April 30, 2018

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum: Illuminating online reviews as a revenue driver

We live in a world where a 13-year-old just became a professional video gamer. Yep, the kids are spending so much time online these days that even newly-minted teens are good enough at popular games like Fortnite to compete for actual money against adults, who also get paid to play video games.

It’s obvious that gaming, streaming video, and social media consumption are part and parcel of modern society. But there are still places that provide real, tangible experiences and powerful connections between the analog past and digital present. St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is one such place.

Located on Anastasia Island along Florida’s Atlantic coast, St. Augustine is a playground for the intellect and the senses. The Museum doubles as a working lighthouse, operated by the non-profit’s staff, and a portal for people to experience marine science and maritime history in a very hands-on way.

Every year, 53,000 K-12 students visit St. Augustine to engage in camps, tours, interactive exhibits, and even construction projects to recreate historic boats. College students descend on the lighthouse to participate in the nation’s only museum-organized underwater archaeology field study school. You read that right—for some lucky undergrads and grad students, school’s in session under the clear-blue Atlantic.

But even with hundreds of thousands of tourists and students visiting annually, St. Augustine faces the same challenge as any other brick-and-mortar establishment these days: how do you use the internet to attract visitors to a physical business? (Albeit a non-profit one.)

The resounding answer is to meet potential visitors where they are, on social media and online review sites like Facebook, Google My Business, and FourSquare. For an organization like St. Augustine, monitoring and managing reviews across all of those sites is a big job even for a dedicated manager. That’s where Womply comes in.

“When I first saw what Womply could do, I was relieved and excited at the same time,” says Daniel Lee, social media specialist at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum. “Womply saves me at least 3-4 hours per week because I don’t have to log into different sites to read and respond to reviews or manually analyze how our online reputation is trending.”

The Lighthouse and Museum faces an interesting marketing dilemma. On one hand, it’s a museum and has the ability to appeal to visitors on the basis of mind-tingling educational and informational experiences. On the other hand, it’s also a tourist attraction with a great story. The town is one of the nation’s oldest in continuous operation, dating back to 1565, and the 165-foot lighthouse anchors one of the country’s oldest ports. You can feel, see, and smell the history as tangibly as the sea spray.

From a marketing perspective, St. Augustine’s staff have to figure out which emphasis—museum or tourist attraction—is the right one to pull in more visitors and keep revenues consistently pumping in support of the organization’s mission.

That requires testing, which doesn’t work without good information.

Here again, Womply is an ace in the hole. Daniel engages with visitors and prospects daily on social media and online review sites, executing campaign-style messaging to emphasize various aspects of the St. Augustine experience. With Womply, he can easily see how those campaigns correlate to trends in St. Augustine’s star rating on various sites and, taking it a step further, how improved reputation translates into increased revenue.

“We know that better experiences lead to better online reviews, which in turn leads to better revenues for the organization,” Daniel says. “Womply gives us the ability to quickly and easily see what’s working and what’s not so we can make better decisions, faster.”

If you find yourself on the Florida coast between Jacksonville and Daytona, be sure to visit St. Augustine, or take things a step further and become a donor. If you run a small business and need to take control of your online reputation or get better insight into your business performance, get a free walkthrough of Womply.

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