Resorts Find Maximum Utility in Social Media

•July 17, 2010 • 2 Comments

As I’ve mentioned and explored in my previous entries, the snowboard and Xsport industries are experimenting and utilizing social media – there’s room for improvement, but social media strategy is something relatively new in the business world.  Resorts on the other hand, seem to have a pretty strong grasp on social media technology and optimal utilization.  I’ve checked out a handful of resorts from across the country and will give an overview and analysis of their social media presence in this post.

First off, resorts have been using the internet for quite a few years now as a significant source of sales, especially since visitors travel from all over to stay and play.  This venture into the world of internet sales and marketing may not have been by choice for all of the resorts, but it is vital for staying in competition with the others.  All of this practice in the pre-web2.0 era has turned resorts into effective online communicators.

Resorts which may get their heaviest traffic during the winter also use social media to promote summer events and activities.  Many resorts have a wide variety of warm weather activities that people aren’t aware of.  These activities include: water parks, zip-lines, mountain biking, hiking, golf, spas, etc.  If promoted correctly, these activities can bring in a great source of revenue during the warmer months.  Facebook and Twitter provide a perfect outlet for promotion of summer activities.  People who “like” your page or follow your Twitter feed for winter activities can learn about what your resort has to offer during the summer without having to physically visit your homepage and search for it.

The first resort whose social media strategy I examined was that of my local mountain, Massanutten.  Being only 20 minutes away from where I go to school, it is extremely convenient to visit 4, 5, or even 6 times a week, even when class is in session.  Massanutten’s homepage has button links to their Facebook and Twitter accounts in a very visible location in the top right corner, above the search bar.  They frequently send out tweets and status updates and also respond quickly to questions and comments.  Massanutten has nearly 8,000 Facebook fans while just under 550 Twitter followers.  Many of the participants in activities at the resorts are in the young adult (18-24) demographic, which has been a slow growing population on Twitter, but it’s hard to attribute the smaller following on Twitter strictly to this.  Facebook is a much more dynamic and media rich environment, which is ideal for publicizing a resort like Massanutten.  Consumer generated media (CGM), such as video and photos, are a unique feature of the Facebook page, and the resort actually encourages visitors to upload their media.  Massanutten also offers the ability to have their Tweets sent to a user’s RSS feed, further increasing the reach of their social media campaign.

Massanutten Trail Map

Venturing west, I chose to look at a very popular destination for boarders and skiers, Breckenridge Resort, in Colorado.  It’s a much larger and more well known resort than Massanutten, and is in prime-time real estate for a ski resort.  Colorado’s “14’ers” (mountains with peaks higher than 14,000 feet) are ideal for snow sports as they get tons of fresh powder each year.  Breckenridge, as to be expected, has a more substantial social media presence than Massanutten when it comes to shear numbers.  That’s not to say they do it better, they are just a larger and more well-known resort.  Facebook fans are nearly 18,000 in number while Twitter follows are nearing 5,000.  That’s a much closer ratio (roughly 3.6:1 Facebook:Twitter) in comparison to Massanutten who has a Facebook following approximately 15 times the size of their Twitter followers.  Breckenridge uses Facebook to facilitate its Twitter account.  There is a tab on the Facebook page where you can see their Twitter feed.  On this tab you can also suggest your Facebook friends become fans of Breckenridge on Facebook & Twitter.  Pretty neat strategy that enables your existing fans to promote the resort for you.  Breckenridge posts regularly about their events, but Massanutten takes the cake when it comes to responding to comments and questions.  This is one area where Breckenridge could improve their social media strategy and improve relations with the online community.

Breckenridge's significantly larger trail map, in comparison to Massanutten

A third resort I chose to examine was Mammoth Mountain Resort in California.  They have a huge Facebook following with over 35,500 fans, and nearly 300 user-uploaded photos.  Mammoth frequently updates the page with event and activity notices, and images from such events.  They also do a better job of interacting with user comments and questions in comparison to Breckenridge.  Mammoth’s Twitter page has over 4,500 followers, so again we’re seeing a significantly larger community on Facebook for a resort.  Again, reasons for this include the demographics of the primary audience as well as Facebook’s multimedia capabilities.  Mammoth primarily uploads video to their YouTube channel and have nearly 150,000 views on video they have uploaded.  Mammoth links all of their social media sites with buttons on their homepage, as well as the Facebook page.  This massive resort also maintains a frequently updated blog with photos and event info, although it is not nearly as popular as the Facebook page.

