series

Google Places logo

Social Networks for Ski Resort – Google Places

Google Places logoLooking back, it’s been a long time since I’ve added an update to the ongoing Social Networks for Ski Resort series, so with all the Google+ buzz going on, I decided to veer off and review Google Places.

If you don’t know what it is, Google Places is “local rating and review feature” and is also a way for businesses to have some control of how they appear in Google Maps, and has been around in an evolving form for some time. It got a social component added in towards the end of last year in the form of what was then called Hotpots which is now completely integrated into Places. Google Places is also undergoing some changes in terms of how content is aggregated to a businesses’ Places page. In a recent post of Google’s Lat Long Blog, it is explained that Google will now only include Google user reviews in the Places listings as well as making it easier for Google users to add their reviews.

Of course one of the most important reasons to ensure that your business has an updated and fully filled out Google Places profile is the fact that Google serves up the places data using geo-location tagging to huge numbers of mobile users, over 150 million as of last March, and growing incredibly fast when you consider this:

There are now over 500,000 Android devices activated every day, and it's growing at 4.4% w/w
@Arubin
Andy Rubin

So without the 4.4% w/w  increase that Mr Rubin notes, in the approximate 4 weeks since then, Google has added 14 million additional Android users. Android’s maps integration has only gotten tighter and tighter with each update.

This evolution and in some respects cleaning up of Google Places leads me to think, and also have some hope, that Google is looking to use existing Places pages as a way to bring brands into Google+. I don’t know that is indeed in the roadmap, but I believe it could solve a number of issues that I’m seeing on Facebook Pages – notably a lack of consistency and an incredible number of duplicate pages. Google+ though is just a part of why a ski resort needs to be vigilant with keeping their Google Places profile up to date. Have you updated your Google Places page recently and even more importantly, have you claimed it?!

Interesting Things From #Mrktchat Participants #1

I’ve been tossing this idea around a bit and have decided to kick it off this week. It’s a listing of topics, links, items, etc that have been posted by #Mrktchat participants over the prior week or so. I don’t think I’ll have this as a weekly update, more like somewhere between a weekly to maybe monthly series. So without further ado, here’s the first list:

Please feel free to add any good “#Mrkchat Interesting Things” that I may have missed in the comments below.

110114-linkedin

Social Networks for Ski Resorts – LinkedIn

This is another post in the ongoing series on “Social Networks for Ski Resorts“. I have to say that this series is actually getting more fun to write as I check off the more obvious social networks and delve into ways to leverage networks that aren’t in the news media daily or don’t seem logical to “link” to a ski resort (yeah, bad pun, I know). So without further pathetic attempts at humor, here are some thoughts on LinkedIn…and it’s 90 million members in over 200 countries.

The clear opportunity for a ski resort with LinkedIn is to use it as a recruiting tool. Most resorts probably won’t look to recruit ski & snowboard instructors, ski patrollers or lift operators using LinkedIn, certainly wouldn’t hurt to try, but it’s a fantastic resource for recruiting more business savvy candidates in middle or upper management. It can also serve as a great way to introduce a resort to perspective employees via LinkedIn’s “company” profile page via which people can see recent “news” blog posts and even peruse current and new employees.

The recruiting angle is easy, but what about groups? There are groups groups with people eager to share their knowledge in a wide variety of topics, including:

Don’t be bashful, ask to be a member and you’ll surely be invited in.

And yes, I  admit it, I’m not a power LinkedIn user, so I’m sure that these ideas are probably just scratching the surface for what options exist for ski resorts to promote and network on LinkedIn, what other ideas do you have? Please let us know in the comments!

Gears and wheels

How to Blog More Industriously (or at Least Make it Appear That Way) part 2/2

Gears and wheelsIn part one of “How to Blog More Industriously (or at Least Make it Appear That Way)”, I describe a number of tools that I’ve found helpful to keep a blog full of content and now I’d like to share some of the tools I use to come up and keep content ideas handy – basically, how to keep things linked together. First and foremost, I do a lot of social bookmarking to help me remember topics that I read about that I think I might want to blog about eventually. I’ve used Delicious for years, but have been recently been testing out diigo as a bookmark tools with some more depth. I also use Google Reader as a social bookmark tool too, but find that it’s much more fitted as the RSS feed reader that it was originally designer for, and still functions exceptionally well –  I also personally love the fact that I can access the mobile Google Reader on my phone and read and keep up with my favorite blogs on the run.

