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.

Video

Viral Marketing Initiatives

Going viral doesn’