In fall 2008, Blooloop industry insider Chad Emerson conducted a breaking news interview with Cindy Gordon after she announced that she was leaving Universal Orlando after serving a successful stint as a vice-president for the resort’s publicity and media relations efforts. During her time at Universal, Gordon crafted several innovative strategies for incorporating technology and social media into the theme park environment.
Recently, Gordon announced that she was joining 360 Public Relations as Vice President, Digital and Social Media. Emerson caught back up with her for a discussion of how amusement parks can integrate social media strategies into their operations and promotions.
What specific types of new social media technologies translate well into use in an amusement park setting?
A defining factor of amusement parks, especially Universal and Disney is that they can leverage their tribes through social media. The fans who are over-the-top passionate about theme park brands are looking for opportunities to socialize and evangelize (for free).
The other big point is that a good social media program means that you use your evangelists to talk to everyone! So in addition to talking with the roller coaster brand fanatics or the individual brand attraction fanatics (e.g. Harry Potter or Hulk in the case of Universal), they need to be engaging mom bloggers in order to reach that huge segment of “moms” who are ultimately purchasing the family vacation.
What are some of the social media outlets that amusement facilities should focus on?
I think sending video to YouTube is fine but that's a traditional PR tactic. Amusement parks are cutting edge, high tech, and future thinking - their media needs to reflect that. In terms of social media technology, I’d have to put Facebook and Twitter on top of the list. Facebook is where it’s at. Universal Orlando has 120,000 fans on Facebook; Disneyworld Resort has 74,000 fans (the Disney brand has 1.9 million fans) which is wonderful - and they are both really starting to use the space well to engage and interact with their fan base.
What are some specific, creative ways of utilizing these technologies in a PR/Marketing context?
On Facebook and Twitter, one good tactic is to integrate the different channels into promotions, instead of isolating them as discrete channels. Promote a contest on Twitter but enter it on a theme park home page. Link the Facebook fan page activity with other assets. More activity, more user participation.
I would also love to see the theme parks take a page from Dunkin Donuts and feature a “fan of the day” on Facebook. Dunkin has over one million fans on Facebook.
Several other ideas include:
Amusement parks can do a really great program using Twitter which is humongous with moms and has tremendous viral potential – i.e. subscribing for daily specials, hosting contests via twitter, etc.
Do more blogger outreach with moms.
In general, creating more excitement and buzz with moms and creating a team of mom evangelists is smart. Disney has been innovative in putting together a panel of parent bloggers as an advisory team and continues to do things like that. They are very, very entrenched in this world. Mom bloggers tell me they get pitches from them all the time about special offers, discounts, new attractions, travel deals, and just news.
Successful blogger outreach is made up of both big and small moments. We tend to focus on the big events, but the relationships are nurtured by small things we do as well. For example, let’s say Universal Orlando does a big mom event at the park for the opening of Harry Potter. They would most likely hold an event in Orlando with a select group of moms. Big moments.
Small moments are things like if someone tweets or blogs about an upcoming trip to Orlando, contacting them with an offer to upgrade their passes in some fashion if they decide to go to your theme park. In other words, they have to make the commitment to go to your park but you want to make their experience even more special. There are lots of options for the upgrade – valet parking, express plus passes, meal vouchers and so on. It doesn’t have to be the same thing every time. In fact, a bit of randomness would be good. Best news: it is measurable and it is the kind of simple generosity that a blogger might post or tweet about.
I think it is important to mix big things with little things. You can offer the smaller things to a wider group, and that makes lots of people feel special, not just a few.
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