Convious in conversation with... Danielle Nicholls from Drayton Manor
Why are brands spending more & more resources on social media? How have these platforms shaped the interactions of customers & brands? How can attractions operators benefit from this new trend?
In this first chapter of “Convious in conversation with”, we interviewed Danielle Nicholls, Senior Content Executive at Drayton Manor, one of the UK’s biggest theme parks. She joined the company almost 5 years ago, choosing a job that allowed her to combine her two passions: marketing & theme parks:
"I’m a little bit of a theme park geek. I went to university to study media marketing, but my aim was always to combine my two passions" - Danielle Nicholls
Since Danielle joined the park, she has gone through very different challenges both for the park and the industry, such as the COVID outbreak. During the months ruled by lockdown and restrictions, Danielle and her team noticed that a lot of brands were jumping on to TikTok to stay in touch with their consumers, and they decided to grab the handle and give it a try as well.
"What we did particularly with Tiktok is (what we've tried to embed throughout Instagram and Twitter, a little bit as well) is to import more of a personality into the channels." - Danielle Nicholls
Drayton Manor has now more than 74k followers on TikTok and has been awarded different times for their engagement on the social media platform. This has of course changed the interactions between the park and their visitors and has allowed them to boost the loyalty of their customers as well as building a wider community of fans.
Keep reading and find out more about Danielle’s experiences during these past years and learn which are the opportunities that social media has opened up for attractions.
How has social media changed the interaction between attractions and visitors?
Danielle explained how embracing social media allowed Drayton Manor to truly illustrate their brand’s personality and create a conversation between them and their visitors.
“It's not just a brand talking to them, it's more of a conversational piece between the guests and the brand. We've done this by utilising tone of voice a lot more than we ever used to, and adding faces through the brand.”
She told us how they started including people from the marketing team on their social media videos, which helps them better represent the brand and allows them to create a more authentic and emotional connection with their guests.
“So, I’ll often run into the park to film some content for TikTok and Instagram stories, Reels, wherever it needs to be of staff from Team Drayton representing the Drayton Manor brand and it seems to work really well because guests can create that emotional connection with us. And it feels easier to build that brand loyalty this way.
By enabling bidirectional communication, the park has been able to get feedback on how their visitors feel about the experiences they provide, as well as having a better understanding of what their pain points are.
Visitors are using Social Media as a search engine.
With the rise of the usage of social media, we’ve seen there's a change in the way that people are searching for experiences.
“People are using channels such as Tiktok and Instagram as a search engine.” says Danielle.
“They'll go into the search bar and look for hashtags or they'll just search for a theme park, and see all the content from other users, influencers, or the brands themselves. “
The fact that social media is being used as a search engine, opens up a new door for attractions to reach a wider audience.
As an attraction, you should make the most of this cross-channel approach to link your webshop with your social media accounts. Think about putting the link of your ticket shop in your Instagram bio for instance. That way people can easily purchase a ticket to your venue without having to leave the social media platform.
How does this impact attraction’s overall marketing strategies?
“We still have that full marketing mix of online and offline but we tend to be focusing a lot more on the digital part, such as content creators, influencers, or social media, both paid and organic.”
As Danielle explains, the online part of their marketing strategy has been gaining ground for a few years already. And the key is to make sure that the online efforts are consistently working together with the offline efforts. Of course, for a park as big as Drayton Manor a lot of effort is put into the experience on-site, and you would think that not much time is left for the online experience. But they understood the importance of fine-tuning the experience of their visitors even before and after their visit to the park.
Danielle also pointed out that with people's use of smartphones nowadays, it is very important to align your digital strategy along with this trend;
"People are always on the phone, filming what they're experiencing for their Instagram stories or for whatever social channels they use at the time. That kind of raw content gets much more traction and engagement."
It's very important for attractions to provide experiences that are shareable. People want to share everything, which can be a really positive opportunity for attractions or for brands because it's like free advertisement. Danielle also talked about the importance of User generated content in their social media strategy.
“Having that kind of two-way, communication stream, really helps encourage user generated content as well. So when people are in the park we encourage them to take as many pictures and videos as possible."
