#BlockIslandThe island looks mostly positive on social media
A look at four widely-used social networking sites, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and Facebook, suggests that Block Island is a place almost everyone wants to visit, and where almost no one wants to leave.
Each day, dozens of people post on Twitter to comment about the island. Photos are posted every day on Instagram. There are mentions on Facebook, too, and many videos about the island posted on YouTube.
It’s unorganized and it isn’t always pretty, but the social networking that goes on about Block Island is a powerful, and ongoing, marketing tool.
Postings such as: “Block Island is beautiful,” “Want to go to Block Island,” and “Literally want to cry that I’m leaving block island” can be found on Twitter everyday. On Instagram, people take dozens of sunset photos and post them. Even on Facebook, which is largely private, photos and comments about the island can be found by doing a simple search.
Twitter can also be used for practical information about the island. Both Sen. Jack Reed and Rep. Jim Langevin tweeted about their trip to the island this week. Several news organizations regularly updated their followers about the thunder storm that threatened the island briefly just a few days ago.
There were also some wistful posts after the Labor Day weekend. “Hoping to get one more #blockisland getway in before the summer is finally over,” someone Tweeted on Tuesday.
There are, no doubt, a few negative comments peppered among the comments on social media. Tweets include swear words, talk about getting drunk or partaking in illegal activities.
“We can’t control it [negative posts]. The only thing we can do is push the information out that we want people to see,” said Block Island Tourism Director Jessica Willi, who said that each morning, she will repost comments that are positive. Willi manages the Facebook and Twitter pages for Block Island Tourism, which includes promoting Block Island as well as watching what others are posting about Block Island. “I don’t re-tweet or ‘favorite’ posts like ‘I got so blacked out,’” she added.
If there is a legitimate complaint, however, Willi said she will respond to the person. For example, if someone posted how they went looking for the Block Island Glass Floats (glass balls that have been hidden around the island), but couldn’t find any, Willi responds with encouragement to keep looking.
Willi said that she thinks Twitter and Facebook “are very valuable tools as far as marketing goes, especially because they’re free.” Willi said that from a marketing perspective, it is best practice to post on Facebook three times a day, and Twitter 11 times a day. She said that marketing through social media can be very time consuming.
Elizabeth Raflowitz, the multimedia and social media producer for Boston-based public relations firm Regan Communications, also weighed in to The Block Island Times about social media use. “I think that in the culture in we live in now, everyone loves to share,” she said. “Businesses can really capitalize on that. It can help so many companies because you’re able to share and interact with the company, which is so new.”
On Twitter, people tweet about the island more than 100 times a day. For example, a search on Sunday, Aug. 25 for “#BlockIsland” turned up 237 public tweets.
A “tweet” is the name for a post on Twitter. Tweets are limited to 140 letters, and often use what’s referred to as a “hashtag,” or the “#” symbol in front of a word. This means that if someone searches for #BlockIsland, all public photos and postings related to Block Island will show up. Tweets can be public, but some people choose to limit the privacy to friends-only.
“Hashtag Block Island pulls together the community,” said Raflowitz. “You’re not just talking about a beach or a boat, you’re talking about the island as a whole. You’re able to interact with the community of Block Island as a whole, which is so important.”
Many public #BlockIsland tweets are about visits to the island. On Aug. 25, most of the posts are positive. About six posts over the course of that day are about drinking or getting drunk. On Tuesday, Aug. 27, there were also a few posts about drinking, such as “Mopeds and bar hopping @ block island today!”
One other user said, “Had so much fun on block island I’m exhausted though.”
Others are more elaborate, such as this one posted on Tuesday, Aug. 27: “Thinking to myself that I’m lonely at home but I’ll be surrounded by 9 other crazies while I eat sleep and shower in 5 days.”
And some are a little goofy: “Block Island stole my girlfriend.”
A few others post specifics about what they’ve done on Block Island. For example, on Aug. 25, one person posted about the fish tacos they ate at The Oar Restaurant. Another took a photo of their lobster roll, though didn’t say where it was from. Another posted a photo of kayaking on Trim’s Pond. Two people posted photos of the Mohegan Bluffs.
