25 Thursday, October 16th, 2008
Case Study: Effective Online PR by Travel Brands
Working at GSD&M, I got to see some of the cool interactive and broadcast work we did for Norwegian Cruise Line. The creative campaign translates well across print, outdoor & direct and the TV spots have been well-received.
In the social space, Carnival has cruised to the front of the Twitter line. They have a brand evangelist, @CruiseSource, tweeting live from a Carnival cruise that is currently underway. His current bio reads “Your Source for Everything related to Cruising. Live from CCL Destiny 10.16.08.”
CruiseSource.us is a blog about cruising, not Carnival persay. My clients in the travel industry tell me that they enjoy perks from cruise lines and destination resorts in exchange for bookings and promotion. Presumably, that arrangement exists for CruiseSource, and it’s a good way for Carnival to dip their toe in the social ocean.
What is notable about this case is how effectively brand evangelists utilize micromedia to generate buzz and online PR for brands. This is also a good example of small businesses being nimble with social strategy and engagement.
Best Practices in Social Media Strategy & Engagement
CruiseSource is using Twitter to establish themselves as experts in their niche. Rather than just constantly link back to their site, an early mistake they seem to have overcome, they relate with their audience in meaningful ways. Examples:
- They spent weeks building excitement about this cruise.
- They invite cruise-related questions and follow-up with answers.
- They retweet properly.
- They reply and DM properly.
- They suggest cruising for nonprofit fundraising.
- They post cruise specials.
- They post cruise news related to Hurricane Gustav, primarily as a service, but they also attract Twitter search traffic.
- They search Twitter for lead generation. Very smart. They can expand their search by topic, by cruise line, by cruise ship and by destination to find perfect little nuggets like this.
- They listen to tweeters and engage them directly with relevant responses.
- They invite followers & prospective followers to give cruise feedback.
- They tweet about fun activities while aboard the cruise.
- They link to Flickr pics from the cruise ship.
- They are patiently building a Twitter following, maintaining a follow/follower ratio around 4:1.
Apparently their efforts have led a major cruise line to invite CruiseSource to participate on a web 2.0 advisory board. If this is Carnival, then kudos for building a smart partnership and generating inexpensive online PR. As long as CruiseSource maintains an air of industry promotion and authentic human interaction, Carnival will benefit from the company’s peer recommendations.
For any travel brand, I suggest a few more tips in establishing a genuine social presence online.
- Be more personable. CruiseSource has found a voice on Twitter and its blog, but it still hides behind the company name on all posts. Even using a first name (Tucker?) would cut through informality and lend credibility to their recommendation.
- Browse Peter Kim’s list of social media marketing examples for inspiration. Carnival Connections already made his list with it’s community forum, but the site entry is weighted heavily toward sales.
- Remain Authentic. Tyler Banfield offers good tips on authentic promotion.
I’m interested to see what travel brands develop on other social platforms, both in external marketing and within the company’s internal organization of staff, partners and sales channels.