Yesterday, the “Seattle Great Wheel” (shouldn’t it be “Great Seattle Wheel”?) opened, and today, I planned on giving it a go myself. Not just for my own amusement, but to satisfy my civic blogging duty by promoting the neighborhood’s newest attraction. Without support from locals, new endeavors face a precarious future. Especially in towns with short tourist seasons, such as Seattle.
According to their Facebook page (their website is almost completely void of usable information), the wheel opens at 10am, and since nothing in Seattle ever happens on time, a friend and I departed my place shortly before noon.
When we got to the ferris wheel, we realized that, despite leaving two hours late, we had still somehow managed to arrive two hours early. Contrary to what was indicated on the company’s Facebook page, the ride was scheduled to open at 2pm, not 10am.
We grumbled for a bit, then we dutifully took our place at the back of what had already become a line of between 60-100 people.
After standing in the drizzle for about 20 minutes, my buddy finally turned to me.
“How many people read your posts about this thing?”, he asked.
“I’m not sure, the last time I checked, it was 80,000, or something like that.”, I answered.
(I checked when I got home, and the three main posts that I have put up about the ferris wheel, combined, have received just over 126,000 pageviews, served to roughly 102,000 unique visitors.)
“So, you’ve delivered 80,000 potential customers to these guys”, he said, “and you’re standing in the back of the line, in the drizzle, not even sure when this thing was supposed to open?”, he rebutted.
I thought this over for a moment, but before I could formulate an answer, I began having flashbacks.
You see, a few years ago, an attraction opened in Las Vegas called “Cloud Nine”. Cloud Nine was a big helium balloon at the southern end of The Strip that lifted people several hundred feet into the air.
Since the venture was new, the concept was cool, and the economy sucked, I genuinely wanted to help Cloud Nine make a go of it in any way that I could, no matter how small. This being the case, a few days before it opened, I emailed the company, and I asked them if I could come over and take some pictures from the balloon itself.
They seemed excited about all of it, but when I arrived for our appointment, they left me waiting for over an hour, at which point I just left. I take lateness as an insult, and since I got neither an explanation nor an apology, I held a grudge against the company for some time.
I’ve been called a prima-donna on more than one occasion, but I think I’ve earned the right to be one in certain situations.
For instance … before the Cloud Nine thing, I ran an article about a coffee stand named SexxPresso. My article received over one million page views, and my photos were picked up by several publications. Later, I authored a post about the new Stratosphere Sky Jump, and that post (and the accompanying video) received about 140,000 views.
On all of these occasions, what was my compensation for the advertising?
When I promote something, or express an interest in it … you can be sure that my interest is very sincere, because I don’t make a dime from any of it. I’ve been offered money, sometimes generous amounts, over the years to promote this or that, but I’ve turned it all down. This is why my recommendations for things tend to carry some weight. They are genuine.
All of this being the case, when I’m trying to promote someone’s business, I don’t think the expectation that they be on time is unreasonable.
A few days after I stormed out of their office, Cloud Nine held a “grand opening”, and all of the mainstream outlets were there. The NBC affiliate, the ABC affiliate, the local rag, even the alcoholic Mayor. They all smiled, did their stories, called everything “amazing”, then … well, I’m not sure that any of them ever called it “amazing” again.
About two months later, I finally decided to go down and ride the thing on my own time, and I enjoyed it.
Ironically, not long afterward, and totally out of the blue, I was invited to come back and do another piece about Cloud Nine. This time, however, the person doing the asking made it clear that a new marketing team was involved. Apparently, the old social-media-centric team hadn’t done such a stellar job.
By this time, I had already gone back to Seattle, and the final piece never happened.
A few months later, Cloud Nine went under, and I was very disappointed for them. I truly wanted them to succeed. I felt that Cloud Nine had good potential, but despite cultivating tons of followers on social media, they were just never able to translate those numbers into real life customers.
Few companies will admit it, but this is a common problem. Now that every company uses it, social media no longer gives businesses a competitive edge. Instead, it’s become a necessary evil just to maintain the status-quo.
Which brings me back to today …
There I stood, mere hours ago, at the back of the line, in the rain, trying in vain to keep some tourist kid from head-butting me in the balls a second time, when the aforementioned question was posed to me.
It was a valid question.
As of last Monday, I had not one, but two links about the Seattle ferris wheel on the first search result page of Google … just a few slots below King, KOMO, and the P.I..
Because of this placement, I served up several pages of overwhelmingly positive information/photos to 102,000 individuals … and who did the marketing geniuses reach out to?
Yesterday, the King 5 reporter rode the wheel, and she declared it to be “amazing”. The other stations and the other rags were around as well, and the standard, questionably-sincere articles were written.
Now can you see why I was having Deja-Vu?
Sure, local media is gung-ho about the wheel now, but what is going to happen in 3 months, when temperatures start to plummet, the skies start turning gray, and drizzle starts falling.
Will the media still be excited? Who’s going to be there to tweet about the Seattle Great Wheel come November? Who’s going to pay $13 to get in the thing when it’s 39 degrees outside and not a tourist is in sight?
Will it be the neighborhood blogger? The guy who lives a few blocks away, and has been stoked about the wheel since the day it was announced? The guy who passes the Great Wheel twice a day, five days per week?
Well, my friends, that is not for you or I to worry about. These issues are best left to the marketing experts of the world. People with an inside knowledge of hashtags, and folks who can format an effective retweet with only one finger. Fear not, for if I have learned anything over the years, it is that these people know what they are doing.
I thought it over for a bit, looked up at the wheel, looked down at the long line in front of me, then I said, “Eh, these guys don’t need me or my stupid pictures. They have all the business they can handle. Let’s go.”
And with that, we walked back toward the concrete canyons of Downtown, $26 richer, and with un-jeopardized scrotums.
Here’s hoping for a long and prosperous run for the Seattle Great Wheel.
One of these days, I may even ride it myself.