Social Media & The Mouse: Part 1 – Information Overload
A brief series on the creativity and innovation consumers are taking advantage of when vacationing at a resort such as Walt Disney World. Based on my own experiences in researching, testing and using the online culture of user-and-small-biz generated message boards and iPhone applications.
So we’re going to Disney World*.
Message Boards & Other Social Media Stepchildren
Too often we in the business of helping people with social media get distracted by the shiniest object and treat our communication landscape like Mtv’s TRL, falling all over ourselves to tell the world how we use Twitter and everyone else should too. What we often disrespect, accidentally and sometimes not-so-accidentally, are the multitude of online social mediums that aren’t as sexy but are in many ways far more powerful examples of human behavior. Case and point: the survival (flourishing, even) culture of message boards that have evolved from BBS-era to mini-social-networks of their own. Typically they are drilled down and customized for specific audiences, from fans of a particular model of Subaru to regular concert-goers. These forums are potent communities discussing far more than just the designated subjects and they frequently span the generations, and have for a dozen years, far more distinctly than Facebook has so far.
Disney fan culture has particularly flourished in emerging media, particularly in messageboards too numerous to note here, but all helpful and easily visible on any search for Disney Park opinions, reviews, experiences and more. There are blogs that are very frequently updated and often split by demographic – Disney finally added their own official blog recently as well. For this trip I need to give a special nod to the DisneyDaddy blog and the All Ears website, reviews and newsletter. These and others have begun to push into other social channels such as Facebook and Twitter – with interesting results. I found many, many helpful comments and reviews across the spectrum – sometimes getting different information from comments on their respective Facebook Pages than those in other message boards. Simply put, some people want to interact with the same entity in the online communities they are comfortable with; it’s unclear how much, if any, cross over there is so there can be a wealth of content in both that is mirrored, but the valuable user-generated reactions and reviews spread far and wide.
The lesson for the consumer: Once you find a source you’re comfortable with, see where else it lives and interact with the off-shoots that match your personal comfort level.
The lesson for the brand: We will have to be comfortable with a decentralization of content – think of it as needing a postal box on every corner as well as the home office – go to where they live. Disney has a robust third party set of communities who even produce their own magazines on Disney experiences – but as they have grown even those third parties have had to now manage their own brand as lovers of another brand.
A Review Culture (Making The Most of a Chatty Gen X)
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of reviews. For every decision we had to make, there were very pointed suggestions or large-scale essays on every aspect of a family’s trip – we could cherry-pick the essays that matched our own family and filter from there.
Hiding a Trip: The Conundrum of Geotagging
One issue I faced was being honest through the social media channels I personally frequent. On the one hand I had many friends and family who knew of our surprise trip, but on the other I didn’t want to broadcast out to the universe that we wouldn’t be home. This is the fundamental strangeness in geo-tagging coming to a site with critical mass like Twitter before one known for privacy options like Facebook (regardless of whether Facebook would prefer you be private or not). The decision to not geotag Tweets is an easy one: I never do. With more subtle apps like Foursquare I might consider it to grab points and simply choose the option to not broadcast my location. But it does highlight what I want out of GPS: I want only select people to know where I am, but I do want services to know where I am for the purpose of delivering geo-specific content (i.e. maps, Yelp, etc.)
Using Facebook’s Privacy Powers for Good
Which brings me to how I handled the trip with close friends. Early on I made a custom Friends List in Facebook that I used to solicit discussion and advice for the trip and also use as a privacy filter for a relatively select group of people who might care we were going or provide nice insights. For every piece of content relating to the trip (videos, status updates, notes, etc.) I would select this “Disney” filter.
Next up: the mobile application culture that surrounds the Disney Parks.
So in the meantime before the app discussion, enjoy this video of Pluto doing the Moonwalk:
* By the time you read this, we’ve already gone.
EXTRA CREDIT: Social Media & Santa
Finally, one lively discussion had between friends (parent and non-parent alike) in my Disney-filter content was whether to have our surprise Christmas trip be from Santa. Once it was decided it would be a joint gift from Santa and parents, it dawned on me that it would be neat to have a paper trail we could point to, “evidence” if you will, proving that we had been in communication with the large red man. While a spare white glove, hoofprints and more are neat to provide, we wouldn’t be home for long and needed something more modern. So I created an email trail of discussions between us and Santa. Also, with the help of @alucas9, we created a trail of text messages with “Santa” checking up on Addy and making plans for the trip– including one sent by Santa to her on Christmas Day.