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Online Community Management Lessons From Disney [video]

Written by Joshua Paul | on July 12, 2011 at 7:41 AM

Disney was one of the first companies to use social networking to increase sales and drive customer satisfaction. However, Disney did not create the most innovative Facebook fan page, they were late to the online content marketing game, and still doesn't have a strong mobile strategy. Then, how are they a pioneer in social networking success? Disney has long used their understanding of community and how people connect with one another offline to grow their organization into one of the most recognizable, trusted brands in the world.

Disney as Social Business Pioneer

The following are community management lessons from one of the Walt Disney World Resort's latest tactics. As you read this, you should know that I worked for, and studied management and customer service at, Walt Disney World earlier in my career. However, that was over a decade ago. Disney has made many changes in the time since my "cast membership."

For instance, much to the joy of resort guests, Disney resort lifeguards now perform the "changing of the guards," a jovial dance party that signifies the shift change from the daytime lifeguards to the evening guards. Another new addition to the 47 square mile stage where Disney puts on a daily non-stop show is the street performers in Downtown Disney's Westside.

It was a third new addition that reminded me that Disney wrote the book on community management and using social networking for business. Stationed throughout the property, Disney has deployed their most helpful cast members into the "community" of guests that circulate around Disney property.

Think of the approximately 125,000 people who visit the Walt Disney World Resort everyday as a customer community in the same way that you think of your organizations online community. These people are trying to get the most out of Disney's products and services. It just so happens that they are an offline community, but still a community. They are individuals and family groups who come together around an interest, cause, or product - a Disney World experience.

How Disney Successfully Manages Their Community

The following are two examples of Disney community managers:

  • Downtown Disney Community Manager. Along the walkway to the Disney transportation bus stops at the Downtown Disney shopping area, a guest services representative (pictured below) proactively helps guests - both answering questions and giving directions to guests arriving at Downtown Disney, as well as families looking to catch a bus to their next destination.
  • Earl of Sandwich Community Manager. When you walk into Earl of Sandwich, my favorite lunch spot in Downtown Disney, it is easy to be overwhelmed by tourists who have apparently also discovered my secret cheap eats location. However, you are immediately greeted by someone whose job it is to guide you to the correct line (and out of the way of other patrons), explain the ordering process, and answer any questions you have about the menu or restaurant.

Online Community Management Tips from Watching Disney

There is not a cash register in sight. These cast members are not sales people. They are not pushing a product or services. They are simply listening to the community around them and offering help and information to those who need it.

By investing in these "community managers" and placing them in areas where they are visible and can offer assistance to as many guests as possible on the front lines, Disney reaps the rewards created by being present to ensure customers are satisfied with their Disney experience. The rewards are not unlike the benefits that any organization finds when they successfully manage their customer community - customer loyalty, customer satisfaction, and positive social marketing buzz.

Online Community Management Takeaways

Now that you saw an illustration of how Disney manages their customer community, you can see that online community managers fulfill the same role for companies and associations. Here are 4 reasons Disney community management is so successful that you can incorporate into your online community strategy:

1) Their sole purpose is to help customers get the most from their organization's offerings.

Their job performance is not based on any metric other than customer success and satisfaction.

2) They are placed where customers are.

Do you understand your customer's habits and anticipate areas where they may need guidance? The more people that community managers talk to, the better it is for your organization.

3) They are not transaction oriented, but focused on supporting the brand.

Successful online community managers can support a brand promise without making customers feel that they are being herded through a funnel to the next transaction.

4) They create order from chaos.

Like guests at Disney World, your customers have busy lives, are focused on their own purview, and often don't fully understand the landscape or processes they need to know about to be successful. Online community managers boil down this chaos into usable guidance to help customers find success with your product or service.

Tips for developing a great online customer community strategy.

Topics: Social Media, Online Community Management, Online Community

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