How Visitor Attractions are Earning Money Virtually.
Whether you are a zoo, museum or rural farm attraction, earning money virtually not only brings in extra revenue (from those within and outside your catchment) but it also enables you to connect more deeply with your existing visitors.
We’ve looked at the visitor attraction space and identified some great ways people are keeping in touch with their customers, whilst earning revenue. These vary from the Facebook Supporters Scheme to Adopt an Object to Facebook Stars and Paid for Virtual Events.
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Facebook Supporter Schemes
Facebook Supporters Schemes give your audience access to unique content that those who are not a supporter won’t be able to see. It is a monthly subscription and the best example we know of is Cannon Hall Farm in Barnsley.
Cannon Hall started their Supporters Club during lockdown and in one year, Facebook tells us they have grown their subscriber list to 3500, paying £3.49 each month. Cannon Hall have the added advantage that they secured a TV show in 2020, however, it does show the potential growth if you invest in your content.
This group of strong supporters can also be monetised further through selling merchandise online. These will be your top fans and probably will also pay for adoptions and to attend virtual events.
You promote your supporters club through other posts you do.
Adopt an Object or Adopt an Animal Scheme
Zoos have capitalised upon adopt an animal schemes for over 30 years, but we are now seeing museums and farm attractions large and small clambering onboard.
RAF Museum ‘Adopt an Artifact’
The RAF Museum have a total of 50 different museum pieces you can adopt, ranging in value from £25 to £2000. You can buy a share of an artifact and receive a digital photo, alongside a certificate.
Cockfields Farm Park
We’ve chosen this example as this family farm park send out a gift box instead of purely offering a digital adoption.
Priced at £49 per adoption, there is a choice of 5 different farm animals. The package isn’t sent virtually but arrives in a gift packaged box which includes a named certificate, farm soft toy, 2 free tickets, a photograph of the animals and a puzzle colouring page. In addition, the adopters name is displayed on a wall of fame in reception.
Edinburgh Zoo operates a successful adoption scheme, which proves very popular especially with the option of adopting their famous giant pandas. They provide a variety of membership options: Cub, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum level, to suit all budgets.
The most basic adoption scheme ‘Cub’ is priced at £40 and includes an animal fact sheet, certificate of adoption, and photo of adopted animal. ‘Platinum’ level is at a much higher price point at £550 but also includes 2 single memberships, an annual calendar and ‘meet the keeper’ experience to enjoy when the attraction can re-open.
Cambridge Museum of Technology
At the home of industrial heritage, The Cambridge Museum of Technology encourages you to Adopt a part of their exhibits. Prices range from £25 to £250 and you get your name displayed in the gallery, alongside a digital photo and certificate.
A way of monetising your live feeds is to obtain Facebook Stars when you are streaming. One Hundred stars is worth $1.00, so you need quite a few but they do add up.
There are some simple tips to follow when you start to use stars. Your first step is to educate your audience. This is best achieved by creating an explanation video covering what stars are, how they help you and why they should be sent (eg. a thank you or to obtain recognition from you). This video should then be pinned to the top of your Facebook page.
To encourage your audience to contribute, winning strategies include setting a Stars Goal, promoting stars regularly in your posts and do shout outs to those on screen who provide a large donation.
In Facebook you can see a league table of those who contribute the most and reach out personally to the larger contributors to encourage them to continue.
If you already do regular Facebook lives, making money from Facebook stars will be a fairly easy way to monetise your content.
Other social networks offer similar type schemes. On YouTube, not only can you earn revenue on live streams by enabling ads, but also through using Super Chat and Super Stickers. These features let your viewers purchase chat messages that stand out, with the option of pinning them to the top of a chat feed.
Instagram have also introduced ‘Badges’ on live streams and IGTV videos where viewers can participate and show their support by purchasing a badge. These badges enable viewers to unlock additional features and have a placement on the creators list of badge holders.
These social media platforms are a great way to generate income from content you’re already creating.
Monetised Virtual Events
We’ve seen three models for virtual events; the first is for people pay to view/attend an event on mass and the second is to have a 1 on 1 experience online. We’ve also seen other attractions like Chester Zoo run free virtual events to encourage take up of adoptions or donations.
Pay to View Mass Events
Facebook provides the infrastructure for you to offer a virtual event with a one-off access fee.
The great thing about these virtual events is that they’re simple to create; you can publish your event, charge viewers, promote to customers and host, all in one place. Your viewers can easily access your event through the Facebook event page, and they can also join in through the Facebook TV app.
Paid online events work with the live video method that works best for your needs, whether that’s Facebook Live or a third-party site.
The example we are going to use is from Cannon Hall again, who are running a virtual farm open day in February 2021. The focus is on their lambing barns, mixed up with talks and demonstrations. At the time of writing this blog with 2 weeks yet to go, they had 479 sign ups.
White Post Farm regular virtual events
White Post Farm run regular events for Home Educators and a Preschool Clubs called Little Farmers. These virtual paid for events have enabled them to retain their audience who would have usually visited the farm, whilst bringing in some income to finance it.
Pay to View 1 on 1 Experiences
A number of one-on-one experiences have bought income to attractions.
In the recent press a farmer in Lincolnshire was offering one of their Goats to attend a Zoom call, netting them £50,000 over the last year.
Whilst Twycross Zoo have taken their unusual guest experiences at the Zoo online. Varying in prices from £75 to £350, visitors can take part in Tiger, Penguin and Meerkat experiences, where you can go behind the scenes, quiz the keepers and watch them feed, train and look after the animals.
Lockdown has accelerated the growth digital across the world, with all of us trying to use online to satisfy the need for experiences. The attraction sector will no doubt continue with some of these income streams not felt possible before the pandemic.
We look forward to seeing what innovation lies ahead in the next 6 months.
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