Since its inception in 2004, Facebook has revolutionized the way we communicate and share information with people near and far. What began as a university social network soon became a sensation sweeping the nation. It has now become a required presence for business success. More interactive and casual than a standard Web site, Facebook operates in real time and relies heavily on participation.
In 2009 the Verde Canyon Railroad started its own fan page on Facebook and now enjoys an ongoing conversation with our many fans. Naturally we utilize the page to keep folks informed of our upcoming events and seasonal specials, but what makes us a bona fide hit with our fans is the real news we share. We not only highlight Verde Canyon Railroad but Arizona’s fascinating history, flora, fauna and natural beauty we encounter around us each day in our neighborhoods.
Rather than just a stream of sales pitches which may cause fans to tune out of the news feed, we share interesting and charming tidbits of local lore; beautiful photography, unusual critters, short videos, train history, local cuisine and goods, area festivals and links to travel blogs.
The real information we share proves to be the best sales pitch of all. People look forward to reading our posts, commenting and sharing by reposting to others. Not only do fans connect with us but they connect with other rail, nature and history fans with their comments and photography. With recurring features such as “Look Who’s Riding the Verde Canyon Railroad,” we share a glimpse of our eclectic passengers with the world … with their permission, of course! It’s also a place where we post special photos of our passengers … posing in Halloween costumes or visiting with the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus.
Verde Canyon Railroad invites our past passengers to share photos of their rail adventure via our Flickr photo group. Flickr, a photo sharing site, is an ideal location to post online photo albums and join themed groups geared to particular interests.
The Verde Canyon Railroad Photo Group now has 46 members sharing nearly 800 photographs. Through seasonal photo contests, we have awarded our passenger photographers with passes to return and ride, and we have acquired many fresh new images for marketing use. “It’s fascinating to see the Verde Canyon and our Railroad through the eyes of our passengers,” says Western Group Marketing Director Teresa Propeck.
In a way social sites like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr are similar to our excursion train: the technology of the railroad made a social connection to the wilderness, passing through distant areas and making contact with creatures far beyond one’s native vicinity. In the end everyone feels a little bit closer and a little more connected.