This is an article I wrote for Resorts & Campgrounds Magazine and appears in their summer 2009 Issue. Due to popular demand, it was reprinted here for those who do not have access to the Magazine. Enjoy!
I grew up lucky enough to have had an annual family trip to some resort or campground every year. If you are the same, you probably have some great old photos. Some might be in albums, some might be framed, but most are probably in a box or bin somewhere, but wherever they are, they capture and represent great memories. There are great tools online these days that allow you to post and share these photos and memories online. 80% of all internet users are posting photos to share online, and 54% of them are posting vacation photos, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project data. 30% of those vacationers are posting to sites and communities connected to the place they went on vacation, if there is a space to post. Disney is great at this for their Camp Wilderness property.
You too can create a space where your visitors can share photos. You can brand your own photo sharing page on many social media photo sharing sites like Flickr, ShutterFly, and Photobucket. These sites can be linked back in to your own website, where potential new visitors can share in the memories and see great pictures of people enjoying your services and amenities. Of the 140 million Americans online, 63% of them are booking their travel destinations online. 53% of them state that their decision to book is based on photos or videos of visitors enjoying the property and amenities. Social media tools allow your guests to share their great times and memories and empower them to build community by connecting to other resort and campground visitors. Other tools like blogs, YouTube, and pages on sites like Facebook allow people to connect and share as well. The common backdrop across all of these sites is your location.
Like any vacation destination in today’s times and economy you must adapt to keep up. In 2008 it was reported that up to 60% of campgrounds and 84% of RV Parks have added WIFI internet access to their list of amenities, whether in the common areas, or available throughout the property. If you offer internet access on location, you can encourage guests to post up photos while still there and even offer prizes for photo contests, to build your online content. All photos posted should be tagged (identified) to include your property name and location to aid in the online search benefits you will receive from posted photos.
More often than not, these social media tools are low to no cost to implement, and can be managed by staff onsite. For best results, you’ll want to invest a bit to ensure that your brand is represented across each of these social media sites which can be handled typically by your web developers or marketing team. Here is a list of tools that any resort or campground owner or manager can use to connect with their customer to convert them to brand evangelists and lifelong customers:
Social Media Tools for Resorts & Campgrounds:
- Make sure your property can be searched and reviewed through local business guides such as Yelp.com, Hotels.com and TripAdvisor.com. Suggest that positive feedback from patrons is shared on these social business guide sites.
- Twitter – sign up for a Twitter account. Use it also as a tool to listen and converse with your customers.
- E-Newsletter – Email a monthly newsletter with the latest happenings, new renovations, additions, or upgrades etc.
- Blog – Customers want to be part of something more than just a onetime trip; they want to feel like they belong. You can set up a blog to allow guests to post their memories and stories.
- Facebook – Set up a Facebook fan page to connect with your customers on Facebook.
- MySpace – If your clientele is the MySpace generation, create a profile page and consistently update it with fresh content.
- YouTube – Incorporate video into your social media strategy.
- The Business Card – Provide a business card or note-card to each customer that visits your property with their receipt that maps out where they can continue their vacation experience online by connecting to you via social media to share memories.
Christopher Lower is the Co-owner of Sterling Cross Communications, a Social Media, Public Relations, & Web Design Firm, that focuses on the Restaurant, Hospitality, Hotel, and Lodging industries. In addition to over 20 years of PR & Marketing experience, Chris worked over eight years in the Hospitality Industry. He can be reached at www.sterlingcrossgroup.com or can be found on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mrchristopherl.