“Ideas come from curiosity,” said Walt Disney.
In terms of social media, that translates to giving readers what they’re most curious about: exclusive video and behind-the-scenes stories at Disney—and not relying on reporters to do the job.
“We’re using our channels to cover ourselves like a news organization coming to Disney,” Thomas Smith, social media director of Disney Parks, told attendees at Ragan Communications’ second annual Social Media for PR and Corporate Communicators Conference. “We’re using those same channels to announce our biggest campaigns and events.”
For instance, Disney gained a lot of press recently when it gathered 140 movie characters in the shape of a hashtag and tweeted the photo. It launched first on Twitter, then on the Disney Parks blog, which is the hub of Disney’s social media efforts. The blog represents all the business units, and it features seven-plus stories a day from more than 100 bloggers.
“Blogging is alive and well at Disney parks,” Smith said. Social media is “where people create [and] share, and where we listen.”
Central to the success of its blog, Smith said, are personalities: “People drive our social program. Everything we do revolves around people.”
The blog centers on the following tenets: remarkable experiences, purposeful storytelling, and humanizing Disney. Here’s a look:
The key is to give readers an experience they can’t get anywhere else.
One way Disney does that is through meet-ups, which it usually holds monthly and which “fill up in minutes.”
“We create experiences that you cannot get in the park,” Smith said.
Last year it held a nighttime meet-up. “We created one blog post and wrote a post an hour for 24 hours,” Smith said.
Disney also hosts Disney blog “takeovers.” Ghosts and pirates have both taken over blogging duties in the past. For a day, all content was posted in “pirate-speak.” The takeover also includes a new logo and blog design.
“Blog readers ate it up, and they kept on going back to it,” Smith said.
“You want them to talk about what you’re talking about—you.” Smith said.
A storyteller must know a few things:
First, its audience.
You must “get your messages out in front of right people at the right time.”
For instance, the “blog rush hour” is different from that of Twitter or Facebook, and it can even be seasonal. The busiest time for Disney’s Twitter page is later at night. Disney’s SEO team studies what and when people search for annual events. They discovered that people searched for Christmas-related events in July. “It changed the way we did content in Disney parks.”
Second, a ‘good storyteller knows how people are reading their content.’
Most Disney Park blog readers access the site via their desktops, but 25 percent are mobile readers. “This is how people are checking us; they’re in the parks, looking at their phones.”
Third, good storytellers must know ‘what their readers want.’
For Disney, readers love behind-the-scenes videos, images, and stories.
“We get into places that others can’t. That’s our bread and butter,” Smith said.
Disney tells those stories in different ways. Live chats have become a very popular way to engage with readers. In February, during a live chat with an Imagineer about the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, it released never-before-seen video.
Focus on stories that are “highly contagious and shareable,” Smith urged.
Disney encourages bloggers to share their expertise and their personal stories. “We’re creating characters on the blog” that readers love and follow.
For instance, blogger Gary Buchanan has a side character, Concerned Bystander Rob, within his video posts. Rob knows whatever Gary is about to do, may not be a good idea.
A few bonus storytelling tips to follow
If anyone knows how to tell a story, it’s Disney. Smith offered some basic guidelines in terms of video, which it relies on more and more on the Disney Parks blog.
The subject always tells the story. It’s more powerful and authentic this way.
Great audio. “If it’s horrible, people tune out.”
Concise video. Most shared videos tend to be shorter in length.
First looks. Images. Readers want to see images
Offer a unique perspective. People like something a little different…
Feature iconic/familiar content. … But the familiar sure feels like home.