How many websites do you look at each year? Scary when you think about it isn’t it. Can’t imagine how many we’ve checked out in 2014 – certainly thousands, probably tens of thousands, more? We’ve sought them out for our own benefits – seeking answers, things to buy, places to go, people who can help us; or simply for connection, fun and to pass the time. Other times we’ve been looking for inspiration – for our clients who are almost always about to embark on website transformation, and for our own marketing too.
And this year we’ve happened upon some fabulous websites from amazing companies with content that’s so valuable you can’t not be drawn in. My personal highlights – Doug Kessler and Velocity Partners, Sugru, Henneke Duistermaat’s Enchanting Marketing website and of course the unforgettable Lings Cars. Worthy Valuable Content Award winners all.
The company whose content and marketing we’ve consistently been most impressed with in 2014 is the Sands Beach Resort in Lanzarote. Here’s why they deserve this year’s golden Valuable Content Award. Make yourself a cup of tea and get your notebook out. There is a heap we can all take from their approach as we plan our marketing for next year.
If you’ve been with us for a while, you may remember we gave Sands Beach a Valuable Content award a couple of years ago. We interviewed Digital Marketing Director John Beckley about the way he’d ditched most of his advertising budget and invested in social media and great content, building an active and engaged new customer base in the process. Since that time we’ve visited the resort, worked with its partners to help them collaborate on producing and sharing valuable content, and watched in awe as their content has absolutely flown. Here is a company that has wholeheartedly embraced valuable content and social media as the way they communicate and it’s filling the resort.
The quality of their content has really notched up this year. The photos, videos and blogs they share on Instagram, Facebook, G+ and Twitter feeds are stunning – you cannot help but wish you were there. So the production value has gone up – it’s a world away from the cheesy holiday brochure or website – but it still feels real, and personal. This leaves you with a very clear picture of what Sands Beach is all about, what your holiday experience would be like (whether you’re a family or a triathlete). They know their customers well and there’s a real sense of connection. What we love most about Sands Beach is their energy – it’s this that shines through in their content and social interactions and it is totally compelling.
We caught up with John Beckley recently to get the lowdown behind his winning approach. Here’s what he had to say.
What part does content and social media play in your marketing now?
“It’s been pushed right to the front. A couple of years ago we knew the theory and we did a lot of experimenting. Now we’re fully committed. This IS our marketing. Advertising, exhibitions etc. have all taken a back seat. It’s really driving business for the resort. We’re fully booked until March. It’s incredible really.
Our digital footprint has grown phenomenally in the last couple of years. Our back catalogue of content from 2012 is still driving business today.”
How do you make it work?
“Our day to day actions all revolve around social – taking photos of what’s going on in the resort, working with groups who come to visit, particularly on the Active side (Sands Beach runs training camps and sports holidays), producing video. The tools of my trade are still my iPhone and Nilox camera. And now there are more people involved. We even have our lifeguard taking photos and video with our guests.
It’s more than a full time job. We have an intern programme – they get great experience and help us to research, share stories, follow up.
Our CEO Juan Carlos Albuixech is right behind the approach. He understands the urgency, the real time nature of the content we must share. He has a strong presence on social media himself and pushes us to publish quality content, fast.
There are 20 people in our management team. They’re all on LinkedIn now and getting involved in Twitter too. I think social media should be no different to having a telephone on every desk. It’s just the way that you communicate today, whatever role in the business you hold.
“Social media should be no different to having a telephone on every desk.”
The whole island is growing up in terms of social marketing. I see four to five local companies videoing every event I go to now. Businesses in Lanzarote have really caught on and the whole island benefits.”
What platforms have worked best for Sands Beach this year?
“The power of Instagram for Sands Beach has really surprised me. We have separate Instagram feeds for the families and one for our sports visitors too – with over 5000 clicks on the Sands Beach Active feed last month. It started as a hobby for me really – I love taking photos – but it’s become so much more. Twitter still performs well but Instagram has been outstanding.
“Twitter still performs well but Instagram has been outstanding.”
We prioritise video so our YouTube channel is big for us. When we select our interns we look for experience and knowledge in video production. It’s a key marketing skill these days.
Flikr remains a vital channel. We have over 9000 photos and over 1.5 million views. It’s a massive community but it takes work.
I’ve been surprised by the drop in Facebook performance though. Facebook increasingly wants companies to pay for reach. With more and more companies on there it’s a very crowded space. Views have dropped from an average of 25,000 to just 5000 last month.”
What’s important for you next year?
“Creating experiences where people go ‘Wow’. My focus is on improving the quality of our content even further. Sometimes that’s about slowing down. I now post one beautiful photo a day, choosing the best picture I have. In a world where everyone is publishing, only quality content will stand out. Even better cameras, high quality video production teams – I can see the benefit in investing in quality next year.
“In a world where everyone is publishing, only quality content will stand out.”
For us it’s all about engagement. The days of obsessing over numbers of followers are over. We’ve working out ways to measure engagement across all channels and we use these reports to learn how to do it even better.
Real time is a challenge. We’re still working 9-5 but social media and the web are always on. We need to work out a way to respond live. Our customers increasingly expect it in the online world.
The biggest challenge and opportunity is motivating people to come along with us on this journey. Our partners, our staff, everyone. We’re talking change here and change is scary for people. Time is always a factor so you’ve got to really inspire people so they find the time.”
Congratulations to John and the whole team at Sands Beach Resort. Your marketing and content is stand out. Several award badges and a prize on the way.
Lessons to take from the Sands Beach approach
- Change the way you think – social media and content not as marketing channels but as extensions of who you are as a business. The way you communicate what you’re all about.
- See sharing content and social media as a task of business, whatever department you are running. It’s not something you can leave to the marketing department alone.
- Think like your audience. What do they want to find? Sands Beach recognises that their guests don’t care about the way they’re structured, they just want answers. This means breaking down the barriers between departments to communicate in a way that makes sense to your customers.
- Measure hard, but measure right. Report and track engagement and learn from the results.
- Leaders of businesses – get behind it, and get involved. Like Juan Carlos.
- Up the quality next year. Spray and pray just isn’t an option. Invest in high quality content production – whether that’s words, images, or film – and preferably a combination of all three.
That is our list of takeaways from Sands Beach and there are many. How about you? Where will you invest your time and efforts next year?
Do let us know.
More festive Valuable Content Award winners to steal ideas from
- Henneke Duistermaat for championing the art of blogging, and her unique visual style
- Designer Christian Tait at Creative Cadence for helpful, business-focused content
- The team at Sugru for inspirational product marketing that makes people smile
- Mark Masters for putting his natural curiosity to good use with his Talking Content series
- Sian Tucker at fforest for the stunning @coldatnight Instagram feed
- Canopy & Stars for their simple, beautiful checklist
- Wallet makers Bellroy, for connecting content with commerce
- Law firm Clutton Cox for hard working, resourceful and downright useful legal content that gets results.
- Noisy Little Monkey, for cheeky, fun-filled content that works as a filter not a magnet
- JazzTypes from Mytton Williams – 100 posters in 100 days