My daughter lives in Vail for some obvious reasons related to snowboarding. After she went out there to live, I noticed she posted on FaceBook about when she was at one of the resorts “shredding.” It often listed the run, elevation, and sometimes included a picture she took with her phone.
Turns out, Vail Resorts has created a unique way to engage with their customers, create contests, share video and images in a very social way via EpicMIX.com. For 2012 they have added technology and invested in the picture sharing aspect and gamified your holiday through “pins” that you can achieved for a variety of activities. This is based on an RFID chip in your lift ticket which automatically checks in and geo locates you for the game side of the equation. All this saves your phone battery and makes it easier to share your skiing and snowboarding experience with your connections. Hopefully, your friends now know where you are skiing/snowboarding and come hang out with you. Everyone wins including Vail Resorts.
Vail Resorts – Social Media Interview
When I was visiting Vail Colorado in December, I thought I would dig into what was going on at Vail Resorts and their use of social media. Amy Kemp in the Corporate Communications for Vail Resorts, responded to my questions.
Q: Exactly how big is Vail Resorts? They are currently are a publicly traded stock.
AK: Vail Resorts is the leader in the ski /mountain resort industry with six of the most popular ski resorts in the country – Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado and Heavenly and Northstar in the Lake Tahoe area. Vail Resorts also owns two other divisions – a lodging division and real estate division, in addition to OnTheSnow.com, an online snowsports portal.
Q: What are your overall business objectives that align with social media?
AK: Skiing and snowboarding have always been social sports – so it’s a natural evolution for skiers and snowboarders to connect virtually to capture and then share their ski day, accomplishments, feats and highlights with friends and family.
Q: What is your overall marketing mix for Vail Resorts and how does EPICMix tie into that or is it separate?
AK: We really view EpicMix as a guest service program whereby it adds value to the guest experience and creates customer loyalty. Of course, we recognize the tremendous value in having our guests genuinely and authentically want to share their experiences, stats and photos on Facebook and Twitter and other social channels and other non-tech ways that are just as social.
The truly unique aspect of EpicMix is that it allows for skiers and snowboarders to simply enjoy their day on the mountain without worrying about pulling out their phone to turn on an app, manually check in or post a status update. Because everything is tied into their RFID season pass or lift ticket card, there’s no need for skiers or snowboarders to even worry about having a smart phone or draining their batteries or missing a check-in.
Q: If social media is a tactic, what is the strategy you have for this channel? Internally and/or externally?
AK: Everything we do centers around providing our guests with what we like to call “an Experience of a Lifetime.” That’s our mission for all 18,000 of our employees. EpicMix and all of our social media strategies and tactics are all tied into our mission and our goal to deliver an exceptional experience to every employee and every guest.
Social media is just a channel – a very powerful one – but in the end you still need to provide the basics of good service and old-fashioned value to someone in order for them to want to share it with friends or family whether off-line or online or socially or mobile-ly.
Q: What social Media tools are you using and why?
EpicMix – it’s not just an app, it’s an integration to the on-mountain experience and truly adds value to our guests, especially with the addition of photos this year.
We’re also reaching out to our guests wherever they are ‘gathering’ and communicating. Our guests are using Facebook, Twitter and our apps – so that’s where we are focusing our efforts. Of course, in this ever-changing landscape, we are always listening to our guest’s feedback and want to be connecting with them in the right channels that work for them.
Q: Do you have a social media policy posted? Is it public? Do you have a commenting policy for Facebook?
AK: We don’t have a specific policy but because social media is just one channel, we do have values and a code of ethics that covers social media. We are developing guidelines for our 18,000 employees to help them navigate social media and feel more comfortable.
Q: Who owns social media at your company?
AK: It’s a shared ownership among marketing, PR, content creators – and the ownership continues to grow and morph just as social media does.
Q: How much time do you or your staff spend overall on social media? How do you break it down?
AK: It varies day by day, week by week and sometimes even hour by hour. We have a few people who are dedicated to creating longer-form content, some who are dedicated to monitoring and many people who are helping to post updates.
Q: What does success look like to you with this channel?
AK: If we’re delivering exceptional guest service (our “Experience of a Lifetime”) in any of our channels, we consider that a great success.
Q: What are some of the unique aspects of EPICMix?
1. EpicMix is “baked in” to your ski experience with the RFID pass or lift ticket so that it’s not reliant on GPS or manual check-ins
3. Also, because it’s powered by RFID, it won’t drain your battery on your smartphone during your ski day
4. From the guests perspective, they can participate in EpicMix without doing anything differently if they don’t want to – in other words, EpicMix doesn’t disrupt the actual experience of skiing and snowboarding on the mountain because it doesn’t rely on manual check-ins or a phone.
5. EpicMix was the first-of-its-kind in the industry
6. With the integration of photos into the platform this season, we are completely changing how guests take and share photos on the mountain and also transforming the entire vacation photo business with free photos to share socially
8. Skiers and riders can also elect to participate in leaderboards and compete with others to accumulate more vertical or days skied
9. EpicMix incorporates a gaming element into the platform with the awarding of digital pins for certain achievements and accomplishments.
10. We asked our guests for their feedback and ideas and have added new pins this year – many of which are unique to each of our ski resorts. We now have over 400 pins.
11. And, new this year – we’ve created a new way for guests to learn about how to win all of the pins and to “favorite” pins and track their progress toward earning certain pins.
12. We archive your data and photos from one season to the next so that you’ll have a lifetime snapshot of your skiing experiences
13. The ReMix collage functionality that will be launched this month is truly unique. It allows you to combine your photos with your stats with other information (snow report, etc) to create a personalized/one-of-a-kind snapshot of your ski day or vacation to share with friends and family.
14. EpicMix integrates with Facebook and Twitter and allows for automatic status updates if you opt in and change your settings. That way, you can easily share your stats, photos and accomplishments with friends and family easily and conveniently (and hands free).
Q: What is your strategy for the content you produce and share on social media?
AK: We listen to our guests and try to serve up the most relevant content for them.
Just so you can see the activity of the very social and demographically diverse winter enthusiasts chatting up the Vail Resort ski mountains, I have include a Storify.com Story that will help you visualize the experience that Amy Kemp is talking about:
- Big Sky Offers Free Skiing To Epic Pass Holders (denver.cbslocal.com)
- Big News From Vail Resorts – A New Gondola to Replace the Vista Bahn (beavercreekvoice.com)
- Ski Resort Uses Social Media To Revolutionize How Photos Are Taken On Vacation (simplyzesty.com)