Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a company puts out a call to its fans online, asking if they have any photos or videos of their product they might be able to use at upcoming trade shows.
The fans get the satisfaction of helping their favorite company. Sometimes, they get recognition for the project and some company swag.
Meanwhile, the company gets a life-long license to market and use that image or video to help sell their product(s), which can easily cost in the millions of dollars.
How is that fair?
As a whole, our industry has become too reliant on the kindness of our fans. Asking for free marketing material is reckless, outdated and insulting to professionals in the field.
Were all the subjects in the photo aware they were being photographed commercially? Was everything properly permitted? Were there any releases signed for the photos or video?
If the answer is no to any of these, it could cost you hundreds of lost man-hours in the office and potentially thousands of dollars in unnecessary legal fees.
And who’s to say the work you get back is any good? If they aren’t being paid, what motivation is there to give you their best material?
15-20 years ago, there might have been the argument that allowing a company to use a work, “with attribution” in order to gain exposure would be a good idea.
But with the advent of social media, that model has fundamentally changed. Fans don’t need companies to get famous – they can do it on their own, now.
You would not build a ride for free if someone asked, right? So why then would you ask someone to give you something they worked hard on?
For the cost of one or two Allen Bradley Safety Relays, you can ensure that your company will have powerful and flexible marketing materials for years to come.
Bottom line: fans are a wonderful resource for parks and vendors, but their fandom should never be exploited by the very companies they love the most.
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What do you think? Should companies stop asking fans for free stuff? Or do you think it’s harmless interaction with their fans? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to follow us on our social networks!
July 3, 2019 | Categories: Amusement Parks, Theme Parks | Tags: amusement park, fan content, fan-generated content, great american thrills, kris rowberry, kristopher rowberry, marketing, photos, social media, social media marketing, theme park, videos | Comments Off on No More Free Rides: Companies Need to Stop Asking for Free Marketing from Fans
With no fanfare or any buildup, California’s Great America announced a long-standing rumor that it will convert it’s Vortex roller coaster into a floorless model, dubbed The Patriot.
Now, I’m all for improving the ride experience for any coaster – and certainly Vortex fits the bill for that. But considering that a longer, faster, taller (and better) floorless coaster is an hour’s drive north from Santa Clara – why would they try to market the world’s shortest floorless coaster in the same media market? (An ultra-competitive media market at that).The press release sent out by the park also erroneously claimed that Vortex is the oldest stand-up coaster in the United States (“Apocalypse,” formerly “Iron Wolf” is the oldest at Six Flags America). It also said the ride’s name was inspired by the “All American Corners” section of the park – even though the ride shares no entrance or exit to the area (It’s officially located in Hometown Square).
Don’t get me wrong – this is still a good move by the park. But it’s no slam dunk. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has the upper edge on this ride type with Medusa, so Great America must come with a really good angle to get their message heard.
Looking at the park’s social media feeds, members of the general public aren’t really sold on the idea:For me, the park would have been better off converting the ride into a sit down coaster, such as Kumba, Wildfire or the Incredible Hulk. At least then it would have been unique to the area. But, it’s still a major improvement to a ride that desperately needed it.
Let’s hope the station is also improved, with actual shade and you know – a roof.But the one thing I can’t shake from all this is HOW it was announced. At least when Cedar Point converted Mantis into Rougarou – there was a fun teaser campaign (Squash the bug). You felt like you were a part of the park.
But the way The Patriot was announced this morning came off like a doctor giving you a bad prognosis: “This is coming. You’ve got two weeks. Buy a season pass.”
There’s no emotional connection to an announcement this big when it’s done via press release only. Honestly, I don’t feel compelled to buy a season pass at all. The two errors in the release certainly don’t help, either:Overall though, the general public will welcome this change if it’s marketed well – and my hope is that it will be successful. But it will also be increasingly difficult to get the right message across – an emotional one – if the park does not connect better with the fans in the future.
What do you think of The Patriot? Leave a comment below with your thoughts!
August 18, 2016 | Categories: Amusement Parks, Theme Parks | Tags: california's great america, Cedar Point, communications, floorless, great america, great american thrills, kris rowberry, kristopher rowberry, marketing, press release, roller coaster, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, social media, stand up, The Patriot, Vortex | 5 Comments
They say “What goes around, comes around,” and in the case of the new Dare Devil Chaos opening at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom next year, that’s quite appropriate.