Mammoth Mountain Trail Map

Plenty of other resorts including SnowShoe, Seven Springs and Park City, amongst many others, are utilizing social media effectively.  The resort industry is perfect for social media tools as they are able to cut down on advertising costs and reach out to specific communities in a more personal manner.  Event and activity promotion is also a great use of social media, and it’s something the resort industry has embraced.  Overall the resort business has been able to incorporate a social media strategy into their marketing and advertising better than the other sectors in the snow/Xsports world.

SIA SnowShow hits Web2.0

•July 14, 2010 • 2 Comments

SnowSports Industries America (SIA) came into existence in 1954 and is a nonprofit organization that works in conjunction with all realms of the snow sport industry, including manufacturers, reps, retailers and resorts.  Each year, the organization hosts an enormous four day event in Denver Colorado (prior to 2009 Las Vegas, NV) called the SIA SnowShow, where all of these groups get together to promote, test, distribute and talk about the coming year’s product lines.  It’s an event in the snow sport industry like no other.  So how do they get everyone in the industry coordinated on this event?

(Friend, SMAD alum, and fellow Function 4 employee Pierce Hodges appears at the 16 and 30 second marks!)

Aside from its long existence and stellar reputation, SIA has begun implementing social media campaigns just like so many of the players in the industry.  They have well maintained and frequently updated Facebook and Twitter accounts.  They also have a YouTube channel where you can check out video of the SnowShow event and find out what you missed if you couldn’t attend.  These videos are an amazing resource when it comes to promotion of product lines.  Users can simply watch the video and get the quick facts on whatever products are featured in it.  They assist potential buyers in decision making as well as reminding them of key product details.  On their home page, SIA has logo buttons to link users to these media outlets.

In addition to these common media outlets and SIA’s homepage, they also have a site strictly dedicated to the SnowShow.  Pertinent information such as dates, scheduling, lodging and other vital resources are readily available on this sub-site.  Also, potential exhibitors can gather information to determine what they need to do to have their products and representatives present at the show.  This site simplifies these tasks that in the past could have been painstakingly difficult to achieve without the one-stop location available.

The above mentioned features are common in today’s business world.  SIA, for its 2010 show took a step to further simplify and create a better atmosphere – they created an iPhone app which helps in managing your time and schedule.  It contains the exhibit map as well as GPS tracking to easily navigate around the show, which without a map can be very confusing, with over 3,000 booths set up by the retailers.  It also allows users to manage appointments and take brief notes about who the meeting is set up with, etc.  The event is only four days long so it’s crucial to set a schedule in

SIA Map

2010 SIA Booth Layout

advance and to be able to edit it on the fly.  The app also receives event alerts to keep everybody informed in a timely manner.  In the future I expect to see some sort of interface that allows SnowShow attendees, such as manufacturers and retailers, to easily communicate brief messages with one another through the application.  There’s a lot of potential growth of the app, as it was just rolled out for the first time this past January.

SIA’s website also acts as an aggregate of snow sport press releases.  They have their own news which they release on the site, but they also keep an updated list of the press releases from snow sport companies.  The amount of information available through the press release section is incredible and a great way to find out the latest industry news.

Overall, SIA is a great partner and advocate of the snow industry.  It has facilitated growth and progression for the past 6 decades and is going as strong as ever with its social media campaign.  Communication is key in the business side of the snow sport industry and social media is only going to improve it.  Well, only 197 days until the 2011 show!! See you there.

Shayboarder: One of a Kind

•July 11, 2010 • 3 Comments
Shayboarder

Shayboarder in Action

Shannon Johnson, is really one-of-a-kind.  As she says on her site, she’s the one-woman machine that produces the snowboard blog known as Shayboarder.  It’s a great blog that provides all sorts of material for its audience including product reviews, a “shred journal,” event recaps and photos.

