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Social media ideas for amusement parks

I spent the day at Sea World in San Antonio with my family and as we went through the park I searched for signs of the digital and social media age.  I was surprised not to find any. In fact, the amusement park today is much like the amusement park I remember as a child and teenager. The focus is on selling the season pass, the end-less refill soda,  the gift shop at the end of the ride, and other extras not part of the base ticket price(not that I recognized that as kid).  I did a quick scan on Facebook for Sea World and Six Flags and found they do have fan pages, but the pages appear to be more of a bulletin board for information.  I didn’t see anything immediately engaging to the fans.  So here are some quick thoughts about how amusement parks can use social media to engage their audience and employees better:

Moving scavenger hunt

Find seven or so themed items that fit with the park and place them in different locations each day. Individuals or groups must find all of the items and submit a picture with themselves and a unique code from their ticket stub via their mobile device.  Those without picture mobile may send a text message with their unique code and the location of the item.  All correct entries received at the end of the day are entered into a drawing for a prize.   This type of game engages both the employees to find hidden locations as well as the paying customers. Customers are not likely to give away the location of the items because it decreases their chances of winning. The concept is similar to the hidden Mickeys at Disney World. But the number of the items should be much less and move each day to keep the game refreshed.

Review it!

Invite customers to review certain areas or attractions in the park such as eateries or rides.  Reviews could be posted on sites such as Yelp, Facebook, or Twitter .  Have a social media team setup to scan and read the reviews each day.  Pick a winner for a prize! Again, this engages the audience because they are encouraged to more closely examine the attraction and it pros/cons.  The amusement park benefits because the review becomes a customer survey loaded with information about what is right and what can be improved.  Offer incentives to employees for having positive reviews. This promotes better customer focus and everyone benefits.

Video my fun!

Let’s face it, many customers today enter amusement parks with some type of video recording device. It might be a Flip or even a mobile device.  So designate an area in the park with a themed backdrop and some props. Have individuals or groups use the area and create a short video (less than 1 minute) about their experience in the park.  Videos should be submitted to the amusement park channel on YouTube where other customers vote for the best daily video. The winning video receives a prize.  I like this idea because it brings out the creativity in the customer base but creates a free commercial for the amusement park as well. Customers will remain connected with the brand as they watch the videos and vote.

Six Flags. More customer focused flags = more fun

Mr Six. More Flags, More Fun.

Mr Six. More Flags, More Fun.

I spent this past Saturday at Six Flags Over Georgia compliments of the employee activity group at work. It’s been many years since I’ve been to the park. I once roamed there periodically as a teenager. I’ll admit, my expectations were pretty low about how my consumer experience would be, because I had some preconceived ideas about uncleanliness, wild teenagers, long lines, smoking, etc. To my surprise though, the park was clean, smoking was only allowed in designated areas, and the other park patrons were well behaved. It did get crowded around lunch time and wait-time for the roller coasters quickly went above one hour. But all things considered, I had a great time and enjoyed the opportunity to hang-out with my kids.

It’s typical that when I play Johnny Consumer at places now that I look at how they approach customer focused principals and processes. I cannot guarantee that the experience in all 20+ properties is the same, but I’d like to think the company applies similar processes and rules across their portfolio of amusement and theme parks. Things that I graded highly:

  • Cleanliness – To be fair, the park is only open on weekends right now, so it better be clean on a Saturday.
  • Variety of food choices – While I did not eat at one of the many eateries, I did notice that they had a large variety of choices.
  • Signage – The directional signage was clear and easy to understand for in-park navigation.

Things where I saw room for improvement:

  • Line queue management. Despite long lines for rides, I noticed that on almost every ride there were empty seats for a particular run. The empty seats are created by a riding party not having the exact number of people to fill a row in a ride. Empty seats means less customers served per run and results in longer queue times. Six Flags would do good to look at how Disney World parks make use of single rider lines and asks their ride operators to try to fit a party exactly into the allotted seats.
  • Courteous employees – I should say that none of the employees treated my family disrespectfully. Everyone did their job, dressed well, and kept-the-peace. But a world class customer focus rating requires employees that are going above an beyond to give you an experience that makes you smile and feel that you have been served.  It can be done with hourly employees if the system that’s put in place properly teaches, encourages, and rewards it.

Using the tag line of the company from the last couple of years, Six Flags can up their flag-meter by focusing on queue management and putting in a system that makes their customers feel like they are appreciated. More flags, more fun!

As an aside, Six Flags is struggling financially right now. One recent move is an attempt to pay some of their debtors with company stock lieu of cash payback. I hope they make it out their financial difficulties by making some sound management decisions and financial structuring. It’s a nice place for young people to hang-out with friends and provides some thrilling roller-coasters.