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Social Media and your Amusement Park (SERIES)

Instagram Coaster Accounts Are Not Real Media

I’m going to say something here that’s bound to tick off some of my readers – but it warrants being told:

IF YOU RUN A ROLLER COASTER OR AMUSEMENT PARK INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT…

YOU ARE NOT ACTUAL MEDIA.

There, I said it.

The same goes with just having a social media presence, whether it’s just a Twitter account or Tumblr that’s focused on parks or rides. None of that qualifies you to be invited to nor demand to be invited to a park media event.

This just about sums up most of Instagram...

This just about sums up most of Instagram…

Why? Well I’ll tell ya…

Credentialed media (such as myself) are invited to events because we earn it. We write proper news stories, we create content that’s more than just a photo and a caption. We provide insight for people who may be fans of the industry or the general public who might do a Google search.

Demanding that you’re invited to media events based solely on the fact that run an Instagram account dedicated to rides is laughable.

You have to have impact – you have to actually DO something besides snap photos with your phone and upload them.

Media events at parks – by their very nature – are supposed to be fun. But, that does not mean they are there for you and your “hundreds” of followers to HAVE fun.

Make sense?

Coaster Expert Kris Rowberry gets his thrill on

Getting my thrill on with the lap bar only “Superman: Ultimate Flight” at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

People like myself are there to work; to cover a story. When you shove your way to the front of the press line, or bolt in front of others to get on the ride – that’s counterproductive to our whole industry of covering parks. And it’s why more and more parks are second-guessing bringing in “online, coaster media” in the first place.

When the enthusiasm over a new ride or attraction blinds you – that’s not good. I’m not saying what you do is dumb or pointless – I just want you to realize there are more steps to be taken to get up the ladder.

This problem is so prevalent, that at one media event I attended this year, a member of the Instagram Mafia DEMANDED that they receive the park provided ride POV first from their PR Manager.

Really?

Think about that. It’s not about covering the park anymore, is it? It’s about…YOU…being first. That’s the wrong attitude to have.

Simply put, if you don’t create meaningful content or respect the parks you cover (and the people who cover them) then I hope you enjoy the latest attractions when they open to the general public – because that’s when you should be riding them, first.

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Am I way off base? (It’s happened before). Let me know in the comments section below or on my social media links!

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Rocky Mountain Construction Makes Statement on Lightning Rod Delay at Dollywood

Rocky Mountain Construction co-owner Fred Grubb responded to speculation online from enthusiasts as to the reason behind the delayed opening of Lightning Rod at Dollywood. Here is his full statement:

“We take the highest level of pride in every attraction we create. RMC is equally disappointed that Lightning Rod will not be opening as originally planned. We have been working with the launch system subcontractor on-site to bring it up to speed and working as intended.

As is often the case with prototype attractions and especially with launched coasters, delays are an ever-present possibility. During the course of testing, we determined that the third-party launch system would not be able to perform at the level required for proper operation.

While we strive to meet all of our deadlines, we cannot and will not sacrifice safety or ride quality in the name of saving time. RMC never has nor ever will open any new attraction until it has passed our rigorous standards.

At this time, we cannot speculate as to when the attraction will open to the general public. That date is ultimately decided upon by the customer, therefore all questions regarding an opening should be directed to Dollywood.

On behalf of all the employees at Rocky Mountain Construction, I want to personally thank the management team at Dollywood, the fans of the park as well as our fans for their patience and understanding as we work to bring you Lightning Rod.”

You can read the full release on Rocky Mountain Construction’s website, here.


Dorney Park’s flag stolen and the massive social media backlash over special needs employee not rehired

Dorney Park in Altoona, PA learned the hard way this week that when it rains, it pours. (or maybe when it snows, it blizzards). A member of the Cedar Fair chain, the park saw not one but two major media events – and neither one was positive.

Last Sunday, after the park had closed – four teenagers were able to enter the park, and somehow scaled the 200 foot tall “Dominator” free fall ride to steal one of the large flags at the top. “Dominator” is a triple S&S tower.

Not a great start to the week, admittedly. But then it got worse. Much worse.

Christopher Emery, a special-needs individual had worked at the park for 12 consecutive years, cleaning bathrooms. When he went in for his annual interview with managers, he apparently didn’t do well. So much so, they decided not to rehire him.

When his friend – who also works at Dorney Park found out – he jumped onto social media to vent his frustration. Outside of having a bad interview, there wasn’t apparently any other reason for not rehiring him.