As I’ve pointed out in my past two entries, blogs provide a great medium for business to promote their ventures; it’s also a great way for passionate individuals to produce a compilation of information, photos and video to share with the world.  And that’s exactly what Shannon is doing with her masterpiece, Shayboarder.  She’s garnered a large following over the years and does a great job of helping her audience promote herself through links to RSS, Facebook and Twitter, a common practice we’re seeing in the blogosphere.

One of the best features of the site is her product reviews.  She provides a sorted list of goods, broken down by model year as well as the product type, such as snowboard, bindings and various other goods.  It’s always interesting to get a fresh take on products in an honestly written review.  For the 2009-2010 season alone, she has over 50 snowboard reviews!  These reviews are almost all substantial and she obviously knows what she’s talking about with that much experience and that many reviews for on season alone.

As I mentioned in my last post, the snowboarding community is one that is tightly knit and her blog proves this, with the large amount of followers she has as well as the amount of comments she receives.  Obviously she has had a lot of practice with blogging and goes by the book when it comes to creating a large and loyal fan base.  Her frequent posts and unique insight give people reason to visit her blog often and on a regular basis.  She’s also a female blogger which gives girls looking for information on women’s boarding gear a great outlet to come to.

Furthering her credibility, Shannon has received awards and recognition from Snowboarder Magazine, the Denver Westward Newspaper and ESPN.  In her media kit she gives quotes from recognizable people in the industry, including representatives from many snowboarding companies, that clearly show her brilliance as the mind behind Shayboarder.  A videos section would be an area where she could improve and add additional content but nobody is perfect.  It’ll be interesting to see if other credible female-driven blogs pop up in the future, based on the inspiration Shannon has provided through hers.  In essence, however, she’s developed a magnificent blog that has been extremely successful and has no limits.

From Magazine to Mega-Blog

•July 11, 2010 • 2 Comments

Transworld Snowboarding is a Magazine that has been in publication since 1987.  It is the most widely read snowboard magazine, edging out Snowboarder Magazine by a few hundred thousand.  It’s no longer just a magazine anymore though.  It’s a full-blown, media rich WordPress blog.  Who wants to flip through static pages of a magazine when they can see their favorite snowboarders in action at the click of the mouse.  Although the magazine is still in publication, the blog draws a lot of viewers and surely assists in the overall success of the company, which includes other magazines of Xsports such as skating, surfing, etc.

So why WordPress?

WordPress is a great tool for businesses such as Transworld Snowboarding.  It has millions of blogs and tons of active users from which Transworld can draw from.  When a registered WordPress user visits any of Transworld’s sites, they can automatically comment on videos and other media through their WordPress account.  This is great so people who want to interact don’t have to go through the age-old and time consuming process of signing up for an account, verifying through e-mail, etc.  They also aren’t forced to remember another log in and password, which is beneficial so that users can easily come back to the site and interact.

Aside from easily allowing users to interact, the blog provides a great compliment to the magazine which is only published 10 times annually.  The magazine also has limitations that the internet provides simple solutions to these issues.  For example, prior to the blog, if Transworld wanted to provide video footage for its subscribers it would have to do so through expensive to make and ship DVDs.  With the blog, they can simply upload videos and trailers to the internet and not have to worry about excessive costs and whether or not they are worthwhile.

Transworld Photo

The blog also allows a stronger, more tight knit community to develop.  The snowboard community is one that thrives on interaction and word of mouth, and Transworld’s blog furthers the ability to interact.  Frequent video and photo uploads are great for creating discussion as well as showing off skills.  Transworld’s blog even has a “How To” section where they post trick tips, guides on fixing and maintaining your snowboard.  There’s even a guide that shows how to create a Split Board from your old snowboard, how cool.

In summary, Transworld Snowboard is giving itself a huge boost by maintaining a great WordPress blog that is extremely interesting and interactive.  The company has been credible in the Xsports industry for a long time but is taking the community aspect to a whole new level with web2.0 tools.

Lib Technologies Hits the Blogosphere

•July 11, 2010 • 3 Comments

Blogs can provide a variety of value to companies when used correctly.  They can improve visibility on search engines such as Google.  Linking in blogs can also enable people to cross your company’s path even when not strictly looking for it.  They enable less technically-capable people and organizations to easily create a web presence without having to pay somebody to code a web page.  Additionally, blogs provide a great platform to host multimedia such as videos and photos, two things which are increasingly popular for consumers. Blogs also allow companies to create and maintain relationships with their stakeholders.  All of these things provide value so why don’t all companies have a blog?  Well, some most likely don’t understand the simplicity and benefits they provide, but many companies in the snowboard industry are opening their eyes and taking advantage of blogging.

