This week in #CMGRclass, the topic has been Building A Community or Social Media Program from Scratch. The accompanying readings included chapter 12 of Richard Millington’s “Buzzing Communities“, entitled “The Audience: Demographics, Habits, and Psychographics.” Millington describes the importance of understanding a new community’s target audience: “who they are, what they do, and what they think.” He goes on to describe five types of communities:
- Communities of interest, revolving around a company or organization and its goods, services, or other raison d’être. Example: MacRumors Forums, where fanboys/girls discuss their passion for all things Apple.
- Communities of place, relevant to a specific location. Example: Omaha, Nebraska’s Omaha Forums, where Omahans talk News and Events and Dining/Culture/Entertainment.
- Communities of practice, cultivated around something practiced by its members, such as specific functions at work. Example: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) users’ groups like the ESRI Petroleum User Group.
- Communities of action, helping members progress toward a specific goal. Example: MarathonGuide.com‘s online community.
- Communities of circumstance, fostering relationships based on shared experiences. Example: health-related support groups like the Lupus Foundation of America’s online community.
A Missed Opportunity
I recently vacationed with a large group of extended family – about 15 in all – on a five-day cruise on Royal Caribbean International‘s MS Liberty of the Seas. It was a great experience filled with fun, food, and family time. Reflecting on the cruise, though, I can’t help but think that Royal Caribbean is missing the boat (no pun intended) at leveraging the power of their loyal fans to promote their brand.
While Royal Caribbean has a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+, these sites provide more of a one-way push of information to their audiences, rather than two-way dialogue between the cruise line and its customers. Their social tools on Facebook, including the Royal Connections app and Discussions tab, are not highly-used. (For instance, there were only seven people attending the Facebook Event corresponding to my cruise. The boat seemed a bit more crowded than that!)
Not only do these tools lack in content, I believe they are also misplaced. Leading up to the cruise, I had done all of our planning – researching our itinerary, on-board amenities, and the like – on the Royal Caribbean website. As Billington asks, “What tools and platforms do members use?” I can’t help but wonder, why not add a community where future cruisers are already spending time online?
(Instagram image by @josuelopz_.)
- Communities of interest could target specific passenger segments sharing common attributes. For example, parents traveling with their children could discuss the best kid-friendly activities or individuals with unique needs – say, those with special diet or accessibility concerns – could converse about their needs.
- Communities of place are perfectly-suited for specific vessels. Liberty of the Seas passengers on Twitter posted updates as the ship set sail, using the hashtag #LibertyOfTheSeas – a self-organized community of sorts. (See photo above.) How about formalizing that group as a community centered on a specific vessel, and even hold an on-ship tweet-up for passengers?
- Communities of circumstance would be a valuable resource to allow brand-new and seasoned cruisers alike to converse with each other before, during, and after their cruise. (See photo below.) Websites and online forums like communities like Cruise Critic already provide this platform.
— C E Witz (@Cewitz) February 22, 2013
(Twitter image by @Cewitz.)
Businesses and organizations would be well-served by identifying and implementing the type(s) of communities that, when developed and nurtured, help to meet their strategic objectives. Travel companies in particular would benefit from hosting online communities for consumers to share tips about destinations and activities pre-trip and provide opportunities for meet-ups while vacationing. Certainly, providing an online forum closely coupled to an official website poses some risk – à la angry traveler makes waves – this action also demonstrates transparency, can help to humanize the brand, and opens the door for a far greater number of satisfied customers to broadcast their positive experiences.
What travel companies are doing this well? Do you think the potential benefits outweigh the risks?
(Featured image and Instagram images by author.)