On Sunday, WDWMAGIC.com reported that Disney would stop monorail service during Extra Magic Hours at Epcot beginning July 11 and at Magic Kingdom on August 1. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
“This means that in both cases, the monorail will not be able to return guests back to their resorts after evening Extra Magic Hours. Guests will instead be transported by bus and boats where available. Morning Extra Magic Hour service has not been affected. All indications are that this is a permanent change.”
Like everyone else, I have an opinion about this decision. However, what I want to discuss was the immediate reaction on Twitter after the article was posted online. As with any change at Disney, there will always be push back. I will share my thoughts on the change at the end of this blog, but I want to take a closer look at how Disney could have used social media to extinguish the Twitter firestorm on Sunday.
@EPCOTRNG, the Twitter account for the Epcot Explorer’s Encyclopedia, often has some of the most unique Disney-related tweets I see on Twitter. While a lot of the tweets are critical of Disney, the points are almost always valid.
So when I saw @EPCOTRNG asking (with tongue pressed firmly in cheek) why the Disney parks Blog was not covering the monorail changes, I laughed out loud. However, after thinking about it, this is honestly a valid question. When news breaks on Twitter, should the company respond? While I understand all situations are unique and different, should Disney have used Twitter to respond to the immediate criticism? If there was a legitimate explanation Disney could share, would it have made you happy to see the company defend its decision? I can hear people screaming now “That would never happen!” But why not? Why is it that companies can’t come out and respond to the public when being criticized?
Disney on Twitter – What if they responded?
One of my big problems with large companies is the majority refuse to commit the necessary resources to social media. While Disney is ahead of the game in some of their social media efforts (see the Disney Parks Blog and the large number of Facebook pages), they do lack a real “presence” on Twitter.
If there was an actual person monitoring the Disney Twitter account on Sunday, that person could have seen the negative reaction to the monorail changes and talked with company officials about whether they should respond to the criticism. However, we rarely even see Disney communicate with Twitter users even when tweeting questions like “What’s your favorite theme park?” so unfortunately, I would not expect this from Disney.
A tweet from July 13 about the changes.
I hear some of you screaming: “Disney doesn’t care what people are saying about something so insignificant.” For the most part, I agree with this. However, in the world of retweets and snap judgements, a valuable brand can take a serious hit on Twitter (see the Netflix backlash). Wouldn’t it be wise for companies to make a solid effort to stay ahead of bad publicity?
I wish Disney (and other companies) would better utilize Twitter and other social media platforms to communicate with customers. There is no better way for a company to win a customer than to make them feel equal to the company or brand. On Sunday, if Disney would have simply issued a statement stating: “We will still offer other great transportation from the parks during Extra Magic Hours including Disney World buses and boats.” While the statement is weak, wouldn’t you feel better to know that Disney is paying attention to us? Paying attention to you?
Quick Personal story: During a trip to Disney World, we had a terrible experience with the Disney buses. I won’t go into details, but I wrote an e-mail to Disney when I got back explaining what had happened. I went into detail about the situation and how it impacted our trip. The next week, I got a call from the head of transportation at Disney World. He was in a conference room with 3 or 4 other people and they wanted to talk specifically about what happened to us. I immediately felt important.
Now, imagine getting a similar feeling from a simple @ reply on Twitter. To know that a company is monitoring Twitter (and their own Twitter feed) and can respond to requests and concerns. I liken this interaction to the @DeltaAssist Twitter account, where Delta responds to requests and complaints in real-time. If Disney had this commitment, Disney could have seen the tweets and misconceptions about the monorail changes and sent out a response. What if Netflix would have responded to all of the customer complaints about raised rates in real-time? This could have given a whole new meaning to #DearTwitter (which was trending for most of the day on Tuesday).
If Disney, like most companies, feels that @ replying to a concern on Twitter just draws more attention to the problem (which is a completely valid concern), why not send direct messages? Disney could use direct messages on Twitter to respond directly to the person raising the concern. Disney could also use messages to interact with its followers.
My Take (on the monorail changes)
I am not as upset as most other Disney World fans. I will admit we rarely stay in Deluxe resorts, so the changes do not directly impact us. However, I still maintain that if there was an incredible demand for monorail service during EMH, Disney would keep it. There’s obviously no way the demand meets the cost of operating the service during this extra time. We all hate to see things taken away but I really don’t think this is worth all the outrage.
What did you think about the EMH monorail changes? Do you think a company could utilize Twitter to respond in real-time to complaints/concerns? Do you think Disney could have said to address the fallout?