Future Implications

A lot has changed with social media since it originated and it will only continue to change and progress. Companies have to roll with the changes or they will be stuck forever behind the competition. Social media will only continue to increase as a vital part of a company’s makeup.

7912618_f260With the presence of ever changing technology and social media, human behavior has come to expect certain things. In order to stay ahead and competitive, companies must learn to adapt. Smart phones and tablets are everywhere. Instant gratification and instant access to everything is now the norm. We are always connected or wired.

Technology enables us to access any piece of information in seconds and because of this human behavior expects instant gratification. Companies will have to up their response time to consumers. Consumers have flocked to social media for their voice for complaints. A recent study by Simply Measured showed that only 30% of brands have a dedicated customer service handle on Twitter. The average response time currently is 5.1 hours. Only 10% of companies are answering within one hour (1). If this doesn’t change, companies will see more unhappy customers, a loss of sales, and public shaming on social media. Consumers have high expectations. 53% of consumers expect a response and that percentage jumps to 72% when they have a complaint (2). Response time is key. Companies will have to invest in 24/7 monitoring.

Ten years ago we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. Can you imagine what we will have in another ten years? New platforms will pop up and they will need to be evaluated. Social media isn’t going anywhere. It’s only going to increase and companies need to prepare for it.

The Travel Industry Invented Best Practices…

I was at a conference for work this week talking with some clients and coworkers about my upcoming trip in late June. I was telling them the different places we would be heading to and about my new camera. A client mentioned that I should blog about my vacation and post photos while I was vacationing. I started to laugh and told the group that interestingly enough, I had to start a blog for a graduate course I was taking in social media. And isn’t it funny that the blog has turned out to be all about travel even though I’m not in the travel industry. We all laughed and someone said that it was my subconscious telling me that I should be working in the travel industry. That got me thinking about this blog post and all the travel blogs and Twitter accounts I follow (it’s a lot, maybe I should consider working in the travel industry).

Before I share what’s happening in the travel world, I did some digging to see what I could find out best practices for blogging and tweeting. I read a lot of articles about best practices for blogging and I liked what Echo Ditto had to say best.

Best Blogging Practices:

  1. Blog at least once a week
  2. Engage with other bloggers
  3. Respond actively to comments on your blog
  4. Content needs to be relevant and good
  5. Keep people coming back
  6. Don’t be afraid to promote your blog

And when it came to best practices for Tweeting, I found a great article on Forbes that I’ve simplified below.

Best Tweeting Practices:

  1. Figure out why you’re using Twitter
  2. Define your brand
  3. What’s your strategy – lay it out
  4. Understand how to use Twitter
  5. Beef up your profile with a good photo and proper keywords
  6. Build your network by following people relevant to you and follow others who follow you
  7. Create original content and start tweeting with good hashtags
  8. Continue to tweet and retweet good content

Now on to the good stuff…great travel blogs and Twitter handles. Do they follow the advice above? If you’re never heard of Fathom, you need to check out their site. I love their missions, which I’ve added my comments to: to help you indulge your love of travel (HECK YEAH!), to narrow down endless options to those that are special (THANK YOU!) and to find the best travel stories (BECAUSE WHO WANTS TO READ BAD TRAVEL STORIES?!). One of the greatest parts of the site, in my opinion, is their Cheat Sheet. It provides great information about a specific city that can help you in so many ways.

Fathom released the 24 top travel blogs and websites list. I reviewed all of them and have read articles posted on many of them before. Do they follow the best practices listed above? They do but it’s more than just following best practices. You know when you’re reading one of the articles that it was written by someone who LOVES what they do. And that’s something I think is forgotten about – PASSION. Do we really care if a particular blog doesn’t have a new post every week? I don’t. I want to read a blog article maybe once a month if it’s full of great photos, recommendations, and is enjoyable and entertaining to read.

The travel industry is no stranger to Twitter. Mashable released a 15 Travel Twitter Accounts to Follow in 2012. That list brought me some of my favorite tweets to read. What I loved and still love about the list is that it brings such a variety from a flight attendant to a travel editor to a travel agency. I love reading the quirky tweets on what happens in the air from a flight attendants perspective (don’t be the one that she tweets about…).

Travel tweets come frequently and provide a lot of information. And in 2014, you know there has to be a hashtag list that comes with it…of course! Some hashtags I’ve stumbled across recently: #travel, #travelthursday, #rtw (round the world), #cruisechat, and #smtravel (social media travel). The last one should be a big eye opener. Social media travel! If that’s not a clear indication that travel tweeters are doing it and doing it well, I don’t know what it is.

Simply put, is the travel industry practicing best practices for blogging and tweeting? Please…they invented it.

 

 

It’s All About Relationships…

There are challenges for the travel industry when taking their brands social. It’s not the lack of tools but the creation of the relationship between online, mobile, and actual physical locations that will meet and exceed the customer’s expectations. Instant access to everything has created customers who are very demanding. I’m one of them. I have instant access to information and recommendations on Twitter, Facebook, forums, etc. If I ask questions from someone in the travel industry, I expect a quick response and I expect it to be good.

