Thursday, September 24, 2009

Social Networking for Rural Tourism

I spent last night in Winfield, Kansas, southeast of Wichita. I was there to teach two classes today about social networking. These are groups of rural tourism folks, and this is a project of the Kansas Sampler Foundation.

I arrived too late last night to do any exploring, but couldn't resist this photo of the Union State Bank. I loved the sign and the graceful archways. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to explore today either because I needed to head back after class. I hadn't been to Winfield in awhile and need to get back there soon. They just completed the Walnut Valley Festival that draws people from all over the world.

In these classes I teach folks blogging, facebook and twitter. Do I think those will always be THE things? No. But I know technology never goes backward and we're going to be using something. And if people know how to use these things, they can transfer that knowledge to whatever the next thing is.

I never feel like I cover everything sufficiently, but at least people get some idea of how it works and can experiment with it on their own later. In every class some folks are brand new to these concepts and some are further down the road. Regardless of where people are, there is potential. Great potential.

I stress to them that the lives we're leading on the prairie are exotic to others, just as a life in downtown Cairo would be exotic to us. And I encourage them to be out there promoting their message, whatever that is.

I'm thrilled to be part of this project for numerous reasons.
1. I believe there is tremendous potential in using social networking to promote rural tourism. It's free. It's available. It's global.
2. The Kansas Sampler Foundation is an amazing organization, and unlike anything I know of anywhere else. If you're looking for quality, that's it. I'm flattered they asked me to participate. It's the equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Stamp of Approval.
3. It's wonderful to meet the folks in these classes. Many of them are from very small communities and are doing incredible things.
4. I want other people to understand the thrill of exploring rural areas. There's nothing else quite like it. I think social networking can help people understand what there is out there, just waiting to be discovered.

If you've never taken the time to explore in your own area, do it this weekend. I promise it's rewarding. Get in your car, drive to a rural area, start talking to people, and find out what's unique about it. Then tell others. Buy some stamps at the local post office (small post offices are always in danger of closing - buying stamps there helps their bottom line), pick up some basics at the local grocery store (did you know grocery stores have to buy $10,000 worth of product weekly to get delivery? help those folks who are keeping the stores open in small communities), shop, eat, get gas, and otherwise make an impact. Trust me, your visit - one person or one group - can make a difference. Do it.

When these classes are finished and everyone has their pages up and running I'm going to print a list here, so you can see what folks in rural Kansas are doing. You'll be amazed.

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