We just returned from a three-day trip to Disney World. We were there to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday and had three generations of our family on the same rides I went on as a child – It’s a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Peter Pan. On the first day we all wore t-shirts in celebration of my father’s birthday. It was amazing the number of people who stopped us to say “Happy Birthday” or “Where’s the birthday boy” or who congratulated my father on making it so far and looking so fit. While some of those people were Disney employees, the vast majority were other visitors to the parks. Disney World is a place where people actively engage and interact with their environment. They come to the park expecting a hands-on experience, and expecting to be in touch with the people, characters, rides, and other visitors.
This same spirit of interaction is evident in Disney’s Twitter strategy. Look at only the official Disney presence on Twitter:
|@WaltDisneyWorld||The official Twitter feed for the Walt Disney World Resort||338,187|
|@Disneyland||The official Twitter feed for the Disneyland Resort-covering Disneyland Park, Disney California Adventure Park, Downtown Disney and Disneyland Resort Hotels||215,476|
|@DisneyCruise||The official Twitter feed for Disney Cruise Line||69,971|
|@DisneyParks||The official Twitter feed for Disney Parks & Resorts-covering Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line and properties worldwide||251,989|
|@DisneySports||The official Twitter feed for sports across all Disney Parks||19,196|
This list does not even include more specific Disney handles such as @runDisney, or fan threads such as @DisneyWorldMom.
Compare Disney’s Twitter profile to Universal Studios:
|@UORnews||Official Twitter for Universal Orlando Resort||32,586|
|@UniStudios||The official Universal Studios Hollywood (Theme Park) Twitter||42,483|
|@UniversalPics||Welcome to Universal Pictures||201,836|
Both Disney and Universal are multinational media empires. The Walt Disney Company owns all of the Disney brands, Touchstone, Pixar, ESPN, and the ABC News brands (The Walt Disney Company). However, the Disney theme park’s social media presence emphasizes the many types of family-oriented experiences that guests can have through the Disney brand. They offer everything from theme parks, to cruises, to sporting events. Disney’s strategy is to focus on the interactive experiences that guests can have in multiple venues through Twitter (and of course its other online vehicles, including its website, YouTube channels, and blogs).
Universal (part of UniversalNBC) is a subsidiary of Comcast, whose brands also include all of the NBC franchises (MSNBC, CNBC), Telemundo, Bravo, Sprout, Xfinity, Oxygen, and hosts of popular TV shows and films (2011 Annual Review). Universal’s strategy is to cross-promote its familial brands. Hence, the theme parks become forums through which to sell the other entertainment offerings. The difference between these two brand strategies can be illustrated by comparing the Twitter image associated with @WaltDisneyWorld and @UORnews, and the “following” lists of each profile.
https://twitter.com/#!/WaltDisneyWorld/following has only 77 follows, including bloggers on Disney, news about Disney, travel advice, and a few Disney staff. The banner image is the iconic centerpiece of the Disney brand, Cinderella’s Castle, paired with the “W” from Walt Disney’s signature as the tweet image. In fact, all of the Disney images are variations on the official Disney logos. They do not explicitly reference the popular characters. Rather, the inhabitants of the Disney films and parks maintain real-world existences in action films, games, toys, clothing, and of course in the parks themselves.
In contrast, https://twitter.com/UORnews has 407 follows. However, sprinkled among the bloggers and fans are celebrities, characters, and films under the Universal/Warner Brothers umbrella, including @ConanO’Brien, @DespicableMe, @SpongeBob, and @kelly_clarkson. Furthermore, the media connections of the brand are expressed in the fact that it follows major news and television outlets from around the world. The image displayed (currently) on the Orlando theme park is a shot from the current film Universal Studios is promoting, next summer’s release of Despicable Me 2 (slated for June 2013). The connections between these different aspects of Comcast (the different personalities, artistic products, and news feeds) help to create relationships that extend interest and loyalty from one brand to another. It also leverages the highly popular personalities to make consumers aware of other aspects of the company.
Disney has a cohesive brand focused on family entertainment that enjoys instant recognition. Their diversification strategy, therefore, has a common center that holds the pieces in place. By contract, Comcast is in multiple, related, media areas, and needs to more actively connect the dots for the consumer.