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PhocusWright Conference, 2009, Blogger Summit – Social Media Marketing as a Corporate Strategy

Elliott Ng will represent UpTake during the PhocusWright 2009 Conference, Blogger Summit Town Hall on Wednesday, November 18th at 9:00 a.m. Ten topics were suggested by the panelists for discussion during a planning meeting a few weeks ago. We decided to collect the best posts and examples about each subject and showcase them. We hope this series lends itself to more insightful discussion during the Town Hall presentation.–Patricia Jenkins, Editor

How does social media marketing fit into your overall marketing plan? How to get corporate execs to buy into social media as part of your strategy? Some of the examples provided below demonstrate how corporate execs are warming up to social media marketing and factoring it into an overall strategy.

Lonely Planet ( – The dominant publisher of travel guide books is rapidly shifting from books written by LP writers to digital content partly aggregated from the community.  As a result, Lonely Planet has been ramping up their Thorn Tree Community Forum, factoring it into the future development of their main business, and encouraging their website visitors, guide book readers and purchasers to become contributors.

Lonely Planet CEO Matt Goldberg says the shift in focus towards the community and digital content is part of a plan to provide solutions to consumers’ needs, instead of being only a content provider.


Carnival ( – The Carnival Cruise Line, as mentioned here, is aggregating UGC on Twitter and Flickr published by cruise passengers while on-board Carnival’s ships, and keeping up the engagement via John Heald’s blog, and - an in-house social media platform for their community, and – an interactive virtual tour. All three sites now routinely bring in over 1 million visitors each, and are being used by Carnival for strategic brand positioning.

But it didn’t start like that. John Heald started blogging to create buzz for the launch of a new ship. CarnivalConnect was launched to encourage guests to send invitations to their friends and family. Carnival saw the potential across these platforms, and merged it all into an overall strategy of showing new visitors what’s happening on board, and allowing new and prospective visitors to engage with loyal customers via social media.

Banff Lake Louise Tourism ( – BLLT was chugging along like most other tourism organizations in Canada, when the Banff Crasher Squirrel  popped into a photo and triggered a viral tsunami wave on social media platforms – over 300 blog-posts, 5,000+ tweets, and 650+ facebook posts.

BLLT understood the potential early, and set up a YouTube video, a twitter account for the squirrel, and a Facebook page, along with a search-engine marketing campaign with keyword “squirrel.” End result – $3 million in ad value, reaching out to 80 million people in North America and Europe via online channels, print and TV. The squirrel is now on billboards marketing Banff, and has established a permanent presence on social media platforms.

Affinia Hotels ( – For hotels wanting to wade into social media marketing, Affinia offers a valuable lesson – It’s all about listening, and responding on time. They’re all over Twitter, talking to their guests, offering assistance and answering queries.  Their My Affinia program allows guests to customize and pre-select in-room amenities – from pillows to iPods. Items are added on to this list or modified based on the feedback that the Affinia reps get from the social media chatter.

Another good example of a hotel implementing social media marketing as part of an overall strategy is the Roger Smith hotel – details here. The fact that Chris Brogan gives them high marks for listening to their customers and being social-media savvy is a testament to their success at playing the game.

Southwest ( – Southwest Airlines looks at social media as an extension of their customer engagement offline. Their ‘Nuts About Southwest’ blog is a lot more popular than any blog owned or run by any other airline. The Blog-o-spondent video contest run on the blog went massively viral last year. The blog is updated constantly by a team of Southwest employees.

Newly uploaded videos can be seen every week on Southwest’s youtube channel. Thousands of networked Southwest employees form a web that stretches into every corner of Linkedin. Jeremy Jameson, Corporate Strategist,  Strategic Planning for Southwest Airlines, says that the social media success is simply an online extension of their corporate culture of engaging in authentic relations and conversations with customers.

Virgin Atlantic ( – Richard Branson’s mothership offers a valuable lesson in course correction. After taking flak last year over the firing of 13 employees who posted derogatory remarks about customers on Virgin’s corporate Facebook page, Virgin seems to have retooled their approach.

The airline now has a cross-functional Social Spaces Forum group comprised of personnel from eCommerce, PR, customer relations, product and service, marketing etc. The team works closely to understand the social marketplace, shape the direction for activity in social spaces and develop a framework for the business in this area, according to Allison Wightman, Head of Marketing Systems, Virgin Atlantic Airways. 

United ( – Again, a lesson in how to turn around a bad situation on the social media networks. Only, United hasn’t done it yet. I’m sure you’ve heard the viral Dave Carroll video on Youtube, which the Canadian singer created after United broke his guitar and refused to pay for it.

In a similar situation, Electronic Arts was hit with a user-uploaded video of a glitch in their game which showed Tiger Woods walking on water. EA promptly responded to this with a professional ad video featuring Tiger walking on water, which in turn again went viral and nullified all the negative impact of the first video.

As Julie Sturgeon notes, the right approach for United would have been to co-opt Dave Carroll and turn it into an ad, or put out a video of their own in response.

American Airlines ( – American isn’t usually counted amongst the savvy kids on the social media block, but they have taken a right step with the creation of – a community site offering travel insights from an African-American perspective. No other airline has a brand community like this, and it should go a long way towards helping AA score some much needed social media creds.

According to Roger Frizell, American’s vice president of corporate communications, they’re planning a site in 2010 which would collect in one place all the social media videos and chatter about AA. American, he says, intends to be a part of the conversation, instead of just letting it happen without them.

Wyndham ( – Again, Wyndham is probably the only hotel group to offer a community site – – which aims simply to foster a sense of community among female travelers.

This community goes a long way towards humanizing Wyndham and adds a touch of gentleness to the corporate image.