An investigation into digital place marketing practices of selected South African local municipalities and communities
De Ridder, Thomas
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Places such as town or city municipalities and communities should market themselves to attract and retain skilled middle and higher income residents, businesses, investors and tourists because these typical place marketing target audiences are key role players in local economic development. However, as the world economy becomes increasingly globalised, these target audiences are more mobile than ever and therefore places compete directly with each other to attract and retain them. It is therefore increasingly important for places to deliberately engage in place marketing, and to do so efficiently. Modern place marketing practices necessitate the use of digital marketing channels because these are the media channels most used by the desired target audiences, as opposed to traditional media for information searches to make place selection choices. Today, the most efficient place marketing channels are websites, blogs, social media, online review and directory sites, wikis and mobile apps. The research hypothesis for this study is that South African municipalities and typical stakeholder groups within those municipal areas that naturally assume the role of marketing of their towns or areas do not make proper use of digital place marketing practices. Twenty South African municipal areas (local municipalities and their main towns) were selected as case studies to test this hypothesis. The actual digital place marketing activities of these municipalities or towns were compared to digital place marketing best practice, using evaluative web content analysis research methods. This entailed searching the internet and social media for the places’ web and social media presence and digital marketing practices and to assess the quality thereof. Actual digital marketing practices of the case study places were measured against a list of criteria using a rating scale devised by the author. This enabled the comparison of actual practice against ideal digital marketing strategies as identified during the literature research part of the dissertation. The results clearly show that digital place marketing practices are poorly adopted by the case study places.
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