In addition to simply bookmarking, there are also tools like Evernote, which allow a user to take screen shots, clip sections or even save an entire web page to your account. You can then tag entries as potential blog ideas, or todos and then return to them to flush the idea out further, save for later or perhaps even use as support for a different post. Another super useful element of Evernote is that you can load the plugin on browsers on multiple computers as well as an app on you phone and all will synch to the same database.

A tool that I haven’t used as often recently as I used to for finding interesting topics is Stumbleupon. I think that SU is one of those web services, like Reddit and Digg, that you either like and get, or don’t. Basically, it somehow matches what you’ve liked in the past along with your network and then shows you a list  of interesting sites that other users have Stumbled – not always the best blog content ideas, but certainly some interesting sites and content – I mean serious, check out these paper cut rolls, they’re pretty darn cool!

Photo credit: Flickr user ShuttrKing|KT
Industrious

How to Blog More Industriously (or at Least Make it Appear That Way) part 1/2

Industrious

Industrious blogging

I’ve written about blog frequency and trying to find a pace that’s right for posting to a blog. Currently, I’m blogging at a rate of 3 times a week Mon/Weds/Fri and I’ll let you in on a little secret, I’m not writing those posts on those days. In fact, to give some perspective, I’m writing this post on October 24 (edited further on Oct 27) and by virtue of the scheduling tools available with WordPress, I’m able to save this post away for future use, either when it seems appropriate given other content I’ve posted recently, or when I have a gap in my publishing schedule.

Now, unless you’re the sort of person who has incredibly insightful and detailed posts, I’m of the opinion that an infrequent and/or inconsistent blogging schedule will probably not be able to garner you a loyal readership. I know that some will call me out and say that why post something that isn’t of absolute top-notch quality? I’d love if every post I publish were Pulitzer worthy, but I truly believe that polishing in the internet era is less important than getting a post out the door. Besides, if a post if written appropriately on a topical or interesting topic, it should generate engagement in comments above and beyond itself.

In any case, I believe in posting frequently and I’ve  found a nifty plugin called Editorial Calendar to help out much more graphically with this job than the basic scheduling feature that WordPress includes. The calendar allows for simple, drag-and-drop moving of posts from one day to another – yes, I will push my schedule back if something topical pops up.

How does one continually fill up the slots in an editorial calendar and not run their well dry of ideas? Well, that’s something I tackle in the post which is about tools to help organize and consolidate content and content ideas.

Photo credit: Flickr user -Tripp-
Klout Logo

Social Networks for Ski Resorts – Klout

Klout LogoThis is another post in the ongoing series on “Social Networks for Ski Resorts“. To be clear, Klout isn’t a social network, it’s actually one of many ways to measure a person’s “influence” via their social network presence. There have been a few travel centric promotions that have keyed off a users’ Klout rating to provide high-ranked individuals with perks or freebies, probably the most prominent of these being Virgin America’s use of Klout to promote their new Toronto routes.

The use of Klout to check on a job applicant’s background generated some very interesting discussion on this post on The BrandForward Blog. Klout has also been the topic of a recent Twitter chat which discussed how Klout might be used to procure travel upgrades. The main question, is does a ski resort need to use a service such as Klout to help benchmark which “social influencers” get special attention – lift tickets and the like.

There are a number of tools that offer “social influence” ratings similar to what Klout provides, but does a ski resort (or any business for that matter) need to use a service, such as Klout, to determine how they offer benefits to influencers? First off, does having these “influencers” getting free or upgraded product really benefit the resort? I don’t know. But I do think that a “really great day on the mountain” tweet or Facebook status update that directly influences a small group of dedicated friends or even better, friends that ski or snowboard is just as good if not better than an update from a social media influencer. Second, if brands do indeed shift to providing more comps and deals to social media influencers, I think that it wil only be a matter of time until some get a letter from the FTC in regards the guidelines that the FTC released just over a year ago. Klout does publish an “Influencer Code of Ethics“, but is every business going to truly step up to the letter of the FTC guidelines until they see some compelling reason to do so?

