Disney Parks Prove to be Big on Magic, Short on Social Media
Recently, my family and I went to Orlando to escape the arctic tundra that is the North Carolina winter and go to the happiest place on Earth. While there, I figured I'd see what kind of social media efforts were present within the Disney parks. As the Disney Corporation is one of the great marketing forces on the planet, I figured it would be a time for me to take notes and learn from the great masters behind the Mouse. However, what I found was quite to the contrary.
My first stop was at Epcot (my personal favorite). I whipped out my smartphone and started looking for @Epcot so that I could start following the park and see if I could get access to any exclusive information or other web-based goodies. Unfortunately, finding an official Twitter profile proved to be quite difficult.
Upon entering the turnstiles, I approached two of the extremely friendly park staff and asked, "Is Epcot on Twitter?" At that moment I experienced a bit of déjà vu, reliving the times from a few years ago when I would I bring up the phrase "social media" and people would look at me like I had just spoken in Finnish. They turned to each other with puzzled looks and then replied saying they weren't sure but directed to me towards Guest Services.
Now, at this point I started getting worried because there's something you need to know about Disney park staff. They are as a whole perhaps the most outgoing, bubbliest, friendliest, knowledgable people in the entire world. If they didn't know, that was a fairly good indication that no one else would either. Nevertheless, I headed to guest services.
Even the person behind the desk didn't know off the top of their head if Epcot was on Twitter. They had to go into a back room and check. After a minute, they returned to tell me that the 6th most visited theme park in the world DOES NOT have its own Twitter account. I'll pause for a moment to let that sink in whilst you browse some of my Instagram photos.
Walt Disney World does have its own Twitter account, and all the parks are under the umbrella of @DisneyParks. They do a decent job of interacting with fans; however, if you don't include their handle in your tweets, they probably won't respond or retweet. During my trip, I composed 64 tweets about the parks, many of which included Instagram pictures and hashtags such as #Disney, #Epcot, #SpaceshipEarth, #AnimalKingdom, and #HollywoodStudios. The fact that I didn't at least get some type of response means they probably don't have a system for picking up keywords.
Between rides and taking pictures with the characters (Minnie blew me a kiss by the way, no big deal) I came to an even more shocking conclusion: The parks are doing quite well without social media.
I know. I know. How dare I say such blasphemy! But really if you pause for a moment and think about the areas that social media addresses, you can understand my point.
- Customer Service - If you can't find someone to help you in the time it takes you to write a tweet, you must be outside of Orlando. Like I said before, the Disney park staff are some of the friendliest people in the world and they are always more than happy to assist you. The only way a complaint would go unaddressed is if you just complained for the sake of complaining, which would make you THAT guy...and no one likes THAT guy.
- Sales - I grabbed a few souvenirs from the numerous gift shops. While waiting in line, I glanced at a few of the registers. I'd say they consistently averaged around $90 a head...so they're doing pretty well in that area.
- Exposure - Do you know anyone who doesn't know what Disney World is? 'Nuf said.
Now, just because they don't need social media doesn't mean they don't need social media, if you catch my drift. As masterfully as they operate their parks, they could always use social media to enhance the park experience and the Disney brand. Here are a few of my ideas:
- All parks need their own Facebook page and Twitter account - I don't need to go into much detail here. It just seems necessary that these massive attractions need their own social presence.
- A Hashtag for Every Ride - Now hashtags can get out of control, but if anyone can do it in a subtle, tasteful way, it's Disney. Besides, if #ItsASmallWorld can't become a trending topic, I've lost all faith in humanity.
- Rewarding active followers - Getting to meet Disney artists and Imagineers, behind the scenes tours, special merchandise, etc. Keep it exclusive to the social media users, and park attendees will jump on the chance to follow Disney's social channels.
- Find the Hidden Mickeys contest - Hundreds of Mickey Mouse logos are hidden all over the Disney parks. Creating a microsite where you could upload pictures (which would be recognized in a QR-code-esque manner) and complete a checklist for rewards would add a fun easter egg hunt to the park experience.
- The Disney Day Planner - Between all the shows, rides and lines, it can be difficult to fit all that magic into one day, even more so if you're traveling with a big group. I propose a Facebook tab designed to help you plan your day with Disney. Enter information about the size of your group, age range, and what you're interested in (i.e. shopping, getting pictures with mascots, roller coasters) and it will print a full itinerary, including everything from when to stop for lunch to when to pick up a fastpass.
What social experiences have you found in theme parks? Share in the comments!
P.S. I strongly recommend going the week before Christmas. The weather is fantastic and the most I waited for a ride was probably 20 minutes.
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