From the Sandusky Register

SANDUSKY

If you’re a popular person on Facebook, you could well have hundreds of friends. Maybe even thousands.

When Tony Clark is on Facebook, he stays in touch with more than 300,000.

When he’s at work, toiling away in the marketing building for Cedar Fair at the back of the amusement park, Clark is the “interactive marketing manager.”

But for hundreds of thousands of roller coaster fans, Clark has a different name. When he posts on the amusement park’s Facebook site, he’s identified as “Cedar Point.”

As of Saturday morning, Cedar Point had 309,180 fans. The number will be higher by the time you read this.

The growth has been rapid.

Clark said Cedar Point’s Facebook presence began as a fan page. The fan made it clear it was an unofficial page, and handed it over last year when Cedar Point asked to take it over. At that point, the page had 30,000 fans.

Cedar Point’s promotion grew that number tenfold in a year, and promotional efforts will continue. This summer, signs will urge Cedar Point visitors to visit the park on Facebook, Clark said.

“The great thing about it is, it’s exponential growth,” he said.

While many of those 300,000 plus fans probably don’t pay much attention to the page, hard-core Cedar Point fans often post comments there.

Sean Foley, 36, who lives in a suburb of Pittsburgh, frequently shows up on the page.

Foley’s profile picture on Facebook shows him standing next to Snoopy.

“That was taken right outside of TGI Fridays at the Hotel Breakers,” he said.

Foley, a national account coordinator for Verizon Wireless, says he’s at Cedar Point 15 to 20 days a year. The day he was interviewed last week, he had used a webcam to check Sandusky’s weather and noticed that it had turned sunny.

“It’s all I can think about right now,” he said.

Foley said Cedar Point’s Facebook page is a good source of information.

“It’s nice to interact not only with other fans but also with their staff as well,” he said.

The frequent answers Cedar Point posts to fan questions is a particularly nice feature, Foley said.

“You can often find the answer before even asking it,” Foley said. “You can see other people have asked the question.”

Because fans can post questions and comments, Facebook provides instant feedback, Clark said.

While the comments are overwhelmingly positive — it’s a fan page, after all — it also lets Cedar Point address potential problems.

For example, a fan posted she wouldn’t stay in Cedar Point’s hotels because they are too expensive.

“That honesty is there for everyone to see,” Clark said.

Cedar Point told the woman there are customizable hotel plans and ways to get discounts.

“You cannot purchase cheaper tickets than if you stay with us,” Clark said.

Hooking up with Cedar Point’s Facebook page — or subscribing to the park’s Twitter feed — has practical advantages.

The park has begun experimenting with offering discounts to its social media fans. Last week, Cedar Point was offering $99 stays at Castaway Bay, exclusively to Facebook fans.

“We will do that more this summer,” Clark said.

As the administrator of the page, Clark doesn’t just post to it. He removes posts that violate Cedar Point’s guidelines.

Personal attacks on other fans are banned, and foul language is taboo, too.

“We don’t want attacks on other people or things you wouldn’t let your child read,” Clark said.

Videos that obviously were taken while a rider sat inside a roller coaster are also forbidden.

“It’s a strong rule here at Cedar Point we don’t allow cameras on their rides,” Clark said.

That’s for safety reasons. If someone dropped a camera, “that could be a bad situation for the other riders,” he said. “Safety is No. 1 at the park.”

Facebook provides Clark’s biggest audience, but he also communicates with fans in other ways.

He also posts to Twitter, where twitter.com/cedarpoint had 5,944 followers last week. He uploads videos to YouTube’s Cedar Point channel. And he and Tyler Adams, director of sales at Cedar Point, write the posts on the official Cedar Point blog, Onpoint!

Clark, 31, a Perkins Township resident, worked in radio for several years in Milwaukee. He said he enjoyed talking to people in his radio job, and has found that interacting with fans on the Internet is similar.

He often posts status messages on Facebook to get fan discussion going.

When the flamboyant pop star Lady Gaga announced she was coming to Cleveland on her new tour, Clark posted, “Cedar Point wonders if Lady Gaga will visit the park before her Cleveland show.”

Reaction was split 50/50. Some coaster fans said they hoped she’d show up.

“There were some who said, ‘She’s a freak, keep her away,'” Clark said. “It just got a lot of reaction.”