CREATING A FOLLOWING: An image from the Roger Williams Park Zoo Jack O’Lantern Spectacular Trail taken last fall is the zoo’s most popular Facebook post to date. Companies and marketers are utilizing “viral” social media to help draw visitors.
COURTESY ROGER WILLIAMS PARK ZOO
By Patricia Daddona PBN Staff Writer
A nighttime photograph of a tree festooned with lit, hand-carved pumpkins at the Roger Williams Park Zoo went viral after it was posted on Facebook last fall, and the free publicity contributed to a record-breaking year for the event’s host.
Every year, the zoo holds a fundraiser, the Jack O’Lantern Spectacular Trail. Last year, Anne McDonough, the zoo’s integrated media coordinator, posted the photo to Facebook on Oct. 4, the first day of the monthlong event. By the end of the run, the zoo had a record number of visitors to the trail – 110,169 people, McDonough said.
While other factors contributed to that record, McDonough said, the fact that 655 people “liked” the image and 112 shared it helped draw people in. According to the Facebook analytics tool, “Insights,” the posting was “our most viral post to date,” McDonough said, “and still is.”
Facebook and Twitter are potent, interactive, marketing tools for Rhode Island attractions seeking more visitors and attention online from followers who choose to stay connected virtually. Attractions like the zoo, the Newport mansions, and the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum are increasingly reliant on social media to draw fans to their websites and share news, events, and fun facts interactively, marketers at these destinations said.
A relatively new tool, shared social media marketing content has an immediacy and global reach that attract new audiences and help retain fans, marketers at these attractions say.
These types of destinations “are content,” said Alec Beckett, a creative partner with social media marketing expertise at Nail Communications, an advertising design firm in Providence.
“The mansions, for example, are amazing content,” Beckett said. “If they can encourage their visitors to share on their own personal networks, that’s the best kind of social media, because it’s reaching a whole set of people that the mansions aren’t directly in touch with. Every visitor who comes is a potential social media advertiser for them.”
At the Newport Mansions’ Wine & Food Festival last fall, a formal affair, Jenn Little of Jenn Little Media hired a professional photographer to shoot pictures of participants at the festival that were then posted to Facebook within 24 hours. Hired in the spring of 2012, Little is a contractor for a range of services for the mansions and works closely with John Rodman, director of museum experience for the Preservation Society of Newport County, which operates the mansions.