Social media is proving its worth for the organisers of the 2011 Rugby World Cup: with more than 250,000 fans, the RWC 2011 Facebook page is now the biggest in New Zealand.
"We are using this as a communication and business tool," says Rugby New Zealand 2011 chief executive Martin Snedden. "We just decided social media was going to be a huge way of communicating with people."
The Facebook site's fan base has grown steadily since its launch in September, attracting close to 2,000 new fans each day.
"Obviously we didn't invent the trend but the use of it for major events is something quite new," Snedden says. "The RWC 2011 site shows how useful social media can be if you actively work it to your advantage."
Daily updates to the site include news stories from the media, press releases, videos, quizzes and information about ticketing and corporate hospitality packages. And the regular posts, including a few columns from Snedden, are generating plenty of comments and responses.
Cas Carter, Tourism New Zealand's general manager of Corporate Communications, says social media is an incredibly powerful marketing tool and one that Tourism New Zealand will also be using to tap into visitor markets in the lead up to 2011.
"As well as rugby content on our website newzealand.com, we're looking at how we can work with RWC 2011 to promote destination content to their fanbase and make sure fans know how much there is to do in New Zealand."
Tourism New Zealand's 100% Pure New Zealand Facebook page has more than 100,000 fans and that number is growing by about 400 each day.
Plans are underway to have clearer online links between 100% Pure New Zealand and RWC 2011, with the intention of converting the throngs of interested rugby fans into potential visitors.
Around 60,000 international visitors are expected to come to New Zealand for RWC 2011. The Giant Rugby Ball venue has already helped build awareness of New Zealand as host country and Tourism New Zealand is currently finalising plans for the next phase of its marketing activity, which will focus on driving rugby fans to book their trip to New Zealand in 2011, as well as encouraging them to stay longer and see more of New Zealand while they're here.