Staff at Fota Wildlife Park in Cork this week were celebrating the arrival of two spiders, however these were not of the animal kind instead it was for best tourism and overall website at the annual Eircom Spider Awards.
The Eircom Spiders Awards are an annual event honouring Irish individuals and organisations for their outstanding achievements online and celebrating the successes of the Irish internet and digital media. This year Fotawildlife.ie achieved the award for best Tourism/Travel website and the Grand Prix award for best Irish website which was selected from the overall winners of the individual Eircom Spiders' categories in 2010.
Stephen Ryan head of Marketing at Fota Wildlife Park was delighted with the news "this is a fantastic achievement for the park, as we were nominated with a lot of prestigious websites whose business is purely based around online activities so this acknowledges the hard work put in by ourselves and also StudioForty9 who designed the site". Fotawildlife.ie was redesigned in 2009 by Cork company StudioForty9, the site has proven to be a big hit with fans of the park who now can get the latest updates on news and events plus interact with the site by posting comments, playing games and joining up as an online member of the park.
The website this year has had nearly 200,000 hits with an increase of 80% on 2009, it has also been responsible for the naming of Aifric the Zebra and Rua the baby Red Panda through online competitions. The aim of the website is to inform people about the park and the animals but is also used as a portal site for their social media sites on You Tube, Twitter, Flickr and Facebook.
Stephen believes that it was this use of this social media that helped the park win the award "since we launched our website in July 2009 our main focus has been to create an online community and we have had great success especially on Facebook where we now have over 10,000 fans which makes us the biggest wildlife park on the world on Facebook". The park also acknowledge the face that this has been very much a local effort with the site designed by Cork based Studio 49 and now they are embarking on a new phase of digital innovation with the launch of an iPhone App created by Cork start up company Product World.
The Fota Wildlife Park app uses ProductWorld technology to constantly update news, events, new animals and attractions. The dynamic nature of the app enables the marketing team at Fota to communicate to its audience in innovative and practical ways - even when they are in the park. Speaking about the launch of the app which was a joint project between the park, StudioForty9 and product world Stephen Ryan said "this is the next step for us in a digital context, we were delighted to win two awards at the spiders but we want to keep progressing and help people interact with the park as much as possible and we believe this app will do that.
Fota Wildlife Park now aim to go even further with their digital communications following the success of the website and their social media sites with a planned promotional campaign in 2010 using Facebook. Both Fota and StudioForty9 are hoping that they can lead the way on innovation that brings the offline and online world of communications together.
The new app can be downloaded for free on itunes by searching for "Fota Wildlife". The park also hope to have the app available on Android in the new year.