Social Media – Azamara’s Silver Bullet for Consumer Marketing
Since October 2010, I have been serving as Azamara Club Cruises’ Chief Blogging Officer. When our CEO and President, Larry Pimentel, realized that the dynamics of social media would forever change the way prospective and returning Azamara customers would make their purchase decisions, he created my position.
He understood the uncomfortable feeling you get in your “gut” when you’re reading two conflicting posts on a message board at the same time. You’re confused and are searching the web to reduce your perceived risk when making a vacation decision.
In addition to my blog posts, my mission is to follow the internet’s consumer-oriented cruise line message boards. Usually, I’m monitoring "Cruise Critic’s" very active Azamara forum. It’s a great way to interact with Cruise Critic members, understand guest perspectives, gauge opinions on programs and other initiatives, and also to communicate reasons behind what we are doing. Hopefully, increasing the reader’s confidence of receiving a satisfying vacation experience from us. Also, I serve as the reader’s ombudsman when issues arise. http://boards.cruisecritic.com/forumdisplay.php?f=466
Social media marketing is a necessity in today’s digital world. It’s quite different from when I began in the cruise industry in 1980 when consumer marketing was achieved through Sunday travel section newspaper advertising with the closing message to see "your travel agent." In fact, most cruise lines did not include their telephone numbers in their advertisements. Travel agents were the "gatekeepers" for consumers. That paradigm changed, however, not only for the cruise industry but for all types of business categories, with the new technologies driven by the internet and the consumer’s ability to have direct access to the company/manufacturer.
Moreover, because of the wave of new cruise ships that started in the 1980’s, the market went from a "demand" to a "supply" dynamic. According to a study from International Cruise & Excursions, Inc. the total number of people who took a cruise in 1970 was estimated at 500,000. The number of cruise passengers carried worldwide in 2012 is estimated at 20.3 million (Cruise Market Watch).
Our marketing challenge is to build consumer awareness and motivation to learn more about our brand by driving traffic to our website. Therefore, we use social media to communicate directly with our customers. It allows us to share our photos, videos and ideas with our fans, and have them share their own photos, videos, plans, and questions with us. Social media creates a space for us all to communicate together, and help us with our goal of making Azamara experiences better and better, all the time.
The social media platforms we use most often are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and we also post content on Pinterest, Google+ and YouTube. Collectively, they serve as our "quasi-gatekeepers" to our website where prospective and returning customers can learn more about us before they make their booking.
On Facebook, we love sharing our own photos, and telling our fans where they can see the same views for themselves. Our fans also share their own photos with us, which we love, so we often repost those for everyone to see! This connection encourages our current fans to share our posts with their friends, which expands our total audience and gets new people to consider experiencing one of our voyages.
On Twitter, we like to post things as they are happening, as often as possible. We enjoy sharing photos from current voyages, and updates about where in the world our ships are at any given time. We also share photos that our fans have tweeted, and take part in conversations about travel, including the very popular CruiseChat conversations each week.
On Instagram, we share our own photos and the photos our fans have sent to us. People really appreciate seeing photos that have been taken recently, especially things like our AzAmazing Evenings or other special events.
On Pinterest we love to share the great photographs taken by our guests, ship captains, or photographers. We pin helpful travel tips, online stories about Azamara Club Cruises, inspirational travel quotes, and the best photos shared online of the places we visit. Our different boards, like “Italy With Azamara” or “Hello From Captain Johannes” help our fans quickly find the content they’re most interested in.
AzAmazing Evening in Cannes, France
YouTube is where we post all our video content, from specific voyage information, to advertisements. We recently posted three "Cruise Doodles" that quickly communicate what sets Azamara Club Cruises apart from other cruise lines. You can view them here.
On Google+, we share fun photos, links to the website, and content that demonstrates everything that makes Azamara unique. Similar to Facebook, this is where we are able to have conversations and share photos that our fans have sent us.
In fact, Larry Pimentel has opened a Twitter account @LarryPimentel. Here’s a great way to tap into his creative thoughts and ideas as they happen. You’ll gain insight about what’s new and different at Azamara as he moves the company forward to deliver total guest satisfaction.
We’d love for you to follow us on our social media channels, and share your photos, questions, and thoughts with us. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
Chief Blogging Officer*
Azamara Club Cruises
(*CBO is an authorized and compensated representative of ACC)