Lib Technologies, commonly known as Lib Tech, is utilizing its blog to the fullest.  They are a part of a larger company known as Mervin Manufacturing, which also manufactures GNU products and are commonly known for their creative innovations in the snowboard, ski, and skate industries.  Technologies such as Banana Traction (BTX) and Magne-traction (MTX).  They tend to be more expensive boards than your standard board but all of their products are handcrafted in the US and are produced with eco-friendly products.  Anyone who has used their products can vouch for the company’s brilliance.

Okay, so we know who Lib Tech is now, but what are they doing in the blogosphere?  I’m glad you asked.  Lib Tech’s website is actually a blog!  It’s hard to tell at first glance but it’s laid out with exact blog standards.  Users are enabled to comment on whatever they see, there is a reverse chronological order to the successive posts, and they also promote viewers to share all of the posts with icons for Twitter, RSS and the like.

Lib Tech does a fantastic job with utilizing the page to the  max.  In the prime real estate they have rotating images that promote the latest news, videos and even their artists.  Unlike other companies Lib Tech makes it very clear who does their art which definitely boosts morale amongst the artists.  They even have an artist page with pictures, bios and additional facts about their artists.  Well, some of their artists are a pretty well known for things such as snowboarding as well, including the legendary Jamie Lynn.

Jamie Lynn

Snowboard Legend and Lib Tech Artist Jamie Lynn

Aside from promoting their people they also promote their products with navigation to their snowboards, skateboards and NAS (skis, but they call them Narrow Ass Snowboards).  Under these drop-down menus in the navigation they include facts about their technology, apparel, and accessories.  Although you can’t buy the products directly from the site, they have a shop page that directs you to all of their online retailers’ websites.  A final aspect that makes this blog effective is the videos section.  It enables users to go to one spot for all the videos they have posted in previous blog posts that may not appear on the front page due to more recent posts.  People love video and snowboarding is a great sport for video footage.  It also allows them to promote their professional riders such as Mark “Lando” Landvik and Travis Rice.

Overall, this blog has created more internet presence for a great company and was easier and cheaper than creating a site from scratch.  It can also be maintained by a less tech savvy person which makes it easy to frequently update.  Other companies, including upstart YES Snowboards are taking advantage of the super cheap and easy to produce blog.

YouTube: a Snowboarder’s Dream

•July 4, 2010 • 2 Comments

YouTube, like Facebook, is a social media giant that hosts millions of user-created and uploaded videos.  YouTube claims to show a whopping 2 billion videos a day to the online community and that users upload 24 hours of video every minute!  It also allows people to comment, share, and make video responses to posted videos.  Sounds like a great platform for sharing your own snowboard videos and browsing others doesn’t it?

A simple “snowboard” query in the YouTube search box will yield approximately 316,000 videos!  These videos range from professional clips and trailers of full-length snowboard films, to someone’s first day on the mountain.  Other videos will include product reviews, trick tips, and gnarly wreck compilations.  This ability to share video so easily is great for the snowboarding industry and its participants.  Instead of only finding snowboard video at your local ski shop with a large price tag on it, a simple trip to YouTube can cure the problem, only costing about 10 seconds of your time to watch an ad.

Funding a full-fledged, professional snowboard video can cost a ton of money, but with the camcorder and YouTube’s convenience, anyone can create and edit their snowboarding film and share it with the world.  This opens up the opportunity for people to promote themselves and their abilities as well as advance their skill.  With the huge quantity of online videos we’re seeing a progression in snowboarding.  People are learning and trying new tricks as well as using other peoples ideas and furthering them based on what they see in videos online.  An example of this is the recently released video of the first “triple-cork” ever done, by Torstein Horgmo.  Pretty amazing.  Aside from that single example, it’s evident by just taking a look at the overall level of competition in the snowboard world today.

