Which ski resort got your attention?

It has been eight years since Facebook and Twitter and four years since Instagram changed the state of play for ski resorts around the world.

After 50-odd years of embellished reporting, real-time reporting from fans and followers meant that the ski resorts had to keep up, tell the truth, manage their customers concerns and inform, entertain and add value to their online communities.

According to resort marketing website, Slopefillers.com, North America's ski resorts have close to 1.5 million Twitter followers, 7.5 million Facebook fans, over 900,000 Instagram followers and close to 56 million YouTube views. Australia's resorts have close to 290,000 Facebook followers, over a third of the estimated number of Australians that ski and snowboard.

But as any social media strategist will tell you, it is not the number of friends you have in your corner it is what you do for them and what they do in return. I call that business the experts call it engagement.

Kirsten Trethowan of Chit Chat Media says engagement is "a relationship where both parties hear each other. A brand can enhance this by listening to what it's community wants and needs and not just seeing the community as something to sell to."

In Australia, some resorts do this better than others. Falling snow is social media gold for ski resorts with almost guaranteed shares and likes for every post of snow-laden tables and snow-covered cars. You don't even need anyone to ski or snowboard.

The recent four fronts that delivered metres of snow to Australia's resorts served up the perfect opportunity for resorts to capitalise on their social media networks. The week of June 28 saw Perisher, who had 66,000 followers at the time, and Falls Creek, with 38,000, both experience an 80 per cent engagement rate which saw their fans spread the snow word for them.

The rest of the resorts paled in comparison with a 28-to-35 per cent engagement rate.

The most shared post for Perisher this season (and that week) was a simple image of a bus with around a metre of snow on top of it on June 25. This was shared over a thousand times and liked by over 9500 followers. No skier throwing powder into a lens, no snowboarder hucking a cliff, just a relatable image snapped in the car park.

Falls Creek took the risk of posting a corduroy groomed pic on June 30 while everyone else was posting powder. The result? More than 101,000 people viewed the pic on Facebook (two-and-a-half times their fans) proving that powder skiing is not the mass market.

Gina Lednyak from L&A Social Media says "Many businesses go out of their way to create professional images when what generally performs best is simple smart phone photos. People want to see content on their social networks that looks like their friend took it, and they connect to this a lot more than expensive advertising images."

Selwyn Snowfields may have just over 8000 Facebook fans but a real-time amateur image of wild brumbies visiting their snow field on June 30 was shared over 400 times. Thredbo's pic of snow on the balcony on June 15 was viewed by close to 134,000 people on Facebook thanks to over 850 shares from the resorts 60,000+ followers at the time. That's more than double their official followers.

In the world of Facebook 'shares' are what count.

"It takes more effort to share a post and friends of the sharer are more likely to see the share than the like in their newsfeed" says Trethowan. "It is a more effective way of leveraging your fans' friend base."

Trethowan, Lednyak and Beth Powell from the Australian Institute of Marketing agree that Facebook and Instagram are the two most important players for ski resort marketers and that truth prevails.

"If you don't tell the truth on social media you will get found out" says Powell. "And things will turn ugly."

A social media fact that Hotham found out last week when they posted an image of people skiing on the road. Followers blasted them with comments about it being illegal and dangerous to ski on the road. What had started as an innocent posting to show how much snow there was this season (enough to ski on the road, oops) turned into a pounding.

"People expect honesty and respect and will very quickly broadcast when they have any evidence to the contrary" says Lednyak. "Many a company has learnt the hard way and seen themselves cast as the pariah in the blink of an eyelid."

Hotham apologised in the comment section and explained their thinking for posting it, admitting they had not thought it through. This was the right way to deal with the issue, though they 'hid' the post from the page.

The picture was a stark contrast of a simple image of a road clearing vehicle posted by Hotham on June 23 that was their most successful to date in terms of shares with over 300 shares broadcast to close to 40,000 people (almost double their follower numbers at the time) as a result, again no skiers or boarders, no powder shots. Same road, different story.

Some of the best social media truth has come out of New Zealand this winter while handling less than ideal conditions, a school holiday calendar that has both Australia and New Zealand sharing the same holiday dates for the first time and a late start to the season that is still yet to fully arrive.

Mt Hutt and The Remarkables both delayed openings and posted honest reasons why on their social media sites. You can't fight the weather, rain or no snow so you may as well ask your followers to snow dance and sacrifice old skis to the gods in the hope snow will fall.

Cardrona was slammed recently when Treble Cone closed for a day due to rain that had played havoc with their ski runs (another honest post on social media) and guests were left to ski or snowboard at Cardrona who reached capacity early and had to close their own road and car park. The Remarkables also reached capacity of their new carparks on the same day and had to turn drivers away.

It is a good problem to have, over capacity, but it doesn't bode well for a guest experience. All resorts handled the issue with grace on social media and Cardrona kept their lifts open for longer to try to appease the crowds.

Though once social media comments got abusive posts were taken down which means other followers can't see the response from the resort and how they handled the problems. That can be a win lose situation.

Powell recommends "if comments degenerate to abuse I would remove it and explain the reason for its removal and reiterate the apology."

Lednyak agrees. "If the post is criticising your ski resort the best thing to do is respond in a helpful way and fix the issue. It's actually good when people post complaints as it shows they care, it is the people who do not post about it but give up on your business that you have to worry about. Answering concerns and complaints shows other fans that you care and that you are willing to go the extra step for good service."

Skiers and snowboarders are passionate people, they are dedicated to their leisure sport of choice and like to boast about the snow they got and you didn't. This works well for resort social media and inspires last minute ski trip bookings due to real time conditions.

With all this talk of a potential two-metre base by August for Australia and record number school holidays I can't wait to see the figures at the end of the season. We're halfway there but as Mother Nature knows and has proven, anything can happen.

Which ski resorts in Australia and New Zealand do you think excel at social media? Which ones are letting you down? What do you want to see more of on resort social media?

INSTAGRAM COMPETITION

We are so excited about our #misssnowitall Instagram competition this year and with a trip to Japan up for grabs who wouldn't be? Did your instagram make our gallery this week?

Thanks to the Japan experts at Liquid Snow Tours and Hakuba Hotel Group we have a trip for two to Hakuba in Japan flying direct with Jetstar from Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne with seven nights at the conveniently located Hakuba Springs Hotel, daily breakfast, five of nine day multi-resort lift passes for the Hakuba Valley, welcome drinks, transfers, in resort assistance and concierge service. Now that's how you do Hakuba in style.

To enter just tag your winter inspired Instagrams with #misssnowitall.

We will choose five finalists each week for our gallery above, and come September, our guest judge will choose our finalists from the gallery and you get to judge the ultimate winner of this fantastic week in Japan. Click here for full terms and conditions.

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Email Miss Snow It All rachael.oakesash@fairfaxmedia.com.au

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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