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Social Media
Why Camelback Turned Over Their Entire Social Presence to an Agency…and Why They Think You Will Too

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Those of you who use the dashboards regularly may have noticed Camelback’s somewhat meteoric rise up the fan/follower growth and, more importantly, engagement charts.

But here’s a little secret: between the hours of 9-5, Camelback hasn’t done a thing with their social accounts for over two years. Instead, they turned over everything – content, comments, customer service, you name it – to an agency.

To find out why (and how) they did it, I sat down with Camelback’s VP of Sales & Marketing, Brian Czarnecki.

Gregg: Brian, let’s start at the beginning. What made you take the leap and outsource Camelback’s social presence? And, in tandem, why do you think you’re the only resort (I know of) that has done so?
Brian: Why is Camelback the only resort you know of with a plan and execution of their social marketing such as this? Simply put because there is no agency that I could find in the country that was willing to take on what I had asked of them. Some agencies design contests, some do ads, but I can’t find one agency that will execute and fulfill every task that comes along with social marketing management.

With this agency (Internet Inspirations) I was able to utilize their entire team here in the east along with their team in India and literally run social marketing and website management 24 hours a day if need be. Since starting with the agency the growth, engagement and ROI speaks for the efforts.

Season New FB Fans New TW Fols
2012/13 10,405 669
2013/14 (w/ agency) 24,359 1,345
2014/15 (w/ agency) 36,202 1,026

(*2014/15 numbers are to date only)

Gregg: A marketer reading this is naturally going to have some questions about the nuts and bolts of such a hand off, so let me quickly hit those. First, let’s just hit the basics: how does an agency that’s not physically at Camelback post content about what is happening on the mountain? Or is there less focus on content about real-time conditions?
Brian: There is never less focus on the real time conditions here at Camelback. Social Media is about what is happening now and our agency likes to stress that. The conditions are always a top question, so we ensure we relay this information out to our guests as quickly as possible on our social media channels.

We make it a point to update our trails and conditions page every night for our guests leaving from our top metro areas early in the morning so they know what to expect when they get to the mountain and even update through the day as needed. Our marketing team goes back and forth via texts and emails daily with the agency team to ensure we are keeping consistent with our content and marketing.

After forming the plan of attack for the season and follow up weekly meetings, the only daily task my team has is to deliver 10 good photos each day. Our agency has a powerful design and social media team that then work together to generate unique and branded content for Camelback.

Gregg: Who is responsible for responding to comments, concerns, inquiries etc. on social channels? The agency or your team?
Brian: I decided we would have them hold responsibility of responding to our fans between 9-5 on the weekdays and then it would be handed over to a member of our marketing team here at Camelback, which can even be a call center staff member. A great week of engagement can garner more than 1,000 questions and comments that require a response.

The utmost importance to both them and us is to answer every fan, even if they are simply making a statement. Social media is about being social, and to do that there should be a two way conversation at all times.

There have been times where we may not have had the time to be watching our social media on a given day as social media really never sleeps. Our agency truly nurtures and keeps us alert of our social media and lets us know if there are comments that require immediate attention, even during the weekends or times where they may not hold the responsibility to be monitoring our social networks.

Gregg: Did it take a significant amount of training to get the agency trained to a point that they could effectively act as the voice for your brand? Have there been any major missteps on their end as part of the learning curve?
Brian: When a company like Camelback brings someone new to our team, we take the time to train them and make sure they sincerely understand our company. The same is true of our agency. Perhaps what makes this agency so different is that they genuinely take the time and passion to understand their client’s brand, voice, and what individualizes them from others.

We saw them pick up our voice right from the beginning. They have some talented skiers and snowboarders who help to speak the language but working as a team they all learn from one another and from us. When a new member joins their team, they read through the website, really get to know who we are, memorize our trails, get the tone of voice we use and visit our mountain for a tour.

Gregg: Also on that point, are there systems in place that let them pass off anything outside their sphere of knowledge (or above their pay grade) to someone who can take care of it?
Brian: They make it a point to quickly respond and control any fans who may have a concern or complaint. It is so important that these fans receive a response that lets them know they matter and that first step is taken with the help of our agency.

If we have a disgruntled fan on social media, the agency will quickly respond to the fan, directing them to our feedback email ( where the needs and issues of the guest are sent directly to the department head and then followed up on from our Director of Guest Services. It’s better to handle the situation privately and quickly. The fan is usually amazed that they get a response and more than 90% of the time, we win them back.

Then we go one step further, the agency team will again follow up with the fan to make sure everything was taken care of. It’s a great process and we found we have been able to win over most anyone.

Gregg: Engagement and social profile improvements aside, once you remove social media from your team’s plate, what effect does that have on the rest of your marketing?
Brian: It simply allows us to focus on so much more. From analytics on email newsletters and the rest of our CRM efforts, to getting us out with guests, more time to dive into analytics of our surveys, pricing decisions, marketing buys, and paying attention to the business at hand. The time we have is invaluable. But we also get to look at our social marketing from a step back so that we can deliver ideas to the agency, inform them of things we want to focus on, sales efforts, etc.

Having the agency take care of most of the work allows us to effectively incorporate our social media into our eblasts, onto our website, in our park and print media, and utilize it as an influential sales tool. Our social media allows us to quickly spring into action when we feel the need to push a particular sale. Our agency quickly and effectively can get a special out to our fans, creating the graphics, and more importantly scanning the finite numbers to adjust the social sale as necessary to make it a success. Without our social, we would never have this vital advertising outlet to bring in new revenue.

Something else I never expected…our Call Center questions have reduced by 20% over the past 2 years as we’ve been able to provide our guests with the social communication they deserve, instantaneously receiving answers to their questions without ever being put on hold.

Gregg: You’ve been doing this for a while now, can you picture any resorts that shouldn’t take this path? Do the benefits so far outweigh the drawbacks that eventually hundreds of resorts will be taking this route?
Brian: I can’t see why any resort wouldn’t move in this direction, but I know there will be hesitation for many. Once you do make the move you’ll see how much more effective the efforts can be and how much more time your marketing team can spend honing the business.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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