Halifax big ups big days downtown

The Downtown Halifax Business Commission leverages social networking to attract business through its Big Day Downtown program.

Like chanteuse Petula Clark intones in that classic ditty, the city of Halifax wants visitors to know that things will be great when they’re downtown.

To promote the unique attractions and experiences in the heart of the largest city on Canada’s East Coast, the Downtown Halifax Business Commission (DHBC) doled out $100 each to 30 bloggers, of all stripes, asking them to share their own experience during a day in downtown Halifax with their legions of loyal internet readers.

The Big Day Downtown program, developed by Halifax-based Extreme Group, follows an effort a year ago that promoted Halifax’s downtown to those already frequenting the area, extending the message to those farther afield in order to acquaint them with its charms. The effort kicked off this week at a launch event that connected the bloggers to various businesses located in the city’s downtown core, and presented examples of two bloggers’ city adventures via video, which are now housed on the DHBC’s website.

“We wanted to create buzz and credibility and authenticity in the message,” says Ivy Ho, director of communications and marketing, Downtown Halifax Business Commission.

Many bloggers have been hyping up the program through their Twitter accounts, says Ho, asking for pre-Big Day Downtown itinerary suggestions from their followers with #bigdaydowntown-tagged tweets. The after-experience blog entries are being linked to on the DHBC’s website, its Facebook page and its Twitter feed, creating a sense of community when it comes to celebrating downtown Halifax.

“Social media is everywhere,” says Ho. “[The campaign] is just taking advantage of that. Of course, we’re not going to be dismissing traditional advertising or marketing. It’s a complement to that. We’re trying to incorporate those vehicles into the overall marketing plan.”

Indeed, after the month that’s been allotted to the bloggers to record their experiences, the DHBC will be unleashing a mass campaign featuring print, radio and TV ads that will take their creative cues from the blog entries. It will carry on for about a year. A contest is also involved in the campaign, allowing people to submit stories of their own downtown jaunts via Facebook, Twitter and email for the chance to win $100 for their own Big Day Downtown.

“At the core of it we want people to share stories,” explains Ho. “The best advertising really is word of mouth sometimes, especially when it comes to this kind of thing where it’s all personal experiences downtown because they have credibility.”