The estimated 160,000 tourists who will converge in Minneapolis for Major League Baseball’s All-Star Week can ask a “virtual concierge” about the best sights to see, top restaurants for a meal—really any questions they may have during their visit.
Meet Minneapolis, the city’s tourism bureau, tapped local PR firm Spong (formerly Carmichael Lynch Spong) to help create a “social media command center,” from which a group of social media professionals will field and respond to tourists’ questions on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other channels.
From July 11 to July 16, people can post questions on social media using #askMPLS, in order to elicit a response from the “command center,” which will be located at Spong’s headquarters, across the street from Target Field.
Julie Batliner, managing director at Spong and a Meet Minneapolis board member, told Twin Cities Business that the effort is pro bono. Spong recruited some social media professionals from other local companies to help pitch in, and an average of 10 volunteers will staff the command center throughout All-Star Week.
Questions featuring #askMPLS will be directed to volunteers who focus on specific specialties (food and drink, entertainment, etc.) and their responses will be reviewed by Meet Minneapolis officials prior to reaching tourists. The responses are designed to help direct visitors to area restaurants, bars, hotels, parks, walking trails, movie theaters, and other destinations, based on their individual inquiries.
Local businesses will help get the word out, Batliner said. For example, concierges at area hotels will don buttons displaying #askMPLS, and business cards with the “hashtag” will be placed on front desks at restaurants and other businesses. Minneapolis’ DID Ambassadors—the bright-green-clad workers often seen on segways—will also help promote the program.
Organizers of the “virtual concierge” program said they expect to receive inquiries from thousands of visitors during All-Star Week, and they hope to help local businesses reap the benefits of the week-long events. Some have estimated that All-Star Week will spur an economic impact of $75 million.
Batliner said the #askMPLS concept is meant to tap into the trend of more tourists consulting their smartphones and tablets when determining places to visit in a city. One study found that nine out of 10 people turn to their smartphones or tablets while traveling.
“The social media command center and #askMPLS is a large-scale, focused effort to engage visitors through the entire Minneapolis experience,” Meet Minneapolis President and CEO Melvin Tennant said in a statement. “Meet Minneapolis and Spong representatives are looking forward to being a real-time resource recommending great places based on everything from nearby convenience to nationally known establishments in Minneapolis.”