Facebook Friday – What retailers can learn from how theme parks are using Facebook

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Facebook is used by a wide variety of businesses and industries to achieve a wide variety of aims. One company may use it as a platform to drive traffic and sales, while another may simply use it as a customer services portal – a company’s Facebook or Twitter page can often be the quickest way for a consumer to get an answer!

In this post I am going to explore how theme parks are using Facebook, and what – if anything – retailers can learn.

Theme Park: Alton Towers
Likes: 837,080 with over 35,000 check-ins
Facebook page: facebook.com/altontowersresort
The Alton Towers Facebook page is by no means restrictive. Fans can post straight on to the wall and they do – logging on their Facebook page I was greeted by over 10 posts in the last hour ranging from questions about ticket prices to proclamations of love for the park.

By adding an address to their Facebook page’s settings, Alton Towers have given Facebook users the opportunity to “check-in” when they visit the theme park. This is a great (and free) way of promoting the theme park and the Facebook page as every time someone checks in, their friends are informed through their news feed. Coupled with Alton Towers’ own regular posts in the form of events and exclusive offers this ensures fans are always in the know.

Scrolling down the page I found that any questions posted within the last 2 hours or so were beginning to get replies from Alton Towers – when you consider it generally takes around 24 hours to get a reply to an email, this is quick. Furthermore, because the fans are posting questions on to the wall, other fans can see the questions and will answer them themselves within minutes. Not only are Alton Towers answering their customers questions, they are allowing them to help each other.

Learnings:

  • They use the platform well to keep their loyal fans’ questions answered
  • They turn Facebook into a promotion tool by creating events and offering exclusive deals to their fans
  • All of the above could be done easily by a retailer.

Theme Park: Thorpe Park
Likes:
389,503 but just 21 check-ins
Facebook Page: facebook.com/thorpepark
The Thorpe Park Facebook page is not as instantly attractive as Alton Towers. The good people at Thorpe Park have chosen to set their default view to include only posts made by the page itself. So, while you can post to Thorpe Park’s wall, when you visit the page the first thing you will see is the latest posts from Thorpe Park. This can obviously be a good thing, as your fans see what’s happening at the theme park, the only problem is that when I logged on, nothing had been posted for almost a week and there were only seven posts in the last month (the school holidays – traditionally the busiest time of year for theme parks).

With a quick change of the wall options I can see what Facebook users have been posting to Thorpe Park’s wall. If I go back 24 hours I see no replies from Thorpe Park to lots of questions from their fans. Another 24 hours and I start to see posts along the lines of “ever heard of customer service” and “most of the staff are extremely rude”. Neither of which are great adverts for the theme park, but could so easily have been made to look better by a carefully worded reply from Thorpe Park.

Learnings:

  • Thorpe Park is a good example of a Facebook page that could be used a lot better.
  • The theme park has over 350,000 Facebook users waiting to hear what’s going on, but the fact that they only post around 1-2 items a week I think you can safely say Facebook is not a high priority for the company.
  • The lack of replies to complaints is a good example of what can happen if you neglect a Facebook page.

Theme Park: Chessington World of Adventures
Likes: 19,869 (check-ins not enabled)
Facebook Page: facebook.com/Chessington
Clicking onto the Chessington Facebook page, you are immediately confronted with a custom page they’ve set up to ask you to be a fan (something Thorpe Park and Alton Towers haven’t done). This is a great thing to do and is done by many retailers, if a Facebook user has visited your page they are likely to be interested in you so by enticing them to click “Like” ensures you can keep in touch with them. Chessington take this one step further by offering 2 for 1 tickets as bait and using the text “Like us for your link to our best ticket deals”.

Once you hit Chessington’s wall, however, you soon learn that they are more Thorpe Park than Alton Towers when it comes to Facebook. Like Thorpe Park’s page, it doesn’t take long to find negative feedback amongst the wall posts with tales such as “why does no one ever answer the phone?” becoming common. Although Chessington’s page has far fewer fans than Thorpe Park, there are still no questions being answered and it was almost a week since they’d posted something on their wall.

Learning:

  • Chessington’s “Like us for your link to our best ticket deals” is a great way to not only encourage Facebook users to like the page, but also push them to buy tickets and would be well worth employing on your own page.
  • That is, however, the best part of the Chessington page and the rest is more an example of how not to keep your customers happy.

Conclusion
If you were looking for a blue-print of a Facebook page, Alton Towers’ page would be a great one to follow. Facebook is a way to build a stronger relationship with your customers. So, following Alton Towers example, you should:

  • Use Facebook to interact with your customers both on a personal and broader level by replying to questions posting the latest news and events.
  • Incentivise your fans with exclusive offers.

The Chessington & Thorpe Park Facebook pages are more a guide of how not to do Facebook. However, Chessington’s “Like us for your link to our best ticket deals” landing page is a great way to encourage Facebook users to become fans while also helping drive sales and can be applied to retail. This is even more important for smaller retailers as every visit counts.

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