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Within a matter of minutes, both #ShameOnYouDorney and #ShameOnYouDorneyPark were trending locally in the Philadelphia area as well as in the online amusement community.

It took until the next day for Dorney to issue a statement to the press, as well as try to quell fervor online. It was textbook, “too little / too late.”

Social media is a double edged sword. You can rise and fall very quickly and you’re always under a microscope. Parks can’t afford to not have a social media person ready to go at any time and not monitor their feeds constantly. No engagement is walking tightrope without a net.

Dorney eventually responded - but only issuing one statement and not responding to individuals only incited more anger towards the park.

Dorney eventually responded – but only issuing one statement and not responding to individuals only incited more anger towards the park.

One of the best examples of handling a crisis of late came from overseas. Alton Towers not only immediately issued statements on an incident on the Smiler via their social media channels – they responded to their guests’ questions and complaints – ALL OF THEM. And it wasn’t a canned response either – it was custom for each one.

It just goes to show the power of social media in this new era – and that trying to avoid it is only inviting trouble. As for Dorney Park, let’s hope this week is a bit more calm on the media front, for their sake.


Protect Your B-Roll Videos

Before the advent of the internet (and subsequently, high speed internet speeds), amusement parks would send out “b-roll” or simply put, “generic footage” of either their park or a certain ride, so that news outlets could use it in stories, most notably, to promote a new attraction that is opening up.

Fast forward to today’s “connected world” and parks continue to send out these videos, only it’s now done mostly via social media, YouTube or their own webpages.

Subsequently, many people have taken these videos and spread them via their own accounts, which helps spread the word about the new attraction or offering. (It’s also known as a “Viral Effect.”) Exactly what the park wanted, right?

Well, not quite.

You see, there’s a new epidemic going around these days, called “MONETIZATION.” That’s where users take these readily available videos and cash in on them – and it’s costing your park some serious money.

How? Check it out:

1.) Your park hires a production company to come out and professionally film and edit a good promotional video for your park or, you pay an employee to do the same on your payroll.

2.) The video is uploaded to your social media accounts and YouTube channel.

3.) The video is liked, commented on and shared by users on social media via “SHARE” buttons, thereby promoting the product / service.

Now here’s where the ecosystem turns illegal:

4.) Some users will then download (also known as “rip”) your video off of YouTube, then re-uploaded onto their personal account. The video is then is “monetized,” which means ads are shown in order to make money for the user for every view it receives.

“But it’s not that bad – at least my message is getting out there, right?”

As harmless as it may seem, the investment you made to help promote the park is in fact, now directly making money for someone else, who didn’t contribute a dime to it’s production nor asked for permission to use it for their own account.  Simply put…that’s copyright infringement, folks.

Would you feel the same if you set up a photo shoot, took a stunning photo, then had it sold repeatedly online thousands of time, without you ever being paid for it?

YouTube Terms of Service (TOS) requires that:

“Your video is not eligible for monetization if it contains content that you didn’t create or get permission from its creator to use. You need to be able to show written permission for the following video elements:

  • Audio: copyrighted sound recordings, live performances, background music, etc.
  • Visuals: images, logos, software, video game footage, etc.
  • Any other content you don’t own worldwide commercial usage rights to.”

We’re pretty sure user “CoastersCoastersCoasters” didn’t create that beautiful Six Flags new ride announcement video on their own…let alone pay for it.

Here’s some more food for thought – YouTube has many “Super Users” who actually make a living off of monetized videos. Are you comfortable with providing direct income to them, without them working for you? I didn’t think so.

So, how can you prevent this?

Start by adding a watermark to your video. It’s actually relatively simple even with rudimentary editing software – and any professional and/or legitimate production company hired by you should be able to accommodate this request without any problems. This will ensure that people know YOU own this content, not others.

Secondly, you’ll need to do some legwork on YouTube, but it’s fairly easy. Just do a search for your video every now and then, and see what pops up. Considering any illegal copies of your video will be similarly named to yours for SEO – that’s easy enough to spot.

Copyright

The reporting from for copyright infringement on YouTube is vastly streamlined compared to a DCMA takedown notice – and hits infringers in the wallet, where it hurts the most.

Thirdly, WHEN you find an offending video, report it. Ever since the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA was passed, YouTube and other social content sources have been very good at taking down content owned by others, especially when a formal complaint is filed. You can begin that process here: https://www.youtube.com/yt/copyright/copyright-complaint.html

Then, go into your media list and purge it of any contacts you’ve found to be doing more harm than good. It makes no sense to keep inviting people to press events if all they’re doing is stealing from under your nose.

