Ottawa Little Italy Festival

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The number of festivals in Ottawa has exploded over the past decade. With so many great events to choose from, getting the message out about your festival is critical to its success. That’s why the Preston Street BIA is connecting with festival-goers through the use of social media. “We have noted a real shift in how our patrons get the information they need to plan their social lives”, notes Mario Giannetti, Chairman of the Preston Street BIA. “ We have set the goal to provide the information in any format they use.” Using web sites, Facebook and a YouTube video channel, the Preston Street BIA is making the news about what is happening in Little Italy accessible in multiple formats.
Building upon Little Italy’s already-established online presence, the BIA has hired Dean Emerick of OnlineMarketing711.com, to leverage the power of Social Media. “People still like to read, to listen and to watch, but now they do it online,” Mr. Emerick states. “With 90% of consumers going online to find local businesses, keywords are like highways. If you put your billboards next to highways, there is just that much more traffic that is going to see it.” As well the BIA’s in-house web expert analyses the number of “hits” to the websites including how many of those are unique visitors, where they are referred from, and what keywords got them there. By staying on top of these “traffic reports” the BIA is able to fine-tune their strategy and expand their reach.
The BIA recently adopted QR—or Quick Response—codes for their signage, posters and Facebook site. This technology is relatively new to North America. A QR code is a barcode that points to a website. Users of Smartphones with an installed reader simply have to point the camera in their phone at the QR code for the website to upload directly into the phone’s browser. QR codes provide a faster response because they point to the precise page eliminating the requirement to go to a website and search for the appropriate link. This allows the BIA to route patrons directly to the information they want.
Ottawa Little Italy Festival, the finale weekend of Italian Week, will be the first of the BIA’s festivals to tap into this new technology.
The QR code has gone up on signage and posters and traffic to the prestonstreet.com website has grown by 200,000 visits in the first week of June alone. Fully 25% of those visitors are coming through Blackberries. The new website developed for Little Italy Festival, olifest.com has seen better than anticipated traffic. “Our next step is to develop a smartphone-friendly website that is easily viewed through the smaller screens of these devices,” says Sean Martin, the BIA’s in-house electronic media expert.
The final weekend of Italian Week is being branded as Ottawa Little Italy Festival, to better distinguish the two weekends of Italian Week. Attracting upwards of 125,000 attendees the Ottawa Little Italy Festival boasts that its street party is arguably the best AND longest-running street party in Ottawa. The weekends’ events include the Ottawa Ferrari Festival, Italian Car Parade and Show and the Preston Criterium Bike Race, fireworks, music and amusement rides. The festival runs June 17 – 19, and the full program can be found at olifest.com.

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