I am blessed to live in Vermont for many reasons, but as a bookstore owner, one of them is access to an amazingly responsive free advertising called the Front Porch Forum. The FPF is an internet-based “regional network of online neighborhood forums.” It connects people with their neighbors.
It’s so simple, it’s brilliant. Make it easy for neighbors to talk to each other and they talk. You can only join the forum for your town, and this is great because then I’m reading about my town. I’ve gotten to know my neighbors from this. I’ve posted about a swarm of bees in my tree and what to do about them, asked for mechanic recommendations, and more importantly, used FPF as way to talk about the bookstore to people who live close enough to care.
This kind of targeted discussion is so beneficial to the bookstore. We can announce events, book talks, parties, etc. to just about every household in five towns because everyone on staff is a member of their neighborhood forum. The posting isn’t fancy, there’s no artwork, and you can’t post graphics, but you can add links to your website. There is something about the friendly nature of this type of free-ranging discussion with your neighbors that makes the FPF one of the emails everyone reads daily. You can follow the saga of the missing Malamutes from the frantic posting that the dogs were lost on the coldest night of the year to the triumphant “they’re home!” posting three days later.
All of our events get posted to the forum and it generates a lot of attendance at events. The nature of the forum works best for spontaneous folks who only need three days notice to come to an event. What’s so great is the wide range of people who read the forum. Folks who’ve never been to the store will come to events because of a posting and then get on our mailing list to find out about future ones. This is a win-win.
And did I mention it’s free? I know other towns have similar things, and I’d love to hear about them.