As a victim of copyright infringement in the past, I can tell you that prompt, succinct action is the best course of action. While trying to be nice and extending an olive branch is always a nice thought – it’s not always the best way to end the problem permanently. Repeat offenders do just that – repeat.

Together, we can stamp out copyright infringement and eradicate the epidemic of monetization…together!

Review my prior posts about “Social Media and the Amusement Park” here.

About the Author:

Kris Rowberry has been following the amusement industry for over 15 years. He is the creator and host of both “The Lost Parks of Northern California” and “Great American Thrills®


Six Flags scores viral hits on social media this off-season

Kudos to Six Flags for turning one of the worst winters EVER into one of the most entertaining – and keeping their followers on social media engaged during the long off-season:

First up, is Six Flags St. Louis

After a bitter cold spell gripped the midwest, the marketing folks at the former Mid-America park decided to trudge through the snow to make a statement…and a brilliant one at that:

Six Flags St. Louis on Social Media

The folks in the marketing department deserve a raise just for changing the sign in those conditions!

Now, would it have been even funnier if they said the water park WAS open? Of course, but you have to imagine the marketing and ops folks would have had fits of people showing up, ready to take “bobsled runs” down those frozen, fiberglass slides.

Not to be outdone, this week, Six Flags Great America decided to have some fun with their own freeway advertising signage – this time invoking one of the greatest comedies (and certainly best park-related movies) of all time:

Six Flags Great America funny signage

“The moose out front should have told you – that it’s colder here than in Alaska right now!”

Folks – this is what social media is all about – in each of these instances, fans and news outlets picked up on the post – and shared it across a wide swath of the internet. Even if you weren’t a fan of these parks…chances are you would have seen or HEARD about these posts if you lived near or around these parks.

And to think – this is all FREE PUBLICITY (and positive, too) is when the parks are CLOSED. Thousands of people are now talking about these parks – and you can bet some folks decided to go in on a season pass online, probably hoping for warmer weather to show up! 🙂

Again, that’s the name of the game on social media when you’re at an amusement park – don’t just throw out updates for the sake of throwing out updates (I.E. throwing crap on the wall and seeing what sticks) – curate excellent content, and it will inevitably lead to better engagement…which will lead to more butts passing through those turnstiles.

Review my prior posts about “Social Media and the Amusement Park” here.

About the Author:

Kris Rowberry has been following the amusement industry for over 15 years. He is the creator and host of both “The Lost Parks of Northern California” and “Great American Thrills®


#Hashtag Etiquette – Social Media and Your Amusement Park

#Hashtags – arguably one of the more confusing elements of social media.

For many, they’re seen as useless – for others, they’re invaluable tools for social media. So which one are they for social media and the amusement industry?

They’re actually both.

In laments terms – a hashtag is like a folder on your computer – it’s a depository for anything that uses that phrase of tag. So, if you’ve just opened up a new coaster called, let’s say Iron Rattler for example, the logical hashtag you’d want to promote is: #ironrattler. Got a halloween event coming up? Why not use #HauntCGA (If it’s Great America for instance) or #KnottsHaunt for the Knott’s Berry Farm’s event.

The whole idea behind hashtags is to get people’s attention, quickly – as well as help people discover content they’re interested in.  That’s what keeps the user engaged and ultimately through your turnstiles. Because so many social networks are adopting this #hashtag feature, it behooves you to understand what they are and how to use them properly for you amusement park:

1.) Keep it simple!

The longer a hashtag, the more often it will be misspelled. In addition, the harder it will be for people to remember. Say you want to promote a specific ride one day. Your park can post “Have you ridden #theplunge today? One lucky rider will receive a backdoor pass after their ride! #YOURPARKNAMEHERE

Then, you can watch the #theplunge tags, even if you don’t have social media management software (which you SHOULD be using, if you’ve read my previous posts HERE).

2.) Make it unique, but relevant!

Say you’ve just opened up a new coaster called, let’s say Iron Rattler. The logical hashtag you’d want to promote is: #ironrattler. Got a halloween event coming up? Why not use #HauntCGA (If it’s Great America for instance) or #KnottsHaunt for the Knott’s Berry Farm’s event. You wouldn’t want someone else to be getting web traffic because of your event / advertising campaign, would you?

Not to be a shameless plug here, but whenever we shoot our “Lost Parks of Northern California” series – we always send out social media updates using the hashtag: #lostparks. Not only is it easy to remember, but it’s also unique in that it wasn’t being used before – therefore all the content using that hashtag is ours.

