Western River Expeditions, an adventure vacation company with destinations in Idaho, Utah and along the Grand Canyon, does an excellent job integrating social media into their digital marketing efforts. If you’re a regular reader of Jay Baer‘s Convince and Convert, you may remember his “Three Amigos” post from August which outlined how Western River uses email marketing, blogging and social sharing to drive their business.

To summarize, Western River emails customers after they’ve returned home, invites them to submit a story with a picture about their adventure, posts the story to the company blog, then emails them to let them know it’s live and they should tell all their friends about it. The customer-generated content allows the company, which doesn’t have a huge marketing staff, to scale content, win more search results and have the coveted third-party recommendations shared all over social networks.

Because Western River uses Compendium Blogware (a client), I keep an eye on them and their successes. And they’ve just unveiled a holiday promotion that takes the social media activation of their content factory to a new level.

Western River Expeditions Digital Marketing Email

Last week, Western River sent an email to its customer base announcing a new contest. Each family was to post another story with a picture about their adventure, or go back to the old one, and see how many Facebook Likes they could engineer for their post. The family’s story with the most likes by Christmas Eve wins a trip for two to raft the Colorado River.

The effort will do a number of things for Western River:

  • It creates more content for their blog
  • It helps capture more search engine results for their blog
  • It reconnects with their customers who have likely forgotten their months-ago vacation
  • It keeps them top-of-mind with their customers
  • It engages their customers and gives them a clear, and fun, call-to-action
  • It encourages viral behavior around their brand
  • It fosters a higher level of brand awareness and attracts new eyeballs
  • It rewards the most active and loyal customers
  • It communicates with loyal, hand-raisers who are more apt and willing to pass along recommendations
  • It only costs them the email send and the trip cost

The salient point I really enjoy out of what Western River is doing is that they are finding interesting ways to engage people who are already customers that results in spreading the brand to those who aren’t. It’s not just about integrating email, blogging, search and social media into one, beautifully orchestrated package. It’s about integrating retention and acquisition at the same time.

Stick that in your Mashable Awards pipe and smoke it.

Now it’s your turn. What other business do you know that are integrating several digital elements in interesting ways. How can you use Western River Expeditions as an inspiration and build similar engagement activities with your audience … ones that drive business, not just engage alone?

The comments are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://blogging.compendiumblog.com/blog/blogging-best-practices chrisbaggott

    Thanks Jason. Western River is a great example of Marketing Democracy at it's finest. They are not the biggest travel company on earth but they make the best of what they do well. Forgotten in many Social Marketing plans is the idea of targeting friends of customers. What we all should remember from Marketing 101 is that “your best prospects are those individual who display similar behavior and characteristics of your best customers”.

    This is the Dunbar moment….get your customers to talk about themselves and they will do the broadcasting for you.

    Here are some other great examples:

    http://bit.ly/9firbE or http://bit.ly/cu7i4x

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Well done, Chris. Agreed and certainly applaud Western River for the insight

      and creativity to do it. Hat's off to Compendium and Exact Target, too, for

      their roles in making it all work.

    • http://www.businessblogwriters.com/ Jenny

      Chris, the Western River system is one of my favorite Compendium

      success stories. I think it is one of the neatest ones because of the

      “circle” effect that happens automatically.

      When talking to companies about Compendium and “how it can work for

      you” and how it can build one of your strongest referral businesses

      you've ever had – I love to give the Western River example.

      I just talked to a potential client a few weeks ago about it – and he

      was annoyed with social media like Facebook and Twitter – but when I

      told him that it can be all set up and work its magic, the annoyance

      of social media ended and the advantages and benefits it has came into

      play.

      If utilized correctly Social Media can bring you the best referral

      business you have ever had – I love how ExactTarget and Compendium

      make it a no brainer for businesses.

      It's social marketing genius and I love it. I think Western River's

      setup could work well for summer camps especially because that age

      group is online a lot and especially on Facebook sharing photos and

      what not.

      I look forward to the other genius moves you have up your sleeve!

      Jenny

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

    Thanks for the plug. It's amazing how a small company can do amazing things in social media when they understand it's about customers, not them; and choose to integrate (rather than silo) social media.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      True dat! Thanks for bringing them to everyone's attention a while back.

    • http://www.businessblogwriters.com/ Jenny

      It's neat to see a company that is so social media innovative – they get it and they'll win because of it.

  • Rachel

    Do you think this approach would work for a standard ecommerce store that sold shoes or jewelery?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Sure, if you make your customers happy. Every business has the opportunity

      to say, “tell your story!” if they do a great job of making customers want

      to do so. Even the non-sexy businesses (let's say accounting, for the sake

      of argument) can say to a customer who saved a bunch on their taxes or had

      an audit that overturned some interesting savings for the organization,

      “Since you were so pleased with us, could you take a few minutes to fill out

      a web form to tell your story? It's a great way to help us by putting out a

      review or recommendation on our blog, plus you can link back to your

      business and we can celebrate our partnership with a neat story online!”

  • Rachel

    Thanks for such an amazing post. It amazes me that 99% of businesses just don't get SM. How many times have i heard “I better put up a facebook page or open a twitter account cos that's what people are doing”.
    How does this help your bottom line? How are you engaging with your customers?

  • http://www.michaelbertoldi.net Michael Bertoldi

    I remember a year or so ago “case studies” were the hot topic. It's funny how we've come so far, yet some still don't get it. This is a great example and an excellent story to share with businesses who may need a shiny example – visual learners, if you will. It seems like a good idea to show those “let's jump on twitter because other people are doing it” businesses HOW people are doing it the right way.

    Kudos to Western River, but how do we measure this? (Kidding, of course)

  • Hackbertp

    I really appreciate this case study in the workshop session today. It made my day away from the office worth while. I can see that WRE could serve as a model for the work I want to get accomplished this summer.

    Peter H.Hackbert, Professor