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Lodi Grape Festival uses social media to reach out to community

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Posted: Thursday, September 5, 2013 2:51 pm

When the Grape Festival first opened in 1934, there were many things the organizers could not have foreseen. The creation of the Internet and the rising popularity of smartphones are two examples. The concept of posting a photo to Instagram, where it could instantly be seen by thousands of people, would have been completely alien.

Now, with the 76th annual Grape Festival fast approaching, the Lodi tradition is tapping into all of those previously unimaginable technologies, using social media to reach out and be more involved with the community.

“Everything has a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram these days,” said Grape Festival CEO Mark Armstrong.

The festival has had a Facebook page since 2010, but now, as the organizers truly dive into social media, Twitter and Instagram accounts have joined it. Updates are being posted daily. Contests are being planned. An online presence is being built.

The festival’s organizers are focusing on social media this year in addition to traditional advertising in an attempt to get more exposure and attract more people to the event.

“It appeals not necessarily to a different audience, but a broader audience — people who listen to Pandora instead of Kat Country,” said Brandy Haupt, Grape Festival assistant manager.

To that end, the organizers are posting, tweeting and sharing everything they are doing, from booking entertainment options and organizing radio giveaways to posting photos of the festival grounds as setup continues.

Instagram is the big focus of the social media push, however. A contest is planned, involving festival attendees snapping photos of themselves at cardboard cutouts stationed throughout the grounds and posting them to the photo sharing site. The contest will be exclusive to Instagram.

“Instagram is the way social media is going,” said Lisa Donahue, events and exhibits coordinator, explaining the reasoning behind the choice.

That doesn’t mean other outlets are being ignored. “We’ve got time before the festival. Who knows what we’ll come up with before then?” Donahue added.

Social review site Yelp is also being harnessed. Armstrong said he plans to use feedback from the site to review how this year’s festival went and plan how to make future festivals better.

Will social media continue to be a presence in the Grape Festival’s future? According to Donahue, definitely, and in an expanded form.

“In the future (social media activity) is something we need to make year-round, so people pay attention and are aware of the fair all year long, she said.”

In the meantime, the experience from this year’s social media experiment has definitely been valuable.

“I’m 56 and I’m really throwing myself into social media,” said Armstrong. “It’s a great way to advertise. It’s been fun and I’m learning new things about it every day.”

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