Even I’ve uploaded a simple video to YouTube of me snowboarding.  It was more of a test with a short amount of footage I had rather than anything flashy or “groundbreaking.”  It’s pretty tough to follow up that triple-cork by Horgmo, but the video I uploaded is me doing a few simple straight airs and can be found here.  In the future I look to get some better, more interesting footage and upload a series of videos and hopefully draw a following using the techniques learned in this class (I intentionally didn’t for the first video due to it’s simplicity).

Overall, YouTube is bringing the ability to release snowboard (as well as any Xsport) video done on a personal scale to an enormous audience.  It’s a phenomenon we will see evolve and grow rapidly and may begin to see more professionally created video marketed through YouTube.  The first example of that is STANCE, a full length, professional film on women snowboarders that has been released on the internet for free, despite the enormous costs to make it.  It will be interesting to see if others follow in this film’s tracks or if it ends up being unique in the sense of its free release.

The Snowboard Industry’s Presence on Facebook

•July 4, 2010 • 2 Comments

Since it’s arrival to the web in 2004, Facebook has become one of the most trafficked websites in the world, with over 400 million active users (defined as users who have logged on at least once in the past 30 days).  It has become a resource many business owners have embraced and taken advantage of.  Megan Clarken from The Nielsen Company, which monitors consumers world-wide, recently said “businesses can no longer afford to simply observe the social media phenomenon, they need to embrace it.”  And that is exactly what we’re seeing, and the snowboard industry is no exception.  The presence of snowboard companies, riders, merchants and resorts is increasing on social media sites, like Facebook, by the day.

Ride Snowboards: Ahead of the Game

Ride Snowboards, one of the industry leaders has a strong presence on Facebook, unrivaled by any of the other big manufacturers.  The Ride Facebook page acts as a mini-storefront that links to their official website.  Users can browse their products directly on the Facebook page through the “Ride More” application which also resembles their official website.

In addition to making their Facebook page into a gateway to their online store, Ride has a company representative who frequently updates the Facebook account with news, events, and other bits of information to keep its followers engaged.  Between June 27th and June 30th Ride posted 7 updates to the Facebook account as well as responded to its fan’s comments on the page.  Currently the Ride Facebook page is “liked” by 24,224 people, many of which who contribute product reviews and the like.  These product reviews can be extremely valuable to Ride as the online community puts great value into its fellow member’s reviews.  In addition to the reviews, there has been over 30 videos and nearly 500 pictures uploaded by the Facebook users to the page.  Almost all of these videos and pictures are people using Ride products, which is another great way the Facebook page engages and promotes.

K2 Snowboarding is Ride’s sister company, with mutual ownership, and does a good job with its Facebook page as well.  Like Ride, they have a representative that keeps its followers up to date with frequent posts regarding events, contests and more.  K2, however, is lacking the interactive storefront on the Facebook page and has about half as many followers, user-uploaded videos, and about a third of user-uploaded photos in comparison to Ride.  Having worked in a snowboard shop named Function 4 Sports in Harrisonburg, Virginia, this past winter, I can safely say that Ride is not twice as popular or purchased as K2. So why then does Ride have twice as many friends on Facebook?  I would attribute this to the extra features and interactivity the Ride site provides.

User uploaded image

A user-uploaded image of a Ride Snowboard in action, to the Ride Facebook page.

What About the Other Guys?

Although Ride has K2 doubled on its Facebook page, K2 is still doing well in comparison to the rest of the snowboard manufacturing industry, in terms of Facebook presence.  Even the industry leader, Burton, lacks an official Facebook page.  They, on the other hand, have opted to have their official online community directly on their website.  They allow similar interaction as you may see on Facebook but require you register for an account to interact.  This may turn away potential users who do not wish to spend the time to register, whereas on Facebook they probably already have an account.  Burton also loses the 400+ million people already on Facebook.

While Burton may be missing out, it’s not killing them, as they have been the head of snowboard manufacturing industry as long as it has existed.  Other smaller companies, however, are making their presence seen on Facebook.  Companies such as Lib Technologies, Gnu, Union Binding Company, Forum Snowboards amongst others are using Facebook as a source of free advertising, marketing, and public relations.  Facebook has become a great tool to spread buzz and develop a loyal fan base, and is allowing the smaller guys to compete with the juggernauts of the industry.