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Social Media
I Built a Social Network for My Family, Should Resorts Do the Same?

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A few weeks ago, my dad came to me and said, “I’d really like a website where our family can keep in better touch. Post updates from our week, comment on each others posts, and be able to know what each other is up to even if our schedules don’t work to chat on the phone.”

My father, who is not on Facebook, wanted a Facebook for our family. So I built one in a quick, hour-each-evening, two-week process. Along the way, I learned a few things about social networking that I really didn’t expect or had simply forgotten.

Lesson #1: I Don’t Like “Likes”
Likes are cop-outs to actual interaction between people. While I initially was interested in adding a “like” feature for posts and comments, I quickly changed my mind once i saw the volume of comments between my family members.

Rather than just “liking” stuff, we were “talking” which was the goal to begin with. Something tells me if I add a like button, commenting is going to drop significantly.

Lesson #2: Small Networks Rock
I really wondered what my activity level on the site would be after it launched. Though I use Twitter daily, haven’t posted a personal update on Facebook for almost two years. Once my family was actively using the site, I found myself posting, commenting, and checking the feed regularly.

Even more, i was really enjoying myself. I love my family, and it’s been awesome to have our own place to connect. While the global-connectivity idea is powerful, the idea of small, tight networks might be even more so. Drew Frey, formerly of Vail Resorts, now with Social Engine, said this about niche networks:

“Niche social networks are very focused, highly personalized and extremely passionate. This is about as polar opposite as you can get from the “one size fits all” approach other social networks take. The design and functionality of a niche social network is centered around a particular vertical and it’s because of this main difference these smaller networks provide more value to people or brands alike and have been flourishing over the last few years…If you’re in charge of a large brand out there, I wouldn’t feel discouraged. Rather, this is a tremendous opportunity for you to build branded online community tailor made for your goals and (most importantly) your customers.”

Lesson #3: Social Networks Need Email
Email is part of daily life. It’s a nearly universal habit among internet users. So, as we talked about ways to make sure family members posted weekly updates and knew about comments, posts, and mentions while they were away, the easy solution was email reminders.

Even Facebook and Twitter send massive numbers of emails trying to get people to come back and use their sites. Social needs email.

Lesson #4: There’s Opportunity for Resorts
As the project came together, I kept thinking: “do resorts need to put more time into building an actual community?” Most of resorts’ social media activity is one-way: it’s not a community, it’s a popular kid with a lot of people following them around. Joe Somebody “liking” your post is no more interaction than me seeing your sweet trick from the lift and smiling about it.

A few resorts used to have popular, thriving forums. Some still exist and ski/non-ski forums alike continue to haul in traffic, but perhaps leaning on the social network format we’ve grown fond of could be used to build a revitalized, resort-specific network that brings the discussion, the community, the people, and the stoke onto your own domain where you have control over the rest of the scene.

Sure gets my wheels turning…

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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