My family has had some great vacations at Disney World. Perhaps to your surprise, most of our vacation fun isn’t in Florida! Our vacation begins months in advance as we sit around the dinner table and talk about all the things we want to see and do. We like to plan out every aspect of the vacation to incredible detail.
While doing research for my latest trip, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I am not the only person with this Disney Planning Disorder. It turns out there are millions of people who share the excitement of a good Disney plan. And they all seem to congregate at wdwinfo.com.
WdwInfo, also known as “The DIS” was started in the 90’s by Pete Werner. Pete was a Disney enthusiast and created a website to share his favorite topic with others. The website was a wild success. Very quickly, this hobby became a full-time job for Pete.
The DIS is now a hub of activity for Disney enthusiasts. Attracting the attention of millions of fans was a business opportunity didn’t escape Pete. He entered a partnership for a travel agency called Dreams Unlimited Travel, and linked it to the website. Enthusiasts poured into the travel agency to reserve their vacations. Those successes lead to additional businesses that include off-site hotels, condos, Disney cruises, vacations to other area theme parks, and more.
The DIS’ spopularity can be largely attributed to providing information tied to a business, but mostly attributed to the Web 2.0 additions that were added for interactivity. The DIS Boards, for example, are Web 2.0 community forums where enthusiasts can share information about every aspect of their passion.
In its infancy, Web 2.0 was about interactivity. Interactivity has evolved to become social networks. And Pete hasn’t missed a beat. The DIS Unplugged is a weekly podcast that talks about Disney and the community that has surrounded the website. The DIS Unplugged won the Gold Magellan Award and boasts nearly 40,000 listeners. The podcast broadcasters (employees and partners of Dreams Unlimited Travel) have become celebrities and are widely considered to be the Disney experts. Perhaps more impressive is the ability for Pete and his podcast celebrities to impact tens of thousands of customers on a weekly basis between what they say and write. Topics discussed on the podcast are followed-up with blog entries that often include full multimedia and video of the podcast celebrities’ activities. Blog topics are included in a monthly e-Newsletter sent to all subscribers. The newsletter takes advantage of hyperlinked words to direct readers back to the website. All of these touch points connect to form a synergy of social network activity.
Pete Werner’s empire doesn’t end there. He and his celebrity experts are available on Twitter and Facebook. On Facebook alone, the DIS Unplugged Podcast has 28,000 fans. Using a Web 2.0 connection to Cafepress, fans can buy DIS merchandise such as T-shirts and pins, which can often be seen being worn by fans in the Disney parks (and thus advertising for Dreams Unlimited to the wider customer base) as if the merchandise were trophies.
From its humble beginnings, Pete’s idea has grown to master social media synergy. The tweets and Facebook updates encourage listeners of the podcast. The podcast drives subscribers to the e-Newsletter. The newsletter directs readers to the blog website. The blog website drives fans to the free information. And the free information drives customers to Dreams Unlimited Travel. The links among all these activities become the synergy where activity in one area improves the entire experience.
What does all this social synergy mean? Where is the payoff? Pete Werner is a successful example of how to build a social network synergy (Facebook, Twitter, Podcast, forums, e-Newsletter, Web 2.0, store front, and more) around a product that can impact millions of customers. As of April 2010, The DIS has grown to include 1,000,000 unique visitors who plan their vacations on Pete’s website every month! That means (in addition to synergy for Dreams Unlimited Travel) advertising revenue for the website. Dreams Unlimited Travel taps into a $65.5 billion travel industry in Florida alone. From its humble beginning more than a decade ago, Dreams Unlimited has grown to become one of the leading Disney travel agencies and is the largest virtual guide to Disney theme parks.
Image Courtesy: http://wdwinfo.com/
About the Author:
Kevin Gilbert is the Technology Manager at SIGMA Marketing Group. Kevin headed the data center virtualization project for four years and is a VMWare Certified Professional (VCP). Connect with Kevin on .