Huntsville (Ala.) Wins Social Media Contest to Host SoMeT13

April 14, 2013

When the Social Media Tourism Symposium (SoMeT13US) had to choose a host city for their annual summit, they practiced what they preached and let their community decide via Facebook voting.

Voting began in March with eight cities competing in a bracket-style contest on Facebook using the Woobox voting app. The winner of each round would advance until finally, on April 2nd, the final round of voting took place.

While it’s certainly an interesting and social way of selecting a host city, it’s benefits go beyond entertainment. David Serino, founder of SoMeT, explained that the voting process raises awareness of the economic impact of events far beyond those who are in the business.

Competing cities get their entire community involved in the voting, not just those businesses directly related to tourism and events. Soccer moms, plumbers and retirees also take part and, as a result, they are exposed to the business of meetings and events.

Jessica Carlton, marketing manager for the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said of her city’s win, “We were so humbled and excited to see the community come together to help us. Huntsville is a very competitive area by nature. In the 1960s, we literally helped put a man on the moon, so it’s ingrained in our culture.”

Ad4! Group is one such Huntsville business that embraced the idea of competition. They created a video featuring Huntsville residents and business owners telling their own story of why they love Huntsville. “We didn’t ask them to do it, they did it out of the goodness of their hearts” Carlton said.

The final round of voting came down to a battle between Huntsville and Missoula, Mont., with Huntsville winning the contest by just 3000 votes out of about 24,000.

But Missoula and the rest of the competitors were in no way losers. Through the contest, all cities involved generated plenty of awareness and media attention for their towns. Huntsville newspaper columnist Mark McCarter wrote a tongue-in cheek-piece about the competition with Missoula. 

In that piece McCarter wrote, “I wanted to stand up today and scream, Maul Missoula. Except now I want to go there. On my bucket-list, drive-across-the-northern-U.S., Missoula is now on the route.

Last weekend, the Huntsville/Madison County CVB hosted a celebration for their community to say thank you. Carlton said, “It was a good chance for us to have an open house and thank them for the SoMeT vote.”

The SoMeT13US Symposium will take place Nov. 6-8. The people of Huntsville are looking forward to not just this event, but also many others, as now they are a part of this business of meetings.


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