Second Life for Kids

Another form of social media that continues to grow in popularity and is especially effective for reaching children is online gaming and virtual worlds.  On such web sites, people can connect with each other while escaping the realities of life, even if it is only temporary.  One of the most well-known of these virtual worlds is Second Life, self-proclaimed “the Internet’s largest user-created, 3D virtual world community.”  In Second Life, “residents” basically maintain a second life online, going to work, playing games, and communicating with fellow residents.

A great example of another virtual world is Disney’s Club Penguin.  Launched in 2005, Club Penguin was created as a kind of Second Life for kids.  Club Penguin began as an independent site for its first two years and joined ranks with Disney in 2007.  Since joining Disney, Club Penguin has established itself as an online gaming community where children can interact safely without the bombardment of third-party advertisements.

To better understand the features of Club Penguin and its appeal to parents and children alike, I decided to play lead investigator for this post and opened a Club Penguin account myself.  When creating your account, Club Penguin requires minimal personal information and a parent’s e-mail address is necessary to activate the account.  Also, there is a great feature regarding chat options where you can choose between Ultimate Safe Chat, which only allows the use of a menu of communicative actions, and Standard Safe Chat, which is still filtered but allows for more personal interaction.

In exploring the virtual world of Club Penguin, I found it to be quite similar to Second Life in that members can decorate their own homes (igloos), play games, and chat with each other.  In my opinion, the best part about Club Penguin is its lack of advertising on the site.  Being used to seeing web sites full of advertisements, it was strange to see one without any flashing banners and obnoxious pop-ups.  I think it’s great that Disney is helping provide a site that leaves third-party advertising behind and just lets kids be kids.

Below I’ve included a few screenshots of Club Penguin as well as an interesting video about the expansion of Club Penguin into a corresponding merchandise line in 2008.

2 comments October 28, 2009

You want it? YouTube it.

YouTube, one of the earlier forms of social media, is a great way for companies to share information and connect with their publics.  Because we are so used to having our brains consistently stimulated with moving pictures and sounds through television, videos are perfect in providing our brains with this stimulation that they’ve become accustomed to.  Also, videos that give consumers inside looks into the “going-ons” of a company engage the consumer and make them feel special.

Disney, in its venture into social media, has expanded its outreach to YouTube.  Like with Twitter, Disney owns several YouTube channels to represent the various aspects of the corporation.  Each channel appeals to different kinds of fans and has posted numerous videos about interesting subjects within the specified part of the corporation.  In addition, registered YouTube members have the option of subscribing to a channel, making new videos easier to keep up with.

On the DisneyLiving Channel, I found a great video about the evolution of Mickey Mouse.  olej

While this video provides an interesting overview of the history of Mickey Mouse, it also made me think about the evolution of Disney and its methods of communication overall.  In the past, radio and television were the primary communication tools for companies.  Now we have so many different options, including the Internet and a wide variety of social media tools.  Although YouTube is just one of these many media outlets, it provides an easy and fun way for consumers to seek information from and interact with companies.

4 comments October 19, 2009

It’s fandemonium out there!

LaughingPlace.com is one of the most overwhelming and, at the same time, impressive fan-based web sites I’ve ever come across.  The site was created by two Disney fans, Doobie Moseley and his wife, Rebekah, and provides fans with access to various types of social media.  I would even go so far as to call LaughingPlace.com the Walmart Supercenter of social media outlets in that fans can find everything Disney they could ever want all in one place.

To start, LaughingPlace.com has places where fans can post their own personal photos from the Disney theme parks.  Under the section entitled LP Lotion Pictorials, fans can view photos and video coverage of Disney-related events; so even if some fans are unable to attend every event, they can stay informed and feel involved by watching videos or viewing pictures.  Another part of the web site, LP Live, allows fans to send live pictures of the parks from their cell phones.

LaughingPlace.com also provides a great Disney News section, which includes Disney headlines, late-breaking news, and an editorial-type component, among other things.  A great addition to the Disney News page is the option to subscribe to the Disney News mailing list and to their RSS feed.

Another aspect that makes LaughingPlace.com such a successful source of Disney social media is its podcasts and blogs.  Though most of their podcasts are at least an hour long, they discuss topics that I’m sure more die-hard fans than myself would find fascinating.  On their Blogs page, there are links to four different blogs, all written by LP staff members about various topics.

One of the coolest features of LaughingPlace.com in my opinion is their online radio station.  LP Radio provides fans with Disney music 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The last aspect of LaughingPlace.com that I’d like to mention is the Discussion forum.  This provides a place for fans to pose questions for anyone to answer or simply discuss their favorite Disney subjects.  With over 700 topics and 158,189 total messages and counting, it is clear that Disney fans are utilizing this social media tool on a regular basis.  The Discussion forum is a great way for fans who share similar interests to connect with each other and feel like part of a community.

There are so many other excellent features on LaughingPlace.com that could not be contained in one post, or at least not one short enough to retain any reader’s attention.  So, if you are a Disney fan like me or simply want to explore an example of great social media implementation, I encourage you to check out LaughingPlace.com.

3 comments October 14, 2009

To InFANity and beyond!

In addition to its multiple fan pages on Facebook, Disney launched its first ever official community for Disney fans online in March of 2009.  Named D23 after the famous year, 1923, in which the Walt Disney Company was established, the new website is a major breakthrough for Disney.

The site was created for the purpose of honoring its loyal fans and providing them with exclusive access to members-only events, merchandise, and a one-year subscription to Disney twenty-three, D23’s quarterly publication.  Although these perks encourage fans to register as members, the site and most of its information is accessible to anyone.  Members as well as the general public can explore Disney news updates, read daily comic strips, and access the Walt Disney Archives.

