Disclosure: I participated in the Disney On-The-Road Social Media Moms conference. This was a free conference, and I have not been compensated for writing about the conference. I did receive a fun bag of Disney swag and promotional materials at the event.
Yesterday, I attended a blogger conference specifically aimed at Disney fans: Disney On-The-Road Social Media Moms Celebration! For the past five years, Disney has held an annual blogger conference at one of the Disney resorts, and throughout the year, they take a mini version of the conference around the country too — hence, the “On-The-Road” moniker.
As a Disney lover and a blogger, I’ve always wanted to attend one of the Disney Social Media Moms conferences. Admission is by invitation only, and each year, bloggers who love and write about Disney cross their fingers and hope for an invitation. I was very excited to receive an invitation to this year’s Chicago conference!
One of my dear friends just got back from Walt Disney World, so I already had Disney on the brain before arriving at the conference — I’ve been looking at her vacation photos for the past week and dreaming of Disney. And, last summer around this time, we were vacationing at Disneyland in Anaheim. (You can read that trip report here.) Our family’s been discussing another Walt Disney World trip for 2015 or 2016, but spending a day with Disney made me want to head back sooner than later.
The conference was held at the Hyatt Lodge in Oak Brook. Prior to arriving, we’d been asked to email our favorite photo of ourselves in Disney to the conference hosts. The bloggers’ photos were displayed on a screen while we were getting settled in the conference room. We were also encouraged to “Rock your Disney Side” for the conference. I wasn’t sure exactly how to blend business-casual dress with my rockin’ Disney side, so I went with a pair of Mickey Mouse ears, my favorite Robin Hood Disney pin, and my Enchanted Tiki Room purse.
Two of my new blogger friends that I met on the All American RV Blogger Tour in May were also at this Disney conference too, so we all sat together. The Disney crew did a great job of bringing a little Disney Magic to Chicagoland — look at this blueberry muffin and the Mickey krispy treat! I almost felt like I was having breakfast at the Main Street Bakery.
Over breakfast, we were treated to Disney park news, updates and videos detailing what’s new at Walt Disney World:
MyMagic+ Bands: The MyMagic+ band system has been fully rolled out to all WDW parks and resorts. If you haven’t seen these yet, the Magic Bands are RFID wristbands that function as your resort room key, your charge card for food and drinks in the parks and restaurants (it links to your credit card), and as your park tickets. There are no longer ticket turnstiles at the WDW parks — you hold your band against a MyMagic+ Mickey ears signpost and it lights up to allow you to enter.
If you’re an on-site resort guest using MyMagic+ bands, you can also plan your FastPasses for Disney rides and attractions 60 days prior to your trip. FastPasses are now paperless, and they’re also attached to the band. (If you are not a MyMagic+ band user, you can plan FastPasses at a park kiosk on the day you enter the park.) If you do not stay in an on-site Disney resort, your park tickets will be issued on a card. If you’d rather have them issued on a MyMagic+ band, the bands costs $12.95 each.
New Fantasyland: Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland expansion is complete, and it’s now known as “New Fantasyland.” We learned that Fantasyland has doubled in size, and the Magic Kingdom is now home to three castles — Cinderella’s castle, of course, but New Fantasyland is home to the Beast’s castle and Prince Eric’s castle (Little Mermaid.) You can dine in the Beast’s castle, or head to Belle’s Village and eat at Gaston’s Tavern.
The classic Dumbo ride has doubled in size — great news for anyone who’s waited in those long, long lines so their kids can ride one of the park’s flagship attractions.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: The Disney crew was very excited about the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride! This is a new roller coaster in New Fantasyland themed to Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs. The coaster looks like lots of fun (the mine train cars sway while you roll along) and we were shown a video of the animatronic dwarfs in the attraction. To say that the level of fluidity and realistic movement in the dwarfs is “lifelike” is an understatement — there were audible gasps in the room when we saw the dwarfs come to life:
We also learned about the new Fantasy of Festival parade in the Magic Kingdom. It features many of the Disney Princesses, Rapunzel, Merida, and a fire-breathing Maleficent dragon:
Disney continued bringing a little of their in-park magic to our event. Everyone received a lanyard and pin-trading pin so that we could network with each other, chat, and trade pins. Pin trading is very popular in the Disney parks, and my daughter has a lanyard full of pins that she’s collected and traded over our various Disney park vacations. She was thrilled to add this Eric and Ariel pin to her collection after I brought it home.
After discussing what was new at the parks, several members of Disney’s social media team gave presentations on maintaining, writing, and creating content for the official Disney Parks Blog. Many of us felt that these people have some of the best jobs in the world! They shared planning strategies for the kinds of stories that go on the official Disney Parks Blog — such as getting permission to show behind-the-scenes photos of Prince Eric’s castle being built, even though Disney usually doesn’t show attractions at the incomplete, construction-and-scaffolding stages. That series of posts ended up being one of the most popular series on the Disney blog, and it opened the door to the team being able to share more behind-the-scenes photos and stories.
The social media team has a lot of latitude to plan fun videos and promotions to tie into park themes. This year’s theme is #DisneySide, and they had the idea to tweet a photograph of 140 Disney characters (get it?) in the shape of a hashtag. It was retweeted more than 2,000 times on Twitter, and we watched a fun making-of video too:
Gary Buchanan, Social Media Managing Editor & Public Relations Manager for the Disney parks, shared how a simple typo became a fun video promotion. He was writing something about the “Dapper Dans,” the beloved barbershop quartet that sings daily in the Magic Kingdom and at Disneyland.
(A quick aside — I absolutely love the Dapper Dans. It may surprise my regular readers, who know what kind of music I usually listen to, but I never miss seeing them when we go to the parks. My husband even arranged for them to sing to me on my 30th birthday in the Magic Kingdom — a memory I will always treasure!)
Anyway, Gary went on to say that when he intended to type “Dapper Dans,” it came out “Diaper Dans” — and that led to an idea for a fun video for the Disney Parks blog. What were the origins of the Dapper Dans?
Well, we found out. Very cute!
Part of the Disney Social Media Moms conference also focused on how to make our social media communication better. With much of the world communicating in instantaneous 140-character messages, photographs, and 6-second videos, readers want quick, fast engagement, and they want it now. Ramon DeLeon, social media guru, gave a great presentation that encouraged us to think about all of the new-media ways our readers want to connect with us.
He wrapped up his presentation with a funny story about his stay in a Disney resort hotel. After Tweeting that the toilet paper roll in his room looked “boring,” he returned to his room later in the day to see this:
Disney often goes the “extra mile” for their guests. They’re constantly monitoring their social media feeds to see what people are saying about them. In fact, in the middle of our conference, they announced that the #DisneySMMoms hashtag (which we were all using to tweet, post and chat about throughout the day) was trending higher than the #WorldCup hashtag!
The Disney team also shared this story of a child’s very special, lost teddy bear. The bear was located after the family had returned home, and our Disney team said that it wasn’t enough to simply ship back the lost bear — “We’re Disney! We have to add that extra Disney Magic!” The teddy bear was returned to its owner with a photo album detailing his “adventures” from his few extra days spent in the parks!
Another conference guest was “Princess Etch-A-Sketch,” Jane Labowitch. She was creating incredible Disney-themed Etch-A-Sketch artwork during the conference, like this scene from “Up!”
Additional sponsors of the Disney Social Media Moms conference included HP printers and Huggies. HP gave a presentation on the versatile features of their wireless printers, presenting each blogger with a custom #DisneySide photo card:
Huggies brought two panelists from its MomInspired grant program, which awards up to $15,000 to mothers with ideas for new inventions and products.
At the end of the day, a special guest arrived to take photos with all of the bloggers:
I hope you enjoyed my Disney On-The-Road Social Media Moms conference report! It was definitely a treat to experience a “day with Disney” so close to home. If you’re interested in being a “fly on the wall” for the remaining Disney Social Media Moms conferences, they are broadcast live via web stream on MomTV.com. The Philadelphia event takes place on 6/19/14, and the Phoenix event takes place on 6/25/14.
Are you Disney Dreaming yet? If so, you may want to take advantage of these free trip-planning tools and discount offers.
Disclosure: I participated in the Disney On-The-Road Social Media Moms conference. This was a free conference, and I have not been compensated for writing about the conference. However, I did receive a fun bag of Disney swag and promotional materials at the event.
Hashtags: #DisneySMMoms #DisneyOTR #sponsored