Hannibal Courier-Post

Online tour guide boosts Hannibal's online footprint

Hannibal artist Mark Wavering scrolls through area businesses and landmarks he photographed and reviewed for Google Maps. In about two-and-a-half years, he has taken 424 photos of businesses and landmarks in Hannibal and surrounding communities. His routine consists of taking photos of three or four local businesses or landmarks each day.
By Hannibal Courier-Post
Posted: Jan. 8, 2020 11:46 am Updated: Jan. 8, 2020 1:02 pm

HANNIBAL | Hannibal residents and visitors alike have been seeing local landmarks and businesses pop up on Google Maps online, with several local destinations showing tens of thousands of views.

Google Maps relies on local guides who submit photographs and reviews for local destinations and create images of different businesses and landmarks across a local map, with photographs and reviews accompanying many of the postings on the mobile app or Google Maps website. Hannibal Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director McKenzie Disselhorst said Google Map listings and reviews make an impact on people's decisions to select a local business.

The Hannibal Area Chamber of Commerce holds workshops about using Google services to help local businesses. Disselhorst said chamber officials recommend businesses keep their business profiles up-todate on Google, because that information goes directly into Google Maps.

“A lot of times, people are busy running their business, and they don't really think about little things like that,” Disselhorst said. “But it's very important, because as we know, everyone has a mobile phone, and more and more people are using that to find businesses or to pick where going to eat and things like that based on the reviews.”

Disselhorst said the chamber encourages businesses to request reviews. And the reviews don't have to all be stellar — she said the number of reviews helps add credibility for the business. Disselhorst said Google Maps is a useful way for local businesses to increase visibility and create new connections.

“We really want our businesses to make it easy for people to find them and make it easy for people to do business with them, and that's just one of the tools they can use to help consumers connect with their business.”

Hannibal artist Mark Wavering has taken hundreds of photos for Google Maps and shared reviews of various business and other destinations in Hannibal, and surrounding communities during the past two-and-a-half-years. His photos on Google Maps include restaurants, stores automotive dealerships and Hannibal's parks — depicting scenes of art exhibits he set up in Central Park, Riverview Park and Huckleberry Park during 2019's warmer months.

Mary Lynne Richards, marketing director and recreation supervisor with Hannibal Parks and Recreation, said Wavering's efforts aren't limited to Google Maps listings of Hannibal's parks — his art exhibits have been a pleasant surprise for people coming to visit the parks.

“His artistic eye is kind of a different point of view for people who are coming to our parks and they're seeing the beautiful scenery in the parks, but then he has some different artwork that people can enjoy at different times,” Richards said. “And we love having something free to the public that they can walk along and see different artwork. It's a good partnership with us and Mark.”

Wavering said he's looking forward to spring and the chance to unveil new art exhibits. The cold weather may have put a temporary hold on the art exhibits, but Wavering is as busy as ever with his Google Maps submissions, taking photos of three or four local establishments each day.

“Google Maps is part of my daily life,” Wavering said.

So far, Wavering's photos have been viewed collectively more than 3 million times, and he has reviewed 179 businesses, answered 4,219 questions and published 45 videos, including Moberly Area Community College and Hannibal LaGrange University. He has been named “a Google Maps Expert Photographer and Local Guide – Level 7.” He's working toward the highest level of 10, gaining points with each submission and answered question.

“With that many viewers, that makes you respond even more,” Wavering said. “It's inspiring, to have that many. Once you get going, the more inspiring it is.”