Social media emerging as key to ski-industy marketing | SkyHiNews.com

Social media emerging as key to ski-industy marketing

Bob Berwyn
summit daily news
Keystone, Colorado

Large social media sites like Facebook are being augmented for niche audiences. flaik is a relatively new site aimed at skiers that combines date with interactive functions like those on Facebook.

KEYSTONE ” When heavy hitters like Travelocity and Google start talking about using social media for marketing, people tend to sit up and listen.

So when a panel of travel company executives gathered at Keystone Thursday to discuss Facebook, Twitter, blogs and iGoogle, the room was packed with people eager to hear how the latest mobile web applications might help them market their business during good times and bad.

Social media is a term used to lump together web-based communities like Facebook and MySpace, along with smaller, more specialized sites catering to special-interest groups like skiers and snowboarders. The idea is to reach people on their hand-held devices with mobile web applications and instant messages.

Travelocity recently hired a director for social media marketing, said Cady Wolf, a vice president and partner with the company. Travelocity is still exploring how to make the best use of the virtual communities, but one thing is for certain, Wolf said.

“That’s where your consumer is right now,” she said.

Companies have to be careful how they pitch their message in this medium. People aren’t going to Facebook for promotions. They’re going there because they want to know what to do and where to go and they want to get that information from friends they trust, the panel of experts explained.

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Twitter, a form of micro-blogging, was mentioned several times. One panelist pointed out that JetBlue has the largest group of Twitter “followers” (another word for subscribers), with 225,000 people receiving messages aimed at promoting the airline’s fare deals.

Hand-held electronic devices are becoming more sophisticated, with built-in functions like global positioning and mapping capabilities. That means the messages can be targeted at specific user groups for specific purposes. For people who opt in, that could include electronic versions of the two-for-one coupons now found in local newspapers, said Rob Torres, with Travel Google.

Specialized applications within larger communities like Facebook will also be important. One popular Facebook feature is called Where I’ve Been (http://www.whereivebeen.com/). The application lets people create a travel map and post reviews and post the entire package to their Facebook page.

Right now, the application is drawing one million hits per day, so big companies like Travelocity are exploring similar avenues.

With the fragmentation of communication, it’s important for companies to use all the channels,” said Bruce Rosard, of PhocusWright.

“There are people in this industry who won’t reply to e-mail. The only way I can contact them is on Facebook,” said John Siewierski, with flaik, a relatively new company that provides on-mountain tracking services and combines the data with social media functions.

Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at bberwyn@summitdaily.com.

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