Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

The Social Rollercoaster

Klaus Sommer Paulsen asks how attraction operators can harness the power of social media within their facilities.

Do you remember when the internet was something you used simply for marketing a new ride or selling tickets? And do you remember when the only way your guests could access the web was from computers in their homes or offices?

Things have changed, and will keep on changing. The internet has gone outdoors – becoming the “outernet” – and our mobile phones have been transformed into computer terminals providing infinite internet access. Using such platforms, visitors are already documenting their day out at your park, rating the experience and sharing it with their friends – and the entire online world – as it happens. So keep your ear to the ground!

“You have to think mobile first,” comments Lance Hanish in the digital newsletter Media Notes Canonical. “We live in a digital age, and an age of transition. There is nothing superficial about it; it changes marketing, communication and brand experiences to the core.”

First you must accept that that the communication overload – or “communi-chaos” as Grey New York’s Per Pedersen once called it – has reached a level too high for its own good. Every day in the Western World we are exposed to more than 5,000 brand signals. So when you can’t get the interest and the time from customers by shouting at them liked you used to with traditional marketing, what can you do? You become part of the discussion online.

This doesn’t just mean Facebook or Twitter. New social networks are emerging all the time. For example the virtual “pin board” Pinterest is becoming a powerful force as users share the things they love with potentially millions. Its popularity is increasing so fast that from writing to publishing this article, the number of users lept from 10 to 12 million.

Tracking the conversation

If you’re worried that you can’t keep track of what people are saying about you across social media and the web in general, fear not, you certainly aren’t the first with such concerns. That’s why there now are several tools for tracking what is being said online about you or your company. Spiral16’s monitoring software, for instance, will let you know if you are getting the good or bad wrap, and even helps you recognise who influences most with their opinion. Yet as with any other tool, it its most effective when wielded by those who understand it so, as with all your social media activity, you should assign the right people to the job, even if that means working with someone from outside your organisation.

To engage audiences online consider offering unique digital experiences related to your park or attraction, such as games or other entertainment. This presents a challenge to the attractions industry. You may find yourself competing with sponsored products from established brands, but equally you have a great opportunity to extend your own brand in the digital arena, building loyalty and stimulating interest among the paying guests of tomorrow.

As we design the next generation of theme park attractions, we should be thinking not only about how the public relations or marketing department can follow social media, but how such features can be built into the experience from the very beginning. Create something of value for your visitors, and they will simply have to tell others about it!

Enriching the experience

One way of doing this is by providing enriching experiences that can only be enjoyed at your venue. Offered by the Dutch company of the same name, TapeMyDay combines face recognition technology with a network of cameras to track visitors as they make their through a park or attraction. Those that opt in will be able to relive their entire day on video – and share it online. This bespoke service is also a wonderful viral marketing opportunity for attraction operators. Several other video and photo systems are available, providing images that can be uploaded instantly to your guests’ chosen social media platform.

Whenever there is an extra dimension to the guest experience, people will spend more “dwell time” in your facility. This of course is the holy grail for attractions operators: a state where people find a reason to stay beyond a specific purpose The longer they stick around, the more money they spend. Correctly integrated into a ride or attraction, social media is one way of achieving this.

The term “information technology” (IT) may evoke memories of nerdy types tinkering away on computers in darkened rooms, yet thanks in large part to the internet we are all engaging with IT every day. Across the world, millions of people of all ages are collecting, processing and distributing data – and enjoying it – as they share their experiences, good and bad, with others online. Parks and attractions need to wake up to this reality and develop a cohesive digital strategy rather than simply offering a website or a Facebook page.

Based in Denmark, Klaus Sommer Paulsen is an award-winning director of digital media, and member of Themed Entertainment Association’s Europe and Middle East Division board. As founder of CNA Creative Network Agency he aims to bring new media, marketing and experience design together to create enriching visitor experiences. Klaus can be reached at ksp@cnagency.dk or on Twitter.

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