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Downtown Smithfield Makes YouTube Its Ad Outlet

When most people hear about YouTube.com, they think of a fun Web site to pass the time, but the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation is using it as its newest marketing tool.

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SMITHFIELD, N.C. — Most people think of YouTube.com as a fun Web site to pass the time, but YouTube is the Downtown Smithfield Development Corp.'s newest marketing tool.

"We are opening our main street to the entire world," Chris Johnston said.

Johnson heads the non-profit group, which is working to bring more people and business into downtown Smithfield. He recently started producing short video spotlights of local businesses and posting them on YouTube.com.

"You know trying to find that niche market to get that word out has been tough, so anytime we can find free publicity, it's always the best," Johnson said.

Scott Gandolph's deli was the first to be profiled. His video was viewed about 1,000 times in a little over a week.

"We've had a lot of guests come in and talk about it. A couple kind of kidding us and razzing us. We've gotten two caterings off of it, though," Gandolph said.

Johnson plans to shoot one video a week, eventually featuring all 55 downtown businesses and events. He is working especially hard to promote Smithfield before the new U.S. Highway 70 Clayton Bypass opens.

"It will take about a 20-minute drive to get from downtown Raleigh to downtown Smithfield. So we're anticipating a huge amount of growth in the next couple of years," he said.

The Downtown Smithfield Development Corp. hopes its new Internet audience will translate into more visitors.

The non-profit group is also posting links to the YouTube video on its Web site. If all continues to go well, Johnson said he will look into other social networking tools to promote the town like MySpace.com.