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Digital done right: How small Montana businesses are creating a big online presence

Jason Orzechowski, owner of Wolf Creek Angler,

Jason Orzechowski, owner of Wolf Creek Angler, works on the shop's blog on a recent afternoon in the fly shop.

A small business in an even smaller town has made a big name for itself.

Wolf Creek Angler is a little fly-fishing shop with a worldwide presence. Nestled in a small town of 477 people, the business in Wolf Creek has 4,700 followers on Facebook.

People come from all over the world to visit Wolf Creek and make what they’ve seen online their reality.

“I would say our biggest strength is social media,” said Jason Orzechowski, owner and outfitter of Wolf Creek Angler. “I’m pretty religious about making daily postings.”

If nothing more, Orzechowski makes time to post a photo in the morning with the day’s weather report. He said it’s not unusual to have people from Bozeman show up to fish because of what they saw.

While he’s not sure how much translates into sales, he is aware of his online following. Facebook sends him a summary that lets him know he gets about 4,000 to 7,000 visitors each month.

His current website, complete with blog, has been up for two years. The business has been on Facebook since it opened in 2015.

We had a homemade website the first year, it was only OK. Then we decided it was time to spend money on a website. With the competition that is out here, we have to be taken seriously.

Folks have come from Italy and France to stay at the outfitter’s cabins and fly fish. Orzechowski assumes it’s because of his online endeavors but admits he doesn’t follow up on how people find him.

It’s his own passion in fly fishing that leads him to look for the next step to share his interest on social media, he doesn’t have anyone doing it for him.

He researches other sites all the time. Makes regular changes, including photos and content, and adds new information as the seasons change and the business grows.

Instagram and Facebook drive viewers back and forth and to his website. He tracks his own engagement and said he knows he is beating the bigger competition.

His efforts show. Jason Nitschke, Small Business Development Center regional director, said small business owners often overlook the aesthetics of their online presence but Wolf Creek Angler is doing it right.

“My overall impression of Wolf Creek Angler is that they have identified their website and online presence as a company asset,” Nitschke said. "Thus, they have invested some money in getting it going."

He also said successful sites take advantage of graphical impact and use high-quality photos and logos. They use visuals that are relevant to the nature of what the company does. functions in a user-friendly way. The links go where they should. It tells viewers what they do, how they do it, and has a blog with current content.

Nitschke said he often finds entrepreneurs who create and manage their online presence themselves build it and forget it. This leads to dead links and stale content.

While Wolf Creek Angler outsourced the initial creation of its webpage, Orzechowski keeps it current and looking professional.

“It creates the perception of a credible business,” Nitschke said. “It makes it easier to pull the trigger and spend money with Wolf Creek Angler instead of the competition.”

Also important, Nitschke pointed out that Wolf Creek has bought into The Montana Brand and use it to their advantage.

The Montana Brand was facilitated in 2007 by the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development. It consists of three pillars:

  1. More spectacular, unspoiled nature than anywhere else in the lower 48
  2. Vibrant and charming small towns that serve as gateways to our natural wonders
  3. Breathtaking experiences by day, and relaxing hospitality at night

“In my opinion,” Nitschke said, "the money they’ve spent outsourcing their web development and visual brand is money well spent.”

But it’s not all about spending money. Social media success is in knowing your topic and sharing with the public. Blogging or daily informative updates of any kind are advisable.

New content impacts the “score” of a website, Nitschke said. This makes it rank higher on organic keyword searches.

Second, he said, it is a content marketing strategy. “Establishing yourself as an expert is one reason why customers will be attracted to doing business with you.”

Another area expert doing online marketing right is Tizer Botanic Gardens and Arboretum in Jefferson City. Not only has the business received an Outstanding Media Award from the Montana Urban and Community Forestry Association, its Facebook page caught the interest of Facebook itself and was used as a success story when the social media company came to Helena in July for its Facebook Community Boost, which shared information with small businesses on how to best utilize the social media platform.

“We have dramatically increased our business strictly due to Facebook use,” said Richard Krott, garden co-owner.

The Facebook site has 6,000 followers from all over the world. Krott considers those followers important people and said he commits his mornings to social media.

His business has a very high response rate to public and professionals who ask questions or send him information. Krott said it’s important to return emails to those who reach out as it keeps his business listing near the top of engine searches, including Yahoo, Google and Yelp.

Throughout the day, Krott spends about two hours on social media. Many of the garden’s followers are professors at universities in areas with similar weather patterns and plants.

Tizer Garden’s Facebook page not only is updated frequently, everything posted is relevant to horticulture in and around Helena. Colorful and enlightening photos beckon viewers and draw them back again.

Nitschke said it’s important for business owners to post content with the goal of driving traffic, facilitating conversations, and engaging customers to book trips. Krott is doing just that and said it’s working. Visitors come from all over the world to wander through the gardens. Universities send him plants for testing in similar climates as their own.

Wolf Creek and Tizer gardens have off seasons. During that time, Orzechowski and Krott don’t take a break. They look forward and keep their public engaged by continuing their posts and keeping their business in the forefront of followers’ minds with images and information that gives their audience something to look forward to after the snow melts.


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