Klout is also branching out beyond just Twitter, it also connects with Facebook and is in beta for LinkedIn. As it continues to expand into other social networks, can Klout be a way for businesses to graph and rate the social web? Or will each business need to find ways that best fit within their strategies and goals in order to best track who they should be work with in the social space? I lean towards the later, but I do think that as things scale larger and larger in social, that ratings systems like Klout, but can adapt to a businesses’ individual needs will fill a needed void.

Social Networks for Ski Resorts – Foursquare

This is another post in the ongoing series on “Social Networks for Ski Resorts“. The big buzz this past year in social network marketing seems to have been about geo-location. Foursquare is one of the largest of the geolocation centric services with about 3 million users and about 15,000 businesses offering “Special Offers”.

PCMR Foursquare business listing

The key things to note about Foursquare is that while it is still a small social network, it offers businesses a great opportunity to hone in on some of the unique opportunities that geo-location offers. For a ski resort, the business opportunities are pretty much limited to offering check-in specials for customers at on-mountain restaurants. Once a resort claims and or creates their venue page using the Foursquare business management tools, they can offer specials based upon (copied from the Foursquare biz page):

  • Mayor Specials: unlocked only by the Mayor of your venue. Who’s the Mayor? It’s your single most loyal customer! (the user who has checked in the most in the last 60 days) (“Foursquare has deemed you the Mayor? Enjoy a free order of french fries!”)
  • Check-in Specials: unlocked when a user checks in to your venue a certain number of times. (“Foursquare says you’ve been here 10 times? That’s a free drink for you!”)
  • Frequency-based Specials: are unlocked every X check-ins. (“Foursquare users get 20% off any entree every 5th check-in!”)
  • Wildcard Specials: always unlocked, but your staff has to verify some extra conditions before awarding the Special. (“Show us your foursquare Swarm badge and get a free drink!”)

There are lots of opportunities to get creative with ways to drive customers to various on-mountain restaurants with these options, but I’d love to see more ways to drive users to ride a certain lift – by having users check-in at the base of top of said lift, or perhaps visit, and check-in at, every terrain park, but I don’t see these options currently available in the base venue package on Foursquare. There are additional opportunities that brands that Foursquare has special arrangements with, see: http://foursquare.com/thedewtour, http://foursquare.com/visitpa and http://foursquare.com/redskinsdotcom to see some examples.

The drawbacks to using a service like Foursquare is that all of the ways to interface with it require a web connection and using most of the mobile apps also requires a GPS or other location acquisition method . Only so many skiers and riders will have devices with them that allow for this and as I’ve discussed before, how many people will want to be pulling a phone out of their pocket on the slopes and is this something that really adds (or detracts) to the guest experience on-mountain?

To wrap up, I haven’t seen any examples of ski resorts using Foursquare, even ones that are just using the specials tool, have you? Let us know in the comments if you have.

Out of office

Get out of the Office Take 2

Out of officeIt’s great to get out of the office to see what your customers have to say, as I described in the first part of this two part post. However, I think there’s another reason to get out of the office that’s really important – and once again, I’m not going to write about getting out for some turns, as that goes without saying!

In speaking with other people that work in the ski resort industry, I’ve found that there’s a common theme in that there’s almost always some sort of “us vs them” mentality between the “office” and the “operations” people. It can be as minor as good natured back and forth ribbing to as major as turf wars as to who’s responsible for what and even rising to the level of major projects not moving forward due to internal disagreements. Thankfully I don’t have any personal experience with anything aside from the good natured sorts of things, and I hope that with a few good steps I can keep it that way.