Using social media is a game changer for travel planners. They are used to picking up the phone and making a sale. It doesn’t work that way with social media. The target audience is a bit bigger than one person on the phone. However, the good side of an audience on social media is that they can be very loyal and very engaged. BUT, you have to work to keep that audience engaged and loyal. And the goal is to not only keep that particular audience engaged and loyal but their audience and so on.

Bar graph statistics

Statistics provided by SDL Global Customer Experience Management

The creation of the relationship that travelers get when they are face-to-face talking to someone is what needs to be created in social media. Word-of-mouth recommendations still go further than any other form of information. Create a relationship with your clients so they take your recommendations as something similar to a word-of-mouth recommendation.

A good travel planner can also build a relationship with its audience by writing reviews. Any good travel planner takes trips themselves. That way they can give personal recommendations to their clients. Travelers are reading reviews. Starting writing travel reviews and using social media to promote them.

Read online reviews before travel

Statistics provided by SDL Global Customer Experience Management

The key to having your brand social is to be vigilant. Travel planners are up against travel apps and the idea that they aren’t needed anymore. I’m sure we’ve all thought at one point in time while looking at trip information, “I don’t need a travel agent, I can find a better/cheaper price online myself.” But what people don’t realize is that travel agencies have access to a multitude of databases giving them the opportunity to compare prices and look for the best deal. Travel companies need to be vigilant in their education of consumers. Let people know what you’re doing. It goes back to a company being transparent to their employees and the public. Same thing goes for travel companies. Let the public know what you have access to so you can promote your business. It builds loyalty among your followers.

Bar graphs from research conducted by SDL Global Customer Experience Management in The Modern Traveler: A Look at Customer Engagement in the Travel Industry.

One Stop Shopping

If you were going on a trip, trying a new restaurant, or staying at a hotel for work, wouldn’t it be great if you could go to one location to get reviews and photos? Well you can. It’s called TripAdvisor.

Homepage of TripAdvisor

Homepage of TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor is a website and app geared towards travel. The website and app provides directory information and reviews. Another great feature within TripAdvisor are the interactive travel forums. TripAdvisor enables travelers to plan the perfect trip. The website and app offers advice from real world travelers and TripAdvisor makes it easy to book with links to booking tools.

Henry Harteveldt of Forrester said it best, “TripAdvisor is to travel reviews what Kleenex is to tissues.” Stephen Kaufer, co-founder of TripAdvisor, wanted to build a big database of travel information. And that’s what he did when TripAdvisor was founded in 2000 with the idea of big data meets travel (Bussgang, 2012).

To the consumer, TripAdvisor is free. It costs nothing for someone to write or read a review. Currently, TripAdvisor branded sites operating in 39 countries account for the largest travel community. On a monthly basis, 260 million unique visitors visit the site along with more than 150 million reviews. This accounts for more than 4 million accommodations, attractions, and restaurants that are being reviewed.

Big data meets travel means analytics. TripAdvisor has analytics that provides hotel owners the ability to keep tabs on what is happening with their competition. The analytics dashboard shows hotel owners a list of competitors’ properties most viewed by consumers who accessed the property’s TripAdvisor page. Brilliant, right? Yes indeed. Who wouldn’t want to know what is going on with their competition? The analytics provide the number of reviews, popularity ranking, summary of reviews and comments, photos, and what country is bringing the highest number of visits to the property’s TripAdvisor page. This is information that the travel and tourism industry is normally begging for and now it can be accessed all through TripAdvisor.

Hotel listing with ranking

Hotel listing with ranking

The best thing about having a hotel on TripAdvisor? Easy booking links located directly next to the hotel listing. The consumer has options for booking or they can link directly to the hotel website and book directly through them.

TripAdvisor has continued to be successful because word of the mouth reviews are worth more than gold. People would rather see other travelers photos and hear what they liked or disliked than see professional photography or read what’s on the hotel website provided by a public relations firm that knows how to spin words.

References:

Bussgang, J. (2012, August 16). Seeing Both Sides: Scaling is Hard, Case Study: TripAdvisor. Seeing Both Sides. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://bostonvcblog.typepad.com/vc/2012/08/tripadvisor-is-to-travel-reviews-what-kleenex-is-to-tissues-henry-harteveldt-forrester-tripadvisor-may-be-o.html

The World Isn’t Flat…

A very large percentage of people are engaging in some sort of social media platform. Because of this, it has caused a revolution in marketing. You must go where the people are, correct? Right!

The travel industry is no exception. It was discovered by research provided by eMarketer 2013 that one-fifth of leisure travelers use some form of social media to inspire them for travel plans. The research showed four areas where social media helped travellers: hotels (23%), vacation activities (22%), attractions (21%), and restaurants (17%).  What was the number one social media platform used? Facebook (In Asia-Pacific, Social Media Inspires Travelers, 2013).

