Disney's powerful marketing force: social media moms

Disney's powerful marketing force: social media moms
Chief executive of California-based social and educational group for parents Club MomMe Rachel Pitzel poses for a picture at her home in Playa Vista, California, June 10, 2015.

Wendy Wright is a home-schooling mother of two, a prolific blogger and a self-described "Disney Nut." Her cats are named Mickey and Minnie, and her blog is filled with advice for visiting Disneyland, tips for holding Disney-themed parties and reviews of Disney movies.

Wright's enthusiasm for all things Disney eventually drew the attention of the Walt Disney Co, which invited her to join a carefully vetted group of roughly 1,300 Disney Social Media Moms. The group of mothers - and a few fathers - are part of a Disney effort to incorporate the enthusiasm and influence of parents into its marketing efforts.

Wright isn't sure why she was picked, but guesses her online postings about Disney helped. "There's been a lot on social media about our trips to Disney," said Wright, who writes about technology, entertainment and other subjects from her home in Phoenix. "It's very obvious we are a Disney family."

Disney moms are not paid, but they receive perks from the company for their efforts, including - for some - deeply discounted, four-day family trips to Walt Disney World for the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, an event that is part vacation and part educational conference.

Disney does not tell the mothers what to write or tweet about, and it doesn't require them to post. Still, this year's social media moms event in May generated 28,500 tweets, 4,900 Instagram photos and 88 blog posts full of ride reviews and videos of kids meeting Disney characters. And the moms' postings are overwhelmingly positive.

The theory is that mothers with a large online presence have the ability to influence travel and entertainment planning of other mothers. "For a big chunk of our guests, it's the moms who are making [travel] decisions," said Tom Staggs, Disney's chief operating officer.

The mothers say they like having a connection to Disney - as well as the possibility of scoring a spot at the Social Media Moms Celebration, which was first held in 2010. Each year, the company's theme parks division e-mails invitations to 175 to 200 people.

This year, the moms made #DisneySMMC a trending Twitter topic on the day the invitations went out. "A very magical invite with pixie dust arrived!" Wright tweeted on March 21.

In the run-up to the celebration, the invitees posted on Pinterest the "Frozen"-inspired outfits and Mickey Mouse-adorned handbags they planned to bring to the Mother's Day weekend event.

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