It’s important to me to get face time with other people in our company that I need to work with in my various job responsibilities (you’d be surprised what I wind up doing that goes outside the bounds of  the web), it’s certainly much nicer to have a quick chat once in awhile that to just communicate with email, text or phone calls. It’s also a luxury to work at a resort that makes a lot of effort to have all staff get together whenever possible, we have a yearly mountain clean-up day, various team dinners and parties plus there are the typical manager meetings and the like.

Photo credit: Flickr user CarbonNYC

Social Networks for Ski Resorts – Urbanspoon

This is another post in a continuing series on Social Networks for Ski Resorts, check out the ever evolving list here.

I would bet that there are a lot of people that wouldn’t be thinking of Urbanspoon when they think about social networks – I would also bet that those people are not in the restaurant business. With their iPhone, Android and widget (see below):

Urbanspoon has set the bar for apps that allow users to choose where to eat based upon their location and some fun user selectable, or completely random options. BTW, the widget doesn’t allow for settings outside most major metropolitan areas, so you’ll need to select Park City and lock it in the first column to see the options for here.

If you haven’t used Urbanspoon, it is a fun way way to choose dining options, even where you live, but even better when you’re travelling. It’s ability to select a restaurant and then see reviews is unique and this is what, in my mind makes it appealing to ski resorts that wish to add another dimension to how they market their food and beverage options online. Particularly once a visitors is leaving the mountain, they are no longer captive to the food choices at the on-mountain restaurants, so why not ensure that your restaurant is listed in Urbanspoon?!

In terms of ski resorts, I’m not sure of any that have made a concerted effort to get their dining properties listed on Urbanspoon, if you know of any, please let us know in the comments!

Flickr photo

Social Networks for Ski Resorts – Flickr

Flickr photo

This is the next in a series of posts in which I am reviewing “Social Networks for Ski Resorts.”  There are a huge number of ways to share photos online, but Flickr is one of the largest and most established and has some unique features/benefits that make it hard to bypass if you have a business that is looking to share photos online (personally, I’m not sold on their video option at this point).

First off, Flickr is owned by Yahoo! so you can (pretty much) rest assured that the site will be up and your photos accessible for years to come. Now, the key to this is to understand that if you are planning to post more than 200 images, then you’re going to want to purchase their “Pro” account. It’s just $25/yr and allows for unlimited uploads for images up to 20Mb apiece, using a nifty uploader application, I’ve been able to upload literally hundreds of images totaling well over 1Gb all at one time! All images are stored in high res format and Flickr even resizes for various download options. Here’s my one caveat: I’m a bit perturbed to have  just learned that Flickr has now limited their stat reporting for Pro users to the past 28 days, which is a negative, but hopefully not a harbinger of changes to come.

In any case, uploading images to Flickr is easy, tagging is simple in the uploader, EXIF data can be readily included (geeky camera info) and geolocation tagging can be added through a nifty map interface. The overall user interface in Flickr is a bit problematic and many of the navigation and editing functions aren’t as intuitive as they could be, but additional integration with the Picnik online image editing application is very much appreciated by those who don’t have Photoshop (or perhaps don’t want Photoshop) on their computer.

Flickr is also a tremendous resource for Creative Commons licensed images via their Creative Commons search option. What this is means is depending upon what usage you intend for an image – business blog post or the like, you can search for images that Flickr users have allowed you to use with simply giving them credit, many even allow you to modify the images if you’d like. In fact, this is how I get many of the images that I use in my blog!

In closing are a few Resorts I’ve found using Flickr and using it well:

  • Alpine Meadows – lots of photos, consistent posting, and I love that they have a gallery of employee images.
  • Big Bear – great quality images, organization is just chronological, but they’re consistent.
  • Moonlight Basin – basically just used Flickr for their Photo of the Day postings, but they did also include several Video Snow Reports.
  • Diamond Peak – doing a great job of keeping images coming, even in the offseason, with photos of some construction that they’re doing.
  • The Canyons – an example of a way to promote lodging and weddings via Flickr.
  • Mt Snow – I think it’s awesome how they posted a chunk of photos of their employees thanking everyone for a great season.

If you think there are other resorts using Flickr in unique, or well-executed manner, please let me know in the comments!

Photo credit: Flickr user Zanastardust via creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
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