How Ski Resorts Use Social Media Marketing – Ethan Austin

Ethan-Austin-PinterestA lot of marketers haven’t fully utilized social media to increase their engagement. Do you know the steps to take to get your social media shares booming?

Do you know how to manage user-generated content related to your brand?

If you don’t, you’re not alone. Many small businesses don’t know how to fully leverage social media for marketing and how to manage it. That’s why we asked Ethan Austin, director of marketing at Sugarloaf Ski & Golf Resort, to show us how, in this week’s episode of The Marketing Agents Podcast.

Big Ideas:

  • How did you end up at Sugarloaf and what do you do there?
    • I was a consultant helping small biz owners with their marketing and realized I was limited with my reach.
    • I used to ski here as a kid.
    • I was an English major in college and the ski bum style appealed to me, so I spent a winter in Colorado, then hiked appalachian trail.
    • When I ran out of money, I saw a job opening for marketing at Sugarloaf and applied for the job and got it. That was ten years ago.
  • What are some of the social media platforms you’re using at Sugarloaf and how are you using them?
    • Facebook and Twitter, and Instagram.
    • Our Facebook following is one of the largest in New England ski resorts.
    • We dabble in some smaller platforms – Tumblr, Google+, and Pinterest (focus on wedding offerings).
    • We try to make them work together. We aggregate content from all of them.
    • We have a tool called the Sugarloaf Blue Room.
  • What are you doing on Facebook to engage your audience?
    • We provide daily captivating content.
    • Our snow reporter comes in and talks about weather conditions, takes photos on the mountain, activity shots, scenic shots of valley and mountain.
    • We do a lot with video. We have a full time videographer on staff.
    • On Facebook we’re focused on creating content our fans will enjoy.
  • Have you done anything to overcome the advertising dip recently?
    • We have done some promoted posts around our college snow fest week.
    • We’ve done promotions around our lodging offerings.
    • If you put money behind your posts you see your reach skyrocket.
    • If we have a really great photo or video it takes off organically.


    The bulk of what we share is lifestyle posts and content that enhances the connection to Sugarloaf.

  • Do you promote your posts with money and put money towards promotions for packages?
    • We focus on adding money to topics that have more ROI like a kids ski free lodging promotion, college week, discounted lift tickets, concerts, etc.
    • We put money behind these conversion events.
    • If we see things take off organically, we usually just let it go on its own.
  • When you’re putting money behind something, what tools are you using for advertising?
    • We promote in the news feed and right hand column.
    • We use audience targeting. It’s very easy to target demographics on Facebook.
    • The college week videos we promoted, was very easy to identify that demographic and it has worked well.
  • How do you manage dealing with user-generated content related to your brand?
    • We use the Blue Room which is a social media aggregator.
    • We try to organize things around hashtags for Instagram.
    • We put hashtags (i.e., #theloaf) and we’ll put it on our advertising or printed media.
    • We’ll highlight certain user photos and encourage people to share their experiences.
  • You mention promoting #theloaf. Do you search on other hashtags?
    • Yes, definitely. People will tag other things and we aggregate those as well.
    • We can actually highlight specific hashtags to encourage people to use that hashtag and share their experiences.
    • Throughout college week we’d pick our favorite photo and offer a reward for the day or week.
  • You’ve got thousands of visitors every week. How do you handle negative social media comments? What’s your response or action?
    • Yes, it happens. Maybe the weather’s bad, or their experience didn’t live up to expectations.
    • Our goal is to immediately address negative comments and acknowledge they’re upset and offer ways to alleviate concerns or make it right in their eyes.
    • The biggest thing is that their experience wasn’t great.
    • We can turn those situations into our favor.
    • We saw YOUR comment last year on Twitter about someone stealing your hitch cover in our parking lot and replaced your hitch cover and replied to you. You retweeted our tweet.
  • When those negative situations occur, are you paying attention to who’s got the loudest megaphone or a lot of followers?
    • Yeah, absolutely we are. We knew you had influence on social media.
    • We can’t do this every single time, but when it’s something simple, we can make things right.
    • We’ve done that for lots of people – tshirts, hats – things that are very easy for us and can make a difference.
  • You guys have a great relationship with Seth Wescott. Do you guys work together and how (on social media)?
    • Seth is awesome. He’s a tremendous ambassador for Sugarloaf, for Maine, and for snowboarding.
    • He’s humble and great to work with.
    • He’s very active on Instagram and Facebook.
    • Currently we have a video documentary called from Surgery to Sochi about his journey out of surgery last summer to the Winter olympics this year.
    • It’s awesome to share his story on social media and it helps foster the connection to Sugarloaf.
  • What are the biggest changes in social media you’ve seen with Sugarloaf?
    • The ability and amount to aggregate has skyrocketed. The amount of stuff people are creating is huge. Instagram is big with image creation.
    • The amount of content is staggering.
    • We launched the Blue Room last year and it gave us focus on hashtag conversations with greater depth.
    • User content has quadrupled in the last year.
  • How do you measure success when it comes to social media? What metrics do you follow?
    • In terms of reporting, we’re very lucky there’s not a corporate overhead.
    • We have a lot of freedom to try new things and be experimental.
    • The biggest numbers we focus on in Facebook is shares. How many people have shared a piece of content we put up. We watch number of shares and total reach.
    • We watch what works best to figure out what works and why so we can replicate that in future posts.
  • When are we gonna have a Maine tweetup at Sugarloaf?
    • We should definitely make that happen.

Juicy Links:

Rich Brooks
I’d Never Tweet About Losing a Hitch Cover