Creek Ranch, a luxury resort in the Florida Everglades, used social media to forge real-world relationships that, in turn, made its digital presence more potent.
The family-owned property wanted more awareness, website visits and sales. It signed on with Jugular Communications and Social Media for a website redo and ended up with a digital content machine that cycles video and photography through the site to social media and turns that visibility into heads in beds.
The social media strategy included developing relationships with journalists, bloggers and photographers that would lead to high-quality links on their sites.
In addition to the site redesign and developing on social networks, Jugular did an intensive SEO analysis using an automated keyword tracking program. The agency retitled website pages to use the keywords and phrases it identified as the most-searched and least competitive. It evaluated traffic based on length of the stay, depth of the visit and whether the visitor reached the "Contact" page.
Scott Lackey, Jugular president, notes, "You can get a lot of visits from key phrases, but they are unqualified and result in bounces, which will hurt your Google rankings. Those are replaced with a new key phrase."
Jugular staffers, in the name of Creek Ranch, wooed Elam Stoltzfus and other nature photographers working in the area with tweets and RTs. "It wasn't even calculating," Lackey says, "just a conversation." Eventually, Stoltzfus DMed with an invitation to talk about sponsorship of his latest documentary.
Lackey won't disclose the size of the sponsorship, but the result was four days of shooting at Creek Ranch and a five-minute segment in the finished documentary, "Kissimmee Basin Northern Everglades," expected to run on PBS in June 2012. In addition, Stoltzfus authorized Creek Ranch's use of his video footage.
For this old-school client, it was important that the Jugular team and Stoltzfus spent several days at the ranch, chatting about history and family before getting down to business. Lackey thinks that establishing a personal relationship was also key to getting the cinematographer's participation.
Lackey says, "These very high-level content providers are hugely skeptical. How do you use social media to further their causes and also develop a complementary relationship? They're happy to do that - if they trust you."
Jugular edited some of the footage into three activity video segments on the new website, posted some to the Creek Ranch YouTube page, and lets it trickle out, along with still photography, via Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Pinterest. Stoltzfus' visit even provided grist for the Creek Ranch blog.
"For a small client, suddenly you're on national television in a very good environment. We also got gorgeous B-roll from an Emmy award-winning cinematographer, fabulous footage which we never ever would have gotten for the sponsorship price," Lackey says.
Since the site went live in December, Creek Ranch saw a 2,250 percent increase in inquiries and a 100 percent increase in sales, with an average booking of $5,000. Website visits increased by 375 percent, and the length of page visits increased 425 percent. In organic search, the site ranks on the first page of results for seven key phrases.
Digital media can be efficient, but it can also be overemphasized, Lackey thinks. "Twitter can be like talking into a dark closet with minimal response," Lackey says. "How do you go online with social media, use it as a means of introducing yourself to people, and then further the relationship offline?" His answer: "We will RT people, start talking to them and then invite them for coffee."
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Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.
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