According to the park, “Dare Devil Chaos is a single looping thrill ride that builds anticipation as riders seated back to back travel backwards and forwards until momentum takes them at top speed revolutions, only to stop upside down at 70 feet high and reverse direction.”
They add, “The new ride brings the number of ‘coasters’ at the park to nine along with Medusa, Roar, V2, Kong, Boomerang, Cobra, Road Runner Express and SUPERMAN Ultimate Flight. Dare Devil is expected to open in spring 2015.”
Now, I put the word “coaster” in quotations because there is some controversy with the way these rides are being marketed. Many in the industry are saying that while Six Flags is marketing these attractions as roller coasters – they are in fact, not. While the manufacturer’s website claims their “Super Loop 22m” is a “compact coaster,” experts in the industry are vehement in their opposition to the marketing:
“In perhaps the most disappointing announcement for the 2015 season, four Six Flags parks are to install pendulum style thrill rides typically associated with traveling carnivals and county fairs. Adding insult to injury, Six Flags is intentionally misrepresenting these rides as roller coasters.”
– Brady MacDonald, Los Angeles Times
“For the record, I applaud Six Flags for trying to finally add more flat rides, but don’t lie to people and promote them as coasters.”
– Lance Hart, Screamscape.com
For comparison, Elitch Gardens – the first park to install this new model of thrill ride in the United States – does not market their model (identical to the four going into Six Flags parks next year) as a roller coaster:
“Lose your mind on Brain Drain, the All-New 7-story steel looping thrill ride that sends riders forwards, backwards and head-over-heels in an adrenaline drenched 360° revolution.”
While these rides are definitely fun and have the ability to be intertwined with others (imagine a ride passing through the loop) they’re constantly powered by drive tires and don’t actually travel on a track, the “train” is attached to one giant conveyor belt loop that’s ingeniously nestled inside the larger, outside loop.
If the ride looks familiar to you, it should. It’s a larger, permanent installation of the “Ring of Fire” attractions seen at carnivals around the world, from Larson International. Although, these permanent models lack the guy wires – they’re still quite thrilling.Just expect to wait for those thrills – hourly capacity is expected to be around 500 – 600 people per hour.
“This is a great new addition to our line-up of world class rides and attractions, and is sure to be fun for all,” said Don McCoy, park president. “What appears to be a simple track is really complex and riders will have a great time anticipating the inversion they know is coming.”
The announcement, part of a coordinated, chain-wide event for all the other Six Flags parks, coincides with the biggest season pass sale of the year.
What are your thoughts? Tell us in the comments section below, or reach out to us on social media!
August 29, 2014 | Categories: Amusement Parks, Theme Parks | Tags: Brady MacDonald, carnival, carnival ride, county fair, flat ride, great american thrills, Is It a Roller Coaster? Roller Coaster, kris rowberry, kristopher rowberry, L.A. Times Funland, Lance Hart, Larson International, Los Angeles Times, marketing, roller coaster controversey, screamscape, six flags, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, six flags marine world, Super Loop | 2 Comments
#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.
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.
August 19, 2013 | Categories: Amusement Parks, Social Media, Social Media and your Amusement Park (SERIES), Theme Parks | Tags: amusement park, amusement park review, amusement parks, facebook, family entertainment center, family entertainment centers, FEC, funworld, g+, gat, google plus, google+, great american thrills, IAAPA, instagram, kris rowberry, kristopher rowberry, marketing, marketing strategies, marketing strategy, roller coaster, roller ocasters, social accounts, social media, social media ideas, social media ideas for amusement parks, theme park, theme park review, theme parks, thrill rides, twitter | Comments Off on #Hashtag Etiquette – Social Media and Your Amusement Park
Continuing my series on how social media can be used more effectively at amusement parks / FEC’s – just how many times should you be posting to your social media accounts on a daily basis?
Some experts feel that the higher quality the post, the less often you have to post it, while others feel that with all the filtering being done online, the more often you post, the better chances you have of actually being seen and / or heard.
The New York Times – arguably the most respected news source in the country – posts on average, seven to eight times per day. As much as you’d like to think your attraction has that much to tell the world – it simply doesn’t.*
Posting even HALF that often is enough to turn off your potential viewers. Yes, you are being filtered by Facebook and the new algorithm – but it’s not worth over-posting if most of your “likes” are going to mute your posts or worse, mark them all as spam.