A logical, simple and relevant hashtag makes search engines (and users) easier to capture.

A logical, simple and relevant hashtag makes search engines (and users) easier to capture.

3.) Do NOT make it long!

Remember that some social networks, such as Twitter – give the user only 140 characters to get your message out. A hashtag like #welcomebackspaceexplorers probably isn’t the best bet. But, breaking them up into two smaller hashtags is a better alternative, say #spacemountain #disneyland for instance.

Stick to these guidelines, and you’ll find your SEO increase as well as your interaction via your social media pages. Just be prepared to actually interact with your users – it is SOCIAL media, after all!

In my next post, I’ll discuss the top ten post ideas you SHOULD be doing at your amusement park, regardless of size.

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Kris Rowberry has been following the amusement industry for over 15 years. He has curated social media accounts for several companies, totaling over 450,000 followers across multiple social channels. In addition, he is working on his latest video project: “The Lost Parks of Northern California”

Check out my other postings about Social Media and the Amusement Park HERE.


Social Media and the Amusement Park: Don’t Take Yelp Lightly

Despite your personal opinion of the site, Yelp.com has become the de facto review source for many users on the internet. The site says that it’s “Real People, Real Reviews,” and with your amusement park being a major business in the area, chances are someone has already reviewed you and / or created a page for your park. So, how do you monitor and work Yelp to your needs? Read on:

1.) Create an officially moderated Yelp business page, then have it verified:

Multiple pages created by guests will only add to the confusion. Clean these up by creating an officially moderated page and contacting Yelp about removing the other ones.

Multiple pages created by guests only add to confusion in search results and SEO. Plus, misinformation will spread faster.

When searching “Six Flags” in the Bay Area, these are the top four results. Note how there’s seemingly multiple accounts for the park, with reviews about the park in each one. This only makes people confused when they’re trying to find you online. True, the more of you out there, the better for SEO – but not in this case.

By creating an official, park moderated page, Yelp will be more inclined to remove errant listings, making it easier for people to find and review you. Plus, it makes it far easier to respond to guests when there’s only one place to go.

2.) Monitor, monitor, MONITOR!

Is this really an accurate review?

Is this really an accurate review? Hardly – so why allow it to sit for others to view?

It should go without saying, but Yelp is yet another place that you need to be monitoring your image online. Just like your Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts, Yelp should be monitored closely to make sure that any reviews placed on it are fair, accurate and not derogatory towards your business.

For example, the posting above – is it really an accurate portrayal of the park? Absolutely NOT! So why then would you allow it to stay up, for others to view 24/7? Yelp also gives you the ability to flag reviews for abuse – which is what this one should have done to it.

At the very least – a post like this should be responded to from the park’s official account with accurate information. 95% of angry guests will be quelled once they see the park responding directly to them. Don’t think of it as damage control – think of it more as an opportunity to make a new sale by bringing a guest back. Who knows – they just might upgrade to a season pass…

3.) When you’re wrong – admit it.

Would you eat at a "C" graded restaurant? How people portray you on Yelp has a major impact on decisions to visit.

Would you eat at a “C” graded restaurant? How people portray you on Yelp has a major impact on decisions to visit.

Look, we’re all human, so we’re not perfect. Mistakes sometimes happen, so it’s up to you to recognize these and make them right wherever possible. But completely ignoring your internet footprint (especially on Yelp) isn’t going to make bad reviews go away.

If a bad review comes in, try to contact the guest first, off of Yelp. Get more information, and then proceed to see what can be done to correct it in the future. Remember that the sooner you contact an angry guest, the better the park looks in their eyes for wanting to assist.

4.) When all else fails, pay Yelp.

Ever wonder why some companies NEVER have a bad review on Yelp? Is it because of the service or business? Maybe. Mot likely, it’s because they pay for those reviews.

You heard right. What most people don’t know, is that companies can actually PAY to look better on Yelp. Yes, call it a shakedown, call it what you will. But the good news – you don’t have to give money to Yelp.

Just by monitoring and responding to reviews through your own company, much as you would with a customer service agent over the phone, or guest service manager would in the park – you’ll see your numbers trend upwards. At the very least, you’ll start getting a better pulse about what your guests are having issues with, and can adapt your business model around it.

Review my prior posts about “Social Media and the Amusement Park” here.

About the Author:

Kris Rowberry has been following the amusement industry for over 15 years. He is the creator and host of both “The Lost Parks of Northern California” and “Great American Thrills®