One person even asked a question about Block Island. “Someone help me! whats better, Cape Cod or Block Island??” A friend then responded to this post suggesting Block Island, explaining, “you can hang out on the beach and listen to live bands, go to the petting zoo, rent mopeds, do some shopping, & get great food.”
Two people also posted a picture on the Block Island Ferry — with the words to Interstate Navigation’s jingle, “Sail away on the Block Island ferry.” Almost every day, at least one person posts about the Block Island Ferry.
A Twitter user said, “Sing-a-long on the #blockisland ferry. Perfect end to a fantastic day of kayaking, mopeds and swimming.”
Raflowitz said that social media can give a person a look at the “personality of the island.” She said that because hashtags basically operate as a search engine, it can provide a benefit to both people who live on Block Island and to people who want to visit.
“There might be people or pictures there that you didn’t even know about,” she said. “If people are hashtagging Block Island, they want to be there, and they want to show off their time there.”
Instagram is a smartphone application that allows the user to take a photo with their phone and apply a “filter” to make the photo better-looking (such as higher contrast or a gray-scale color scheme). The photos are then posted on the Instagram application, and can be viewed by anyone who has signed up for an Instagram account.
Sometimes, people accompany a photo with the hashtag to categorize posts.
On Instagram, there were 47,390 posts under #BlockIsland, as of Tuesday, Aug. 26. The first photo was of breakfast. One person posted a picture of alpacas from Abram’s farm. Others posted sunsets from the night before — someone even said with the sunset picture: “#favoriteplaceonearth.”
There are pictures of the beach, and many photos of friends grinning and smiling together. One woman took a snapshot of a young boy on a boat, and titled it “first boat trip!”
The South East Lighthouse is another popular subject, with several people posing in front of the lighthouse, and even a shot of the spiral staircase inside the lighthouse.
YouTube is a website dedicated to videos, where users can post and view videos.
On Sept. 5, a search for “Block Island” in the past week brought up more than 1,000 videos.
Most notably, one video posted one day ago, on Sept. 4, already had 29,087 views. This was posted by YouTube user “MaxNoSleeves,” who used to date a popular YouTube celebrity Jenna Marbles (Jenna Marbles has over 53 million views on one of her many videos). MaxNoSleeves gave a 7-minute tour of Block Island — he said he used to spend summers on the island and he has worked on the island before. Max provided a tour of practically the whole island: the town’s various shops, marinas, some restaurants, the transfer station, the painted rock, and the bluffs, to name a few. He weaved in personal tales about his memories of the island, and while he made a few jokes at the island’s expense, the overall tone of his tour was positive.
Other people posted about their trips to Block Island — videos range from families on the beach, to people landing on the island via airplane, to footage of the Mohegan Bluffs. One video, a 7-second clip about waves crashing, is titled: “Block Island is literally heaven.” And yet other videos are about partying, such as people dancing at local bars such as Captain Nick’s. One other video is of an alcohol bottle that says: “Do not open until Block Island.”
On Facebook, however, most people choose to keep their posts available only to their friends. Facebook has recently installed a search feature, so users can find public Facebook posts related to Block Island.
On Tuesday, Aug. 27, there were only two public posts available to view. One was a news story about fishing in Rhode Island. Another was a photo of a girl on a scooter.
Raflowitz agreed that Facebook is more private: “If I were to post on Facebook, my privacy settings are limited to friends. The only way my info becomes public is if I posted directly onto a wall of a business.”
On the Block Island Tourism Council’s Facebook page, some people do share photos, comments and questions. Over the past few months, 12 people posted on the Council’s page. Several were photographs of Block Island, including sunsets (“gorgeous orange sunset,” said one post) and the South East Lighthouse. (The Block Island Times Facebook page is also a heavily traveled site.)
“There’s no question that it [social media] works,” said Tourism Director Jess Willi, but she added, “Just because someone follows you and likes your posts doesn’t mean they’re going to come to Block Island. But now they’re getting constant updates from you, and that just reinforces the idea of Block Island.”