For more information about Scarborough’s business, visit tourismcurrents.com.