By Marsha Sills
July 20, 2012
LAFAYETTE — A University of Louisiana at Lafayette management instructor will lead a free seminar Monday on how small businesses can capitalize on the use of social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, to grow their customer base and attract tourists.
The Social Media for Intercommunity Leaders’ Excellence or SMILE seminar, which will be led by Dionne Davis-Green of ULL, was created by Beau Chene High School students as a way to spark tourism in St. Landry Parish.
Earlier this year, the high school team won a statewide competition for its tourism marketing plan for St. Landry Parish during the Louisiana Business Challenge, which was sponsored by ULL and BP.
The students, Kathryn Knott, Lainey Latiolais, Amy Stelly and Byron Stelly, won $19,000 in scholarship money. The four graduated high school in May. Amy Stelly starts at ULL in the fall and the other three team members have enrolled at LSU.
Between preparing for high school graduation and freshman year at college, the four juggled discussions with parish tourism officials to launch the seminar, Latiolais said.
“We hope this becomes a free and easy way to promote businesses and stimulate the economy,” said Latiolais, who will study marketing at LSU.
She said the team’s hope is that businesses reap the benefits of their project.
“We’re really excited about the project being implemented, it’s sort of a dream come true,” Latiolais said. “We just hope everyone can get as involved as possible because that’s what’s going to make it work.”
Seating is limited for the 10 a.m. seminar at the St. Landry Parish Visitor Information Center, off Interstate 49, exit 23.
Interested parties must reserve a spot by Friday at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wanda Juneau said she uses Facebook to showcase specials at her Opelousas restaurant, Back in Time Café, but signed up for the social media seminar to learn more tips.
“Believe me, it works,” she said of the café’s Facebook advertising. “I just feel there’s just more info out there on learning how to use this type of media.”
Online reviews from http://www.yelp.com has helped drive out-of-towners to her place, Juneau said, adding that she wants to capitalize on other virtual connections to meet potential diners.
The high school team’s tourism strategy for the parish is designed to help mom-and-pop shops, who may not be able to afford a website developer or be tech-savvy, gather resources to help promote their business online.
Another part of the team’s plan includes the St. Landry Parish Internship for Community Enhancement program, which partners student interns with small businesses to help create and manage social media outreach.
Students interested in becoming interns and working with St. Landry Parish businesses may visit http://www.cajuntravel.com to learn more.