Using Twitter to Engage

Hotel chains are branching out on their traditional marketing. It’s no longer just a coupon in the interstate visitor’s center rack card. A famous hotel brand, the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, knew that something different needed to be done with marketing and social media. One of their ideas was a virtual wine tasting paired with an in-person wine tasting. Can’t attend the event in person? No problem, follow it on Twitter. Tweetup attendees were given a list of the wines that would be tasted so they could comment during the one-hour session with the top Four Seasons sommeliers. The Four Season Hotel & Resorts took an event that in the past was always an in-person event and made it possible for people around the world to attend online.

Twitter Screenshot

@VisitBritain

Tourism industries for countries have found use on Twitter. Different Twitter accounts offer tips for visiting their country, post photos, and answer questions for travelers. They’ve teamed up with different travel magazines and websites promoting deals to their country while also engaging the consumers with games and trivia. @VisitBritain is a great example of a Twitter account that does all of these things. They actively answer questions from consumers, post photos that show all of the great things of their country, and tweet deals on plane tickets, discounted travel tours, and more.

Facebook Works for Travel Agents

World Travel Facebook

World Travel Facebook

It’s not only big chains that are using social media in the travel industry. Travel agents are now building trust through the use of social media platforms such as Facebook.  Facebook pages have become quite popular for travel agents. The pages allows consumers to ask travel agents questions and to view their current deals.

 

By posting photos of different places, travel agents can encourage consumers to add items to their bucket lists. Another item that has been received well is offering safety tips in different countries. All of these items: deals, tips, and FAQs builds a relationship with the consumer. So instead of booking online themselves, they will go to the travel agents with whom they trust.

The travel industry has proven to be resilient with the ever-evolving social media. Social media provides quick access to people’s opinions. They must stay vigilant (not to sound too corny) to reviewing posts on social media platforms about what people are saying about them. Good news spreads fast but bad reviews spread even faster.

References:

In Asia-Pacific, Social Media Inspires Travelers. (2013, January 15). – eMarketer. Retrieved May 2, 2014, from http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Asia-Pacific-Social-Media-Inspires-Travelers/1009605

Instagram and Twitter: How They Are Changing…Everything

Have you ever heard of the Key Master? The phrase is from the 1989 movie, Say Anything. The Key Master took everyone’s keys when they walked into a party. The keys were carried around in a sack and at the end of the night, the Key Master had to judge whether or not someone could drive home. I love social media but in some ways, I think that some people should have a Phone Master or even a Social Media Master in social settings. It’s really for their own good. Unless you have your accounts locked down like Fort Knox, once you hit share or send, the photos or the tweet are out there.

We are in the age of photo power. Instagram is an app that allows you to take photos and share. Instagram has given us the power to share photos with everyone around the world on what we are doing and where we are. Not only can you share via Instagram but you also have the option to share on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Foursquare. Instagram also have similar features like other social media accounts. You can “like” or comment on other peoples photos, search by a user or a hashtag. Instagram is fast and easy for photo sharing and compliments other social media networks.

Instagram search for the Pope

Instagram search for the Pope

Instagram has changed social events and every day life with the simple snap of a photo, a possible hashtag, and a share. As a society, we are much more at ease with sharing photos. Photos that were once kept in a photo album at home on the coffee table are no more. We now upload albums every day through Instagram.

I recently helped a pub-crawl and scavenger hunt company with some marketing. I recommended that they create a hashtag for every event and teams that posted photos on Instagram with the correct hashtag would receive extra points. There were over 150 people partaking in this one particular pub-crawl and scavenger hunt and all of them had Instagram on their phones. They were excited to receive extra points simply by using an app they already love.

Instagram search for #party

Instagram search for #party

If you’ve been to any live event like a game, concert, or any other social event, it’s inevitable that you saw people tweeting about what’s happening. You might have even been a @mention in the post. Twitter is massive. Twitter is a microblogging social media network that allows its users to send 140 character messages called tweets. They are easy to create and hashtags are fun to include with your tweet. You can even see what other people are talking about with what’s trending.

Trending Topics on Twitter

Trending Topics on Twitter

Twitter has changed how we look at live events. The Oscars are a perfect example with Ellen DeGeneres’ selfie that registered over 3.2 million retweets. Not only did she break Twitter but it was the largest retweet to ever happen. The Boston marathon is another perfect example of how social media is changing everything. Police were using Twitter to ask for help with the suspected terrorists. Loved ones were tweeting photos of where they were.

Twitter is like a giant water cooler that society is hanging around. It’s a digital soapbox where everyone can engage. Twitter has become what CNN used to be. The biggest news happens more often than not on Twitter. Where did we find news about the raid on Osama Bin Laden? Twitter. Because of how hugely popular and relevant Twitter has become, live news events have a Twitter feed at the bottom of the screen.

Instagram and Twitter together and separately have changed social everything. It’s undetermined whether it’s for the good or the bad. We are now a society that shares every moment 24/7/365. Photos through Instagram and small bursts of information through Twitter.

References:
(1989). Say Anything: CBS/Fox Video.