How The Historic Oakland Cemetery Uses Social Media to Attract Guests

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On this week's episode Desiree speaks from the cockpit of The Bella Beetle, as we welcome Chad Elkins, the voice behind the social media strategy of the Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. He first came to our attention through a writeup on the blog Not Easy To Forget from its author James Ball

For those who are not familiar with this Atlanta landmark, Oakland Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries and
one of the largest green spaces in the City of Atlanta, and it is on the
National Register of Historic Places.
  Famous "residents" include Bobby Jones the golfer, Margaret Mitchell the author, Maynard Jackson the former Mayor of Atlanta, and Joseph Jacobs who was the proprietor of the soda fountain where Coca-Cola was first served in 1886.

Cemetery Night Skyline Chad brings a great perspective to his use of social media in attracting new visitors to the cemetery, and believes that his use of a Twitter account has reached a different demographic than the traditional destination / attraction marketing that tourism venues typically enact.

The content that Chad likes to generate through his social media efforts include the same types of things that any business should consider distributing.  Don't let the fact that he is interacting on behalf of a cemetery fool you!  He is looking to engage in conversations about events and answer customer service type questions, plus he can include some interesting history that makes his tweet stream an interesting read.  Chad believes that it helps to share information about other things that are happening around the City of Atlanta so that it incorporates Oakland Cemetery as part of the "eco-system" of venues.

Successes include driving measurable traffic to the web site at Oakland Cemetery.com, as well as seeing additional friends and fans attend their events such as the Run Like Hell 5K, Halloween Tours, and Sunday in the Park. All of their events had record attendance which can be attributed to these efforts.  It also pays off from a volunteer recruitment standpoint (and must also be applied to employee recruitment in more traditional business).

Chad suggests that the Atlanta Tourism community look into something like the new location based application Four Square. Another service of this same ilk is Gowalla.

The success that Chad has witnessed on behalf of the Oakland Cemetery demonstrates a couple of key points that we stress on the Bella Buzz podcast, it can be accomplished no matter what the business is. If a cemetery can find a voice in social media, anything can have a voice.  Also, Chad works on a volunteer basis so it is not an all consuming time commitment requirement.

We have often heard the question raised that it can be a complicated scenario when an employee who has taken on the social media responsibilities, in effect, has become the voice of the organization, leaves for other opportunities.  Have the gains made been lost? Does that employee end up carrying the followers with them to the next stop?  Chad beautifully answers this concern by stating that the "voice" of the organization should simply be a reflection of the internal culture within the organization.  The term that we have used, and Chad reinforces is transparency.  By being honest and transparent, and reflecting a community culture, there should be no loss in effectiveness when reassigning the social media duties and responsibilities.

Chad can also be found at the Twitter handle @Ratpack

Just as we are about to sign off, we end up talking about Listening tools such as the ones we discussed on last week's episode.  One item we did not bring up last week was the search for commonly misspelled terms that you are monitoring.  Chad keeps an eye out for the misspelled Cematery and uses it as a chance to reach out to a potential visitor.

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