A Theme Park’s Thrilling foursquare Ride

Think you know the real value of foursquare, a location-based social networking Web site? In Carmine Gallo’s book, The Power of foursquare: 7 Innovative Ways to Get Your Customers to Check In Wherever They Are, much can be learned about this popular social media tool. Here’s an excerpt from his book.

A Theme Park’s Thrilling foursquare Ride

Twenty-five million people a year visit one of 19 Six Flags theme parks in North America. They enjoy shows, live concerts, and roller coasters—the “baddest, fastest, and steepest” in the world. At the Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey, USA, riders on the Kingda Ka reach a speed of nearly 130 miles per hour and drop from a height of 418 feet. It’s the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the United States. On the opposite side of the country, at the Six Flags Magic Mountain outside of Los Angeles, the Goliath lives up to its name with unique twists and turns and intense g-force acceleration.

The company runs these coasters, shows, and attractions at parks in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and it keeps close tabs on the data they glean from visitors. They know that of those 25 million visitors, 90 percent desire to return. They know the average guest spends 8.55 hours at the park. And they knew that foursquare’s rate of growth, especially among the park’s visitors, was simply too great to ignore. “Everyone was talking about it. Its growth has been incredible,” said Angel Aristone, Six Flags director of communications and social media. “Foursquare has become one of the hottest trends on the Web and continues to build momentum. It presented yet another innovative way Six Flags could engage our social media fans.”

Foursquare’s mission—to encourage exploration and location sharing—fit perfectly with a destination venue like a theme park. The park decided to first experiment with the service in the summer of 2010. Fans of the Six Flags foursquare page who checked in at the same Six Flags theme park 10 times earned a customized Six Flags Funatic badge and were entered to win a 2011 Unlimited Exit pass. “An Unlimited Exit pass has never been offered in our 50-year history. We thought it was a great way to celebrate our 50th birthday in 2011,” said Aristone. The badge was available for fans to unlock through September 7, 2010. At the conclusion of the campaign, the mayor of each park in the Six Flags family was granted a 2011 season pass. Foursquare users who check in to Six Flags parks also receive valuable insider tips posted by Six Flags staff.

Aristone says foursquare is different from other mobile social networking tools because of the added incentive of the game and the competition for points, badges, and mayorships. She compared it to offering a virtual loyalty program for their online, mobile, and digital fans. “The reaction was extremely positive,” according to Aristone. “The promotion was a great incentive for our most dedicated fans and one that was truly exclusive. We became one of the top brands on foursquare and will definitely continue to use the software.”

As with all social media, Aristone found it difficult but not impossible to measure the return on investment. Aristone says it’s important that brands commit to emerging social media trends and to become the leaders.

“Foursquare presents another unique way for Six Flags to engage fans while creating a virtual loyalty program. We know that we’re making positive strides when we see our fans and followers continue to grow, even in our off-season. Both platforms—Facebook and foursquare—are extremely valuable to help us reach our core audience, and we will be active on both. But what separates foursquare from other social sites is the incentive of earnings badges, points, and mayorships. The competition offers something extremely unique to its users as well as the ability to share that experience with others.”

Aristone is confident about the platform after seeing that Six Flags’ social media fan base continues to grow even during the off-season. She and Six Flags remain committed to the early adoption of location-based tools to engage an increasingly mobile fan base.

“Foursquare is the biggest success story in social media right now. Foursquare is new, fun, creative, interactive, and easy to use. We’re having lots of fun and will continue to explore new ways to engage our fans.”

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