Commentary

Aggregation, Make Way For Accumulation

While aggregation may be a foundational word for the power of social media -- the collective clout of an online community -- perhaps accumulation should be added as a potential force. Accumulation is the building of a following over time through repetition and comprehensiveness.

A couple of examples of the accumulative affect: the blog that eventually resulted in the making of the movie "Julie & Julia," based on the experiences of a woman who cooked all the recipes in Childs' cookbook classic. And recently, a young man in New York has acquired a significant online following by staying in a different neighborhood every week -- aiming to do it for 52 weeks.

Travel is a good candidate for this kind of accumulative effort. Witness a promotion in 2010 by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, a non-profit that attracts 500,000 people a year to take its tours, attend lectures and participate in youth programs. In an effort to draw a younger and more local crowd, and to focus more attention on some of the more lightly attended tours, the foundation had its director of social media, Jennifer Lucente, spend most of last year taking all 85 tours (under the rubric "Around Chicago in 85 Tour Challenge") and tweeting from each tour. She also did a post-tour blog after each excursion.

Among Lucente's experiences included bad weather (it is Chicago), pigeons and dancing hot dog street vendors. All tours were open to the public and participants were welcome to join in. Tour takers were encouraged to share photos, upload videos and connect with others who love Chicago's architecture.

Lucente planned the entire year in February because some tours are seasonal, others sequential. As the year wore on, her efforts gained more publicity and more participants. During the first tours, the reaction to her was "Who's the girl taking notes?" By the end -- as a result of publicity in the Chicago Tribune, Fox TV and other media, she was well known. Some tried to keep up her pace -- taking as many as 30 tours.

The nearly year-long marathon culminated in a big celebration that welcomed many social media followers at a theater in Chicago's Loop district.

Lucente was even asked to speak at the American Marketing Association BrandSmart Conference, held in Chicago.

Goals were more than met. Overall, attendance for the already popular river cruise tours were up 5%, bus tours up 16% and walking tours up 7%. The foundation's neighborhood tours, traditionally lightly attended, saw a tripling in participation.

Perhaps most important, the foundation's Facebook friends and fans count was up 137% to 11,000, the Twitter following up 61% to over 9,900 -- an audience, foundation executives point out, "with whom we can now engage on a regular basis."

Consider the possibilities for travel accumulation: visiting every island in Indonesia, stopping at every temple in Japan, seeing every Picasso painting in the world , whatever.

Use your accumulation imagination.

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