If RollerCoasterTycoon had a social media option, I’d be posting a maximum of three times a day while open, once a day when closed.
Post #1: Morning, Before Opening
Post #2: Midday
Post #3: End of Operating Day
Rotate the timing of each of these posts (i.e. Don’t post a funny / cool photo each day at 3:00pm, spice it up a little).
It should go without saying, but you simply MUST be scheduling posts – to try and keep up with each post each day will ultimately drive you nuts. To assist in keeping your sanity, a scheduling software solution, such as TweetDeck or HootSuite is an absolute must! (I’ll be going into more detail on how to use HootSuite with my #Hashtag post soon)
Also to help with keeping up with your quota – consider “banking” photos over your operating season, as well – if you can’t find anything interesting to post about one day, use one of those banked photos.
Remember that while rides are fun, most people visit parks to enjoy the fun WITH OTHERS. Highlighting unique groups in your attraction, big game winners and specific attractions is sure to bring in more views (plus more turnstiles rotating).
Fan submitted photos are also a great (and often overlooked) way to have your social media content create itself. But, as I said in my first posting on this series – never forget that the entire purpose of social media is NOT to sell to your followers directly – it’s to start a conversation and interact with them.
Once you throw up an update, be prepared to interact with people. “Like Bait,” as it’s known, has a place on Facebook, but it will never convert those eyeballs to your turnstiles unless they can feel a connection to your attraction. For instance, posting a cool photo of your roller coaster may get 1,000 likes, but people will also ask questions, too. Each one of those questions is an opportunity to connect (and THEN sell your product to them AND all their friends).
If you’re a seasonal park, take advantage of the off-season to show all the transformative work going on behind-the-scenes. Just be aware that trying to sell a season pass in the middle of the winter with a photo of a dry waterslide probably isn’t going to go very viral. However, a video of employees sliding down said slide in a bathing suit – in the snow, now THAT’S different!)
If you’re shooting your own photos to post on Facebook, Twitter and / or Google+ (and you should be) and you’re using a DSLR (i.e. NOT a cell phone camera) adding a watermark with your website or hashtag is absolutely necessary. People will inevitably share quality or memorable photos – and with watermarked information on them, your logo and website will be sitting right there in front of all those shares for consumption.
Which one of these social media update photos would YOU want to be saved as a follower’s new computer background? (Airship Ventures, 2007 – 2012)
So, don’t fill guests (or potential guests) feeds, walls or updates with tons of info, photos and sales pitches – just nurture them. There’s no reason to go crazy and post 15 Instagram shots of your newest ride. You’ll see your following grow and ultimately see more butts through the turnstiles.
In my next article, I’ll be talking about #hashtags – what are they? How can you use them to promote your attraction / FEC?
*The only exception to this rule is when your attraction is facing a crisis situation or dangerous weather conditions.
Review my prior posts about “Social Media and the Amusement Park” here.
About the Author:
June 19, 2013 | Categories: Amusement Parks, Social Media, Social Media and your Amusement Park (SERIES), Theme Parks | Tags: amusement park, amusement park review, amusement parks, facebook, family entertainment center, family entertainment centers, FEC, funworld, g+, gat, google plus, google+, great american thrills, IAAPA, instagram, kris rowberry, kristopher rowberry, marketing, marketing strategies, marketing strategy, roller coaster, roller ocasters, social accounts, social media, social media ideas, social media ideas for amusement parks, theme park, theme park review, theme parks, thrill rides, twitter | 1 Comment
Arguably, the biggest change in terms of marketing in the past decade has to be the meteoric rise of social media.
In the past (referred to as web 1.0), parks and attractions had fan pages or message boards that covered daily events or changes. In some cases, these outlets also promoted the park in a positive light, but that wasn’t always guaranteed.
Today (in web 2.0), parks now have the ability to schedule and control messages to potential and repeat customers on an ongoing, daily basis. Even the best television campaign could not reach such a targeted audience.
But, being relatively new to the game, many parks don’t quite understand how to use social media properly to benefit them. Sadly, in many cases, parks are shooting themselves in the digital foot.
So how then can your park or attraction avoid the most common pitfalls of social media?
1.) Social media means just that – BE SOCIAL!
The point of social media is to start (or maintain) a conversation. Whether it’s between you and your customers, or your customers and potential customers – once a story or idea starts online it can quickly lead to revenue, if it gains enough traction and virality.
