He began telling us the story of how the city of Banff found their mascot and how an unsuspecting couple stumbled upon a new and innovative way to market Banff.
While on vacation the couple decided to take a few pictures of themselves by using the self-timer, as many traveling couples must do unless they want a bunch of single pictures of either person (I've got way too many of those). Right when the camera snapped, a squirrel jumped in front of the lense and the crasher squirrel was born.
National Geographic picked up the picture, then the bloggers caught on and finally the main stream news started talking about the squirrel.
It soon became apparent that social media is what was happening while the people in Banff were trying to come up with a way to market their location.
It was decided that a twitter identity would be created for the Banff Squirrel. They began re-tweeting the best Photoshopped pictures, acting as a central hub for the crasher squirrel. Using footage they already had, a video was created and replayed on CNN. Then an iPhone app was created - THEY HAD FINALLY MADE IT.
They used tools that were inexpensive and available on the internet. Who thought it could be that easy?
After about 3 months, the Banff Squirrel had 2,900 followers on twitter, but was losing momentum. What
to do? Well, the answer is obvious: put a hat on the Banff Squirrel. WAHHH-LA....you've got a mascot.
They realized it would be important for the Banff Squirrel to behave like a consumer with a little dash of humor. Instead of tweeting: Remember not to feed to wild life animals; he would tweet: Please don't feed
the wild animals of Banff National Park. I don't throw skittles at your kids. The Banff Squirrel strictly tweeted about things that were applicable to a squirrel in Banff.
They found it was important not to lead the conversation, but instead follow along and find a seam for their message. They weren't selling something to their followers, they were building awareness.
These are the key tips Steve left with us:
- Be a fellow traveler
- Being interesting means being interested
- Co-opetition is better than competition
- ROI: The lower your I, the higher your R
- Twitter is the visitor experience in 140 characters
- Always wear a hat ;)
The Banff Squirrel has been successful at reaching influencers who can amplify the Banff message and has been a great model for any location.
Make sure you follow the squirrel: @Banff_Squirrel