My favorite feature of the website and probably the most essential in making it a useful social media tool is the “Ask Dave” section.  On the Walt Disney Archives page, Disney Chief Archivist Dave Smith answers questions regarding Disney’s history.  This is an excellent use of social media because they are not only providing information to those who submit questions but showing that the “little people” matter.  Think of how much closer you’d feel to Disney if Dave chose your question, answered it personally, and posted it on the website.

D23 is a great website where fans can find a plethora of information about everything Disney and strengthen their bond with Disney through exclusive membership benefits.  However, the one aspect that I think Disney’s D23 website is lacking is a discussion forum.  Though it would require closer monitoring of the site, providing a forum for fans as well as adversaries to pose their thoughts, suggestions, and criticisms would be well worth the effort.  By doing so, Disney would be showing that they are actively trying to engage with their publics.  Through listening to what the everyday consumer has to say, they can try to make changes that will benefit both fans and, in return, Disney itself.  After all, aren’t the fans what it’s all about anyway?

7 comments October 7, 2009

Behind the Facebook Times

Another fairly new social media tool is Facebook.  Although Facebook is a more established medium than Twitter, there are still companies that have yet to break into the world of Facebook.  Even Disney has relatively few Facebook pages compared to some companies.  I found it very surprising that a super corporation such as Disney is not more established in this sector of the social media world.

The few Facebook pages that Disney does own are fan pages rather than actual accounts.  Fan pages are a great way to reach out to consumers and give fans a source of information as well as a forum to share photos and opinions.

However, because the only people commenting on the page are fans, Disney mainly receives positive reinforcement rather than constructive criticism.  On the main Disney fan page, 207 people left comments on their September 24th update and of the ones written in English, only 5 negative comments were left and none were responded to.

Also, when someone posts a negative comment, there are instances where fans come to Disney’s defense.  For example, on the Walt Disney Pictures Backlot fan page, a supposed fan wrote a negative comment in response to the upcoming release of “The Princess and the Frog” and a fan retaliated, saying that they should quit trying to discourage people who are looking forward to the return of classic Disney.  So although Facebook can be a great means of communicating with consumers, Disney seems to use Facebook more for reinforcing its fan base and providing information than for obtaining consumer opinion.

If Disney really wants to reach out to all consumers and not just fans, Disney should consider creating a group instead of a fan page.  The group (or groups since Disney may need to create several for its many divisions) could be used to request feedback from fans, opposition, and neutral consumers.  By posing questions and asking consumers how they feel, Disney could establish a stronger relationship with consumers and use the feedback to improve and give people what they want.  After all, it is the consumers that are put in control with social media.

4 comments October 1, 2009

Disney and Twitter: Still Going Strong

Twitter has become a very popular social media tool among corporate communicators.  It has been on the rise for quite some time now and it is easy to see why.  With the use of Twitter, large corporations, such as Disney, can connect with consumers on a much different level than they could in the past.  By sharing information with consumers through tweets, organizations become more transparent and credible.  By responding to tweets made by its followers, a corporation shows it cares about what consumers have to say.

One could imagine that it would take a great amount of energy for Disney, with its massive fan base and various publics, to reach out to everyone.  However, they do put in a valiant effort.  In the arena of Twitter, Disney appears to have many different accounts to connect with its consumers.  Although it is unclear if some are legitimate accounts created by the Walt Disney Company, there seems to be an account for almost every subdivision of Disney.  From Walt Disney World to Radio Disney to Disney•Pixar, consumers have access to almost anything and everything Disney.

Many official Disney accounts actively engage followers.  DisneyPictures does a great job of informing as well as interacting.  They post everything from upcoming events to new movie releases and use questions in their tweets to encourage followers to voice their opinions.  There is no doubt that the DisneyPictures account is making a positive impact on the company’s relationship with consumers.

In addition to official Twitter accounts, there appears to be a number of accounts about Disney created and maintained by fans.  On Disney Dean’s Twitter account, DisneyDean, his most recent tweets are all about his experience at the Disney Hawaii Resort.  Because people tend to trust other people more than big corporations, the DisneyDean account, as well as other fan-produced accounts, is surely a valuable asset to Disney.

In case you, too, are a fan of Disney and a Twitter account holder, below I have listed some of the other Twitter accounts by or about Disney:

4 comments September 30, 2009

Disney: where to start?

The Walt Disney Company, best known as simply Disney, is easily one of the most recognizable names in the world.  Established in 1923 by Walt Disney himself, Disney has risen from a small cartoon film studio to a corporate giant.  Disney holds stakes in several facets of the media and corporate world, including television, radio, music, film, Broadway, and, of course, its renowned amusement parks, to name just a few. (For Disney’s complete history, see their Corporate Information site.)

With the Walt Disney Company being the media superpower that it is today, I was unsure of where to begin my search for Disney’s application of social media.  Since my generation has been been the forerunner of social networking, I decided to search for Disney in all of the different social networks I am part of.  This includes Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace, only one of which Disney is not officially involved in.  I also used GoogleBlogs to find Disney’s official blog, The Disney Blog.

After I ran out of ideas of where to find Disney in social media and didn’t know where to turn, I googled “Disney and social media.”  To my surprise, I was taken to a post on The Disney Blog.  This post, entitled “Disney’s growing Social Media efforts,” gave a great overview of Disney’s current social media ventures.  From there, I explored Disney’s several social media projects, including the Mickey Mom’s Club and Disney’s Dream CMO program.  I plan to share these with you and explore their significance to Disney’s continued success throughout my postings.

8 comments September 25, 2009

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