Attractions have seen that the two-way communication stream, really helps encourage user generated content as well, which makes the brand more authentic and genuine.
"We can use it on our social channels and then it feels a lot more authentic because they've experienced the attraction personally. It's better than just posting polished content all the time, such as branded photography -as this can feel less personable.” says Danielle.
It's a way of connecting with your audience in a more tangible way than ever before. You allow them to become the face of your brand.
"And we'll often do kind of call outs on our social media platforms for them to send us their media."
In the end, it allows them to build a strong relationship with their audience and visitors. Which leads to having more loyal visitors & true fans of your brand.
What's the end result for attractions?
Something else that Danielle pointed out is that of course all the efforts you put into your social media strategy have to pay off somewhere. And this starts with your sales. We discussed the importance of e-commerce for their business. Seeing that one of their goals is to drive the audience they have on their social media towards their website.
“The e-commerce platform user journey is really important. Whether it starts from a search engine, social media or an email, they have to have that clear user journey so they go straight to one website and get the information they need.”
According to a survey conducted by the American Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, 42% of amusement park visitors purchase their tickets online. Which is why it is primordial for them to offer an experience this good online.
“Convious works really well for us because it allows us to have a clear, straightforward visitor journey. Once they have the tickets they can go into the ticket wallet in the app and plan their day accordingly. Which is great for guest experience.”
It all comes down to knowing you will be able to handle the audience you are driving to your website from your social media. In the case of Drayton Manor, with the numbers of followers they have, it became essential to have a solution that could stand this increase of traffic.
Key takeaways for attractions to make the most out of social media
"Focus on community engagement and tone of voice to make your content truly compelling. I know a lot of attractions will have someone in the marketing team responsible for responding to public comments on social media, and a guest experience team that will reply to private messages. It’s important to ensure it feels like one person. Brand tone of voice guidelines are vital to ensure this is successful."
One of the main takeaways Danielle gives us is to focus on adding personality to your brand. You have to create a personable brand voice for your attraction, in order to get closer to your audience. Drayton Manor has been successfully doing so on their social media channels.
"The other thing I would say is on the community engagement piece. If you can, it’s great to respond to as many social messages and comments as possible. Not just questions, but tags and brand mentions too. That really generates this whole community feel and makes people feel included."
The second advice that Danielle gives is to keep communication with your community. Make sure to create community engagement because this is what will in the end help build a sense of belonging and loyalty.
Picture from Drayton Manor via Facebook
"We have signage around the park with Hashtags and handles of our social media accounts to try and push people to take their media and share it with us on the social platforms. And then like I said, we do also utilise primarily Facebook because it works really well there."
Another suggestion that Danielle gives is to try to incentivize User generated Content as much as possible. Because in the end it works kind of like a domino, once you start a trend then everyone will want to take part in it and you will gain more visibility. People like to see their content in the spotlight, so usually if you show that you share the content that you're sent, they will want to be a part of it.
"All of the content, both visual and written, is vetted according to our brand guidelines. So, I’ll ensure it is warm-hearted, fun and authentic before posting to our channels. Eventually, it just kind of becomes second nature."
A final recommendation from our favourite social media specialist is to be the guardian of your own brand. You need to make sure all your content follows the same style and has a similar tone of voice.
In the end the ideal is to build yourself a brand identity for your content to be recognizable. If you decide to work with external content creators, be sure to brief them according to your brand's identity and style. Give them as many details as possible so that the content they create for you, resembles your brand.
What trends can we expect for the future?
We ended the conversation with a simple question to Danielle, which was "how do you think the relationship between social media and attractions will evolve in the coming years?". And she gave us a very interesting answer:
"I think app-based products will continue to rise. The guest can go in, buy the tickets in the app, pre-book passholder reservations, buy food, and plan your day. I think that's going to continue to be quite a focus particularly in the attractions and leisure industry.
I also think user generated content will continue to grow. We may see more content creators and influencers being the face of a brand, particularly on TikTok, to build that personable relationship between the brand and their guests."
We would like to thank Danielle for taking the time to sit with us and for giving us her insight into social media and attraction. If you haven't done it yet, check-out and follow Drayton Manor on all social media platforms, they're doing an amazing job!
Until next time!