twitter_icons_256You would normally worry about seeing the words "tipping point" and "cruise" used in the same sentence.  No such worries here.  The phrase tipping point, coined by Malcolm Gladwell, refers to when small numbers of people (or businesses) start behaving differently and that behavior ripples outward until a critical mass or a 'tipping point' is reached, changing the world.  Contemplate some recent activities of cruise lines:

  • Disney Cruise started delivering podcasts on iTunes.
  • Yachts of Seabourn announced CEO Pamela Conover would be tweeting from Venice Italy for the launch of the new Seabourn Odyssey.
  • Royal Caribbean posted a job opening on LinkedIn, with a position requirement of having at least ten LinkedIn recommendations.

I think it is safe to say the term "tipping point" wholly applies.

Why Now?

Ten years ago (April 1999) Chris Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger wrote The Cluetrain Manifesto.  It was a call to arms signed by a few thousand people (including me).

The manifesto declared the web would require businesses to engage consumers at their level and really listen and react to their voices.  Consumers had reached the tipping point of web usage in 1998 - 26.2% of U.S. households had Internet access.  Today, 16% of Fortune 500 companies have a public-facing blog.1

Why Get In?  B.C.O.N - Branding, Customer care, Opportunities and Networking.

Branding. Product evangelists can spread the good word farther, more effectively and more efficiently.  Compare the initial interest as measured by Google search in two new search engine launches.  The small start-up Wolfram Alpha garnered nearly as much initial interest as Microsoft's bing.  The former used blog buzz and resulting news coverage, the later has upwards of a $100 million ad budget.

Your brand online can be more like the transparent, friendly, one-to-one human connections you expect with family and friends than the faceless issuance of a corporate press release.

Customer care. What I see developing is traditional customer service departments breaking down and going social.  There will come a day when, if I say something bad about Bank of America on Facebook, I'll expect someone from BOA to contact me and make it right.

Opportunities. Social media is leveling the playing field for entrepreneurs in the long tail of niche.  Bloggers for little or nothing provide information in topical areas that big media can't cover.   It is no longer a news or broadcast business - but an audience business and audiences are made up of millions of small groups.

Demos are dead.  Are you female 18-35?  If you are reading this blog, you are more likely a member of the cruise community with an intense interest how lines market and communicate.  It is about shared values not age or stage. Want to create something for everyone?  Welcome to the middle of the road.

Networking. Email usage will decline like "snail mail" has in favor of "wall to wall" posting on social media networks like twitter and Facebook.  From a marketing perspective, direct mail and "email blasts" (I've always hated that word) will give way to engaging with consumers where they live online.  Direct marketing will be become Network marketing.  Foreverism, from, means the relationships being created virtually today are lasting and lifelong links.  Isn't that more powerful than a one-off email blast?

How to Get In? L.E.A.P - Listen, Encourage, Advocate and Participate2

Listen. Don't monitor.  That means hear what customers think about your products, services and the competition.  Discover within the conversations emerging trends and do something with that instant feedback.  Tweak your product, respond to complaints - get your hands dirty by getting in the mix. Dazzle customers by acting.

Encourage. Develop new ancillary products and features that allow people to do more of what they already like to do.  Facilitate making your customers experience around your product and brand even more fun and easy (contact me, I have some ideas).

Advocate. Show support for social activities, sponsor local tweet ups, social media events and contests, bring new services to light, partner and create opportunities.

Participate. The 10 commandments as so well put by Lon Safko of Fast Company:

  1. Thou Shalt Blog (like crazy).
  2. Thou Shalt Create Profiles (everywhere).
  3. Thou Shalt Upload Photos (lots of them).
  4. Thou Shalt Upload Videos (all you can find).
  5. Thou Shalt Podcast (often).
  6. Thou Shalt Set Alerts (immediately).
  7. Thou Shalt Comment (on a multitude of blogs).
  8. Thou Shalt Get Connected (with everyone).
  9. Thou Shalt Explore Social Media (30 minutes per week).
  10. Thou Shalt Be Creative (go forth and create creatively)!

You can find more on how the cruise lines are engaging on the Social Media page of Cruise Market Watch.  The landscape is an ever-changing fluid environment, so if you notice a cruise line doing something new please alert me and I'll update the page.

1 Society for New Communications Research. 2 The acronym LEAP was liberally borrowed from my friend Harish Bharadhwaj