However, simply throwing up a daily update on something cool about the park is not going to reach most of your audience. Just because you have 50,000 likes on Facebook, does not mean all 50,000 are seeing your post.
Not everyone enjoys pretty pictures – some are more engaged with a “What’s this Part” or “Flashback Friday” post. Create a weekly checklist of specific post types so that you can reach a greater majority of your online audience.
2.) Always promoting an item or product is social media poison.
Yes, we’re all looking for a quick return on investment, but consider this: If you throw away junk mail whenever it comes in your mailbox at home, why wouldn’t you do the same if presented with the same situation on your social media channels?
While a thinly veiled call to action is okay every now and then, it’s not good to fill your feed up with “BUY THIS!” in each and every post you put out. Simply put, lose the 1960’s “Mad Men” advertising jargon that we all have had been beaten into our heads over our lives, and be more, “real.”
That being said, don’t forget that your social media posts are a major (and instant) public-facing outlet that has the potential to reach millions if something goes awry.
Simply put, social media is not something you assign your seasonal marketing intern as a fun project. It should be a full-time position, as it can actually keep your audience engaged (and spending money) even in the off-seasons.
3.) While your park or attraction may close for the night, your social media feeds don’t.
Remember that the internet is on 24/7/365. While a majority of posts are made between 8:00am and 8:00pm, that can change depending on your audience and operating hours. Responding to posts, both good and bad, in a timely manner can mean the difference between closing a sale and losing a customer for life.
In addition, the larger your social media audience becomes, the more susceptible you become to nefarious postings, such as links to pornography on your public facing wall or feed. The faster you can pull them down, the less people will have seen it.
4.) Negative feedback on your social media feed is an opportunity, not blight.
The absolute, worst behavior a park could do when managing negative feedback on social media is to simply ignore it. There are very limited circumstances where a deleted comment or all-out ban from the page could be necessary, but if managed properly, these situations are rare.
Nothing will make an angry guest feel better than to know that someone is listening or trying to rectify the situation. Even if it’s simply re-iterating a policy that the guest does not agree with, it’s still better to show the effort to others on the feed than to delete it or worse, ignore it altogether.
5.) Stir (and track) conversation with park centric hash tags, but don’t make it too complicated
Remember the old “Kodak Photo Spot” in your park? Hash tags are the new photo spot. Create a simple one to see what people are doing and saying in your park, along with mentions of things that people may talk about, such as new attractions.
Because you’ll be tracking mentions and hash tags, you’ll quickly discover that a good majority of your social media content literally writes or creates itself. You can share guest photos, positive experiences and interact directly with them. I guarantee they’ll want to share with all their friends and family that, “…’So and So Park’ re-tweeted my pic!” That’s social media at work.
6.) Use cell phone photos only when absolutely necessary – have a DSLR with you.
Cell phone cameras are convenient, yes – but they have limitations in terms of quality. While it’s easy to post an update from inside your park via phone, try to resist. A higher quality photo – from a SLR style camera – will allow you to add logo watermarks back in the office. A higher quality photo will also encourage people to save it on their desktop or share it with others – where it will always be in front of them at work, home or their mobile device. And your logo is right there next to it.
Shares and re-tweets, however can be cell phone shots – as these are directly from guests. A higher quality photo automatically sets the parks’ content above the guests, so it becomes more recognizable.
7.) Use the outlets that work the best for your skill and for your park.
While it’s not a bad idea to get your feet in the water on as many of the popular social networks as possible – beware that they all have different audiences and content requirements. Google+ tends to be a more educated, affluent crowd. Instagram requires only photos, while Pinterest is weighted heavily towards women.
Don’t try to overreach when you first start off – go with the outlets that make most sense to you and your audience. Once you’re comfortable, slowly begin to expand. Sometimes too much of a good thing is well, too much!
Review my prior posts about “Social Media and the Amusement Park” here.
About the Author:
May 31, 2013 | Categories: Amusement Parks, Social Media, Social Media and your Amusement Park (SERIES), Theme Parks | Tags: 6 flags, amusement park, amusement park review, amusement parks, best practices, business of fun, cedar fair, Cedar Point, dca today, disneyland today, DLR, gat, great american thrills, kris rowberry, kristopher rowberry, marketing, media strategy, opinion, public relations, six flags, social media, the business of fun, the next huell howser, theme park, theme park review, theme parks | 4 Comments