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Snowcial Recap: Foursquare Marketing Ideas for Ski Resorts

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“Last week I was lucky enough to be able to make it to Snowcial in Lake Tahoe. This week I’ll recap some of the key takeaways from the conference. It’s only a glimpse but hopefully it provides some helpful info if you couldn’t make it.”

I feel a little bit embarrassed to say this, but Foursquare is something that has taken me a long time to really “get”. While I love social media, I also love NOT being connected and just keeping my phone pocketed. So the idea of “checking in” everywhere I went seemed pointless at first. Jonathan Crowley of Foursquare made this simple statement (or something to this effect) that really sums up where I, and many others, got hung up:

“Check-ins are what open the door, not the sole purpose. Once you check in, that’s when the real value is revealed.”

And what is the secret sauce? Tips. Little bits of wisdom guests can leave for those that come behind. While Jonathan did say that “tips are the lifeblood of Foursquare,” there are more ways to leverage this insanely popular tool. Speaking of popularity, let me drop a few stats they provided before I move on.

  • Users: 15 million
  • Check-Ins: 1.5 billion
  • Merchants On Board: 600,000
  • Tips: 10s of millions
  • Locations: 30 million

Other, similar systems have faded away, but Foursquare remains and continues to grow. Like many social products, I believe they are successful because they gave businesses a marketing platform. Get businesses engaged and they’ll promote the service for you.

So, here are three ways Jonathan pointed out that resorts are using Foursquare.

Leaving Tips Improve the Experience
At Heavenly, they’ve built a list of “Stash Tips” around their brand’s page ( For example:

“Head left into Nevada and work your way across the top of Milk Way to get to Monument Peak. This awe-inspiring peak has 360 views of both NV and CA with access to untouched powder turns.”

How locals react to you giving out secret stashes is another story, but you don’t have to give away all your secrets for these tips to be valuable for skiing, restaurants, activities, etc.

Mayoral Perks
If you are a “mayor” on Foursquare, it means you have the most check-ins at a certain location during the last 60 days. As a brand, you can claim your location on Foursquare and offer perks to the Mayor of your resort. Mount Snow, for example, offers a free parking spot (one of the best at the mountain) to their Mayor.

Resort Badges
Badges are unlocked on Foursquare as you play this game of location. A handful of resorts have badges as well like Jackson Hole, Whistler/Blackcomb, Sun Valley, Mount Snow, Heavenly, and Sunday River.

You’ll have to partner with Foursquare to get one of these suckers, but it does get you a lot of activity and publicity since there are so few resorts that have them.

A Reminder
Like anything social, people don’t always leave awesome tips and love everything you do. For example, at one resort the “check in special” is for what appears to be a free glass of wine. What the special apparently doesn’t say is that you have to buy an entree first. The result? The resort gets tips like this:

“The loyalty special is for people who can read non-existent fine print, and who like to be made to feel like an idiot by the “tech wiz” carl at gunbarrel grill. nice fail…”
“Deal did not work!! False scam! Free wine only with purchase of entry, said that no where on the iPhone app. Carl the bartender was a real prick and ruined my experience! BEWARE!!”
“Check in special is bogus! You only get the free glass of wine if you buy an entre.

These tips are all on the first page when someone checks in. You can’t do much about them except for fix the problem and hope they get buried under better tips.

The Future
As these concepts were being outlined, it was pretty clear that the guys at Foursquare are incredibly passionate about their product and love innovation. For example, right now there exists what is a called a “Save to Foursquare” button. A link you can embed in an article or website that talks about a specific location. For example, if you read a blog post about an awesome restaurant you’d like to try, click the “Save to Foursquare” button (if they have it). If you are ever near that restaurant, a friendly reminder will pop up on your phone that you wanted to try it.

The possibilities are endless as this tool is developed. Can you imagine having a button like this on a blog post about the best groomer on the mountain. As someone rides the lift that accesses that trail, an alert could show them how to get there. Lots of possibilities when you combine location awareness with the skiing experience.

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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