Last week I had the opportunity to be one the invited guest to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC for their Biltmore blogger outreach and social media event. I was joined by my wife @LaToyamsutton along with about 8 other bloggers and their families. The event was organized by Biltmore’s Corporate Communications Manager, Jean Sexton @injeanius and some of the other bloggers who attended were @RealLifeSarah @IlinaP @StacieinAtlanta @pensieverobin @JenniferPerillo @mantripping @ManTripping @connerty. It was great to meet everyone and catch up with a few who I’ve known already.
The goal of the blogger outreach was to increase exposure to new audiences through the use of social media and build relationships with those invited as the Biltmore estate looks as using new tools and online technology to increase visitation and over all sales. During our visit we had a full schedule and had the opportunity to stay in the Inn on Biltmore hotel that was open in 2001. Outside of the Biltmore House tour itself some of the other scheduled plans for the bloggers were:
Blogger group dinner at Cedric’s (one of their newly open restaurants)
Biltmore House (audio tour) & Gardens
Biltmore House “Friends & Family” Specialty Tour w/Museum Services
Biltmore House Rooftop Specialty Tour for spouse/family members
Dinner at the Bistro restaurant
Land Rover Driving Experience Adventure
Lunch at the Corner Kitchen in Biltmore Village
The overall experience at the Biltmore Estate was wonderful, full of learning, history, walking, relaxation and lots of great food, especially the desserts. I learned a lot about George Vanderbilt who is the mastermind behind the famous Biltmore House, along with his vision for the house as a get away from the fast city life and how the Biltmore Estate continues to be a thriving business today. I won’t go into too much detail as I encourage you to plan a trip to Biltmore Estate if you have the opportunity. Tip, if you visit the house make sure you go on the audio tour as you’ll learn a lot more.
After one of the dinners, I had a chance to talk with Kathleen Mosher, Director of Communications of the Biltmore Estate about how they could use social media with their existing marketing efforts. We discussed the some of the challenges and opportunities the Biltmore has, as the world continues to move to become more digital/gadget friendly but yet socially connected online. Here are some of the “nuggets” from the conversation.
Some of the Challenges and Opportunities of the Biltmore House using social media/new technology for marketing:
- The Biltmore House goal is to get people to drive and visit the Biltmore house along with promote and sell their other services.
- You can not take pictures or videos inside the house
- Connect and build a relationship with the hundreds of visitors they have each day
- Find a way to tell more about the history and experience of the Biltmore House online without feeling as though you could lose sales.
- Training hundreds of employees if you implement more digital interactions and tools
- Measuring/tracking content from visitors online
- Implementing an offline social marketing plan to build a relationship with visitors online for pre and post engagement
- Find a way to connect with visitors while they’re on the property such as twitter followers and/or Facebook fans/likes, flickr friends, etc
- Encourage more user generated content and feature it on Biltmore more online properties
- Create self guided mobile tours via mobile applications and/or QR/Bar-codes
After leaving the Biltmore Estate, we had the opportunity to meet Sherida Buchanan @Foodtopia at the Corner Kitchen @CornerKitchen for lunch. During lunch we were treated to some of the best pork chops and chocolate I’ve ever tasted and learned about the http://www.brewscruise.com/in Asheville (#idontdrink). We were also told about how awesome Asheville is and how they support one another by purchasing food from local vendors.
Regardless of what happens next or the results from the Biltmore blogger outreach I believe they’re on the right track and I’m excited to see what they do next online and offline. To Jean, the entire staff from the communications department to the tour guides, thank you for an awesome experience.
FYI I took over 100 photos during the three day venture and you can see them below via flickr.
*Disclosure: “Biltmore invited me as their guest. My travel, admission and other expenses will be covered.”
How would you like to see the Biltmore Estate use social media?