Chimani College Interns in the Age of COVID-19

Below is a guest post by three college interns from the University of Southern Maine Chimani had during the spring 2020 semester. They got to experience (remotely) what it was like for a business in the travel industry go through the rapid changes which COVID-19 unleased in March 2020. We’re very thankful for all the work they did and wish the the best of luck on their next journey. -Kerry Gallivan, CEO/Founder, Chimani

Hello! Our names are Kylee Austin, Sisa Lema, and Dylan Brann and we are seniors at the University of Southern Maine. Kylee is double majoring in Business Management with an Entrepreneurship track and Marketing; Sisa is majoring in Small Business Management/ Entrepreneurship with a minor in Studio Arts; and Dylan is double majoring in Entrepreneurship and Marketing. Over the course of the 2020 Spring semester, we worked with Chimani and their CEO Kerry Gallivan to expand Chimani’s audience and increase the use of their super impressive national park guide app through the use of various social media marketing strategies.

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We connected with Chimani in the beginning of our Spring 2020 semester. In one of our senior capstone courses titled “Managing the Growing Entrepreneurial Venture,” we were given the assignment to “add value to a scalable entrepreneurship venture”. After reaching out to various companies, we made the decision to partner with Chimani and their CEO Kerry Gallivan who was kind enough to work with us for the semester. This was an exciting opportunity for all of us as we are lovers of the outdoors and were eager to incorporate what we have learned at the University of Southern Maine, and apply it to a company as exciting as Chimani. 

During the first of our weekly Zoom meetings with Kerry, we established goals for our project and explored areas we felt we could offer value to Chimani. Our semester took an interesting turn when our campus closed due to Covid-19, however, we were able to adapt and pivot along the way. 

Three Experiments Proved Most Successful

We decided to primarily leverage organic and promotional social media marketing with the goal of growing Chimani’s audience while also increasing downloads of the Chimani national park app. We brainstormed some potential ways to achieve this goal and ran seven experiments throughout the semester, analyzing data to measure the success of our ideas. 

Of our experiments, the three that we had the most success with include:

  • partnering with Instagram influencers
  • contacting news sources to promote Chimani’s blogs
  • leveraging Chimani’s associated social media pages

Instagram influencers

For our influencer experiment, we chose to reach out to Instagram influencers that aligned with the outdoor-loving and adventurous market that Chimani appeals to. We based our decisions on the type of content posted by the accounts and their branding as well as how high of an engagement rate the influencer had on their posts. We contacted various influencers and proposed a partnership opportunity with Chimani, offering Chimani paid subscriptions as an incentive. We felt that by using influencer marketing we could add value to Chimani by increasing awareness of the brand through channels other than just the main Chimani Instagram page.

The influencer partnership entailed running a promotional giveaway through their account promoting Chimani. The influencers would receive a Lifetime subscription for themselves ($99 value) and four free Annual subscriptions ($119.95 value) for their followers through the promotional giveaway. For example, one influencer held a promotion using the four annual subscriptions as prizes. The promotion was mutually beneficial and added value to both Chimani and the promotional partner. 

We contacted about 40 influencers initially through direct messages on Instagram as well as our own personal Instagram accounts and personal email addresses. After an initial lack of response on our personal accounts, we switched to a @chimani.com email address which we could use to contact more influencers in hopes of getting a higher response rate. Unfortunately, we did not notice a higher response rate using the @chimani email however out of the 40 total influencers contacted, five responded with interest, and two influencer accounts were able to run a successful promotion with Chimani. 

In addition to working with influencers, we also managed several of Chimani’s associated park-specific accounts on Instagram. Chimani owns about twenty-three different national park-specific accounts on Instagram, all with a hefty amount of followers and good engagement. We each managed two national park pages including Grand Canyon National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Acadia National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Death Valley National Park. We began posting high-quality content on each national park account while also engaging with followers, liking their comments on posts, replying on posts, and featuring photographers on the national park guide page stories. We also promoted Chimani’s recent blogs through the guide pages. These blogs were very relevant and offered some uplifting information for individuals that were craving national parks but were unable to visit them due to COVID-19.  Chimani’s blogs included topics such as “10 Ways to Visit National Parks Virtually” and “Top 8 Podcasts for National Park Fans”. Managing and promoting through Chimani’s park accounts proved to be one of our most successful strategies with some posts seeing very high engagement which was able to contribute positively to both app downloads and audience growth.  

We also sent out Chimani’s press release and blog regarding the National Park Week Special, from April 19 – April 26, Chimani released a special discount to the premium app for a yearly subscription for only $1 which equates to a huge savings of over 96%. Using the @chimani.com account we emailed and filled out contact forms for many different news centers, describing a little bit about Chimani and why this would be a valuable story to share. The blogs had gotten about 12,000 to 17,000 views due to promotional efforts on the Chimani park-specific Instagram accounts . 

As we reflected on the semester we came to the conclusion that getting the chance to work with Chimani throughout the semester was a ton of fun and we learned a lot along the way! We were able to gain some real first-hand insight into what the marketing side of a venture can consist of and the teamwork, creativity, and strategy that goes into it. Working with Chimani afforded us the opportunity to create strategies and implement them all while leveraging the valuable knowledge and experience that Kerry generously provided us. We will definitely take what we’ve learned with us after we graduate. Chimani rocks!

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