Norwegian Cruise Line doesn't have much of a social media budget, according to Marisa Scime, social media director for the company. But you wouldn't know
it based on the awards it's been racking up.
In June, the cruise line won Travel + Leisure magazine's SMITTY award for the best use of a social media platform (Facebook). The following month,
Norwegian won the Business Journals' South Florida #SocialMadness Competition. Travel Weekly just announced that
Norwegian won Magellan Awards for best mobile app and marketing campaigns.
What's particularly amazing about all that is that two people—Scime and Kristine McGlinchey, social media and public relations specialist—run it all.
"The two of us are small but mighty," Scime says.
And they're getting mightier. Soon, Norwegian will host its second #SeaTweetUp cruise where it and a handful of social media partners will host social
media seminars, discussions and, of course, some parties, with enthusiasts, who will be tweeting, posting, and blogging all the way.
A quick look at Norwegian's Facebook page reveals that the basic strategy is pretty simple: Post
photos, often with a question attached, and open up the floor to comments.
"Vacations, especially, are all about sharing this visual experience," Scime says.
Photos get considerably more attention than updates that are only text, she says—many of Norwegian's photos get 1,000-plus "likes" and dozens of
comments—but the photo-heavy strategy is really fairly new.
"It's been an evolution," Scime says.
Before Facebook unveiled its new timeline page format, Norwegian mostly posted just text updates. Now, it's virtually nothing but photos and collages,
because timeline is a more photo-oriented format.
Norwegian's budgetary constraints mean it isn't able to hire an agency to create images for the Facebook page, "so we really just have to be creative,"
Scime says. Many of the photos come from fans' Facebook and Instagram posts.
"It's down and dirty, but it's working for us," she says.
The campaign that won the SMITTY involved photos not just from fans, but of them. The "Cruise Like a Norwegian" campaign featured a photo of a fan every
day. Now, Norwegian carries that effort on by making its cover photo a featured fan every week.
Of course, not all the photos come from fans. Updates on the line's in-construction new ship, the Breakaway, have gotten
tons of attention, Scime says. A slideshow of photos of the construction racked up more than 360 shares and 1,900 "likes."
Responding and chatting
Scime and McGlinchey try to respond to every post on Facebook and to as many @ replies on Twitter as possible.
"It's a big deal for us to respond to the guest posts," Scime says.
Each Tuesday, the pair participates in #CruiseChat on Twitter, an effort started by a group of travel partners. If the group is talking about food,
Norwegian will post photos of its food options, for instance. If it's about customer service, the pair will chime in with their philosophy.
The people who run the chat noticed Norwegian's regular participation and asked the company to host its own, which it did Sept. 25. The chat was the most popular in the hashtag's history,
Scime says, with 3 million impressions in about an hour. #CruiseChat and #NorwegianBreakaway even were U.S. trending topics for a while.
A committee of social media experts in the Miami area, including Jeff Cohen, Aubrey Swanson and @SoulofMiami, came up with an idea for a
social media cruise in 2011 and approached Norwegian about it. The cruise line jumped at the offer, and last November hosted about 45 social media
enthusiasts for a weekend cruise to the Bahamas.
"It's open to social media professionals," Scime says. "It's open to professionals. It's open to people who like to network. It's open to people who like
to cruise who may like social media as a hobby. It's open to people who may be intrigued by social media. It's a really wide audience."
Last year's trip included a 90-minute seminar/Q&A session with the committee, and if there was one piece of feedback McGlinchey says she took to heart,
it's that people wanted more of it. They wanted to learn more about Klout and other options for their brands. So this year, instead of one session, there
are two on the schedule
between cocktail parties and beach lounging.
There's also going to be an opportunity for guests on the ship who didn't necessarily come for social media training to take part, McGlinchey says.
So what does Norwegian get out of the weekend? It sure doesn't hurt to have highly connected people tweet about your cruise ship all weekend, then blog
about the fun they had when they get home, Scime says.
At the first #SeaTweetUp in November, 179 tweets reached nearly 174,000 followers. That was a big first step. In July, at a pre-#SeaTweetUp event in Miami,
342 tweets generated nearly 3 million impressions, reaching nearly 400,000 followers.
Matt Wilson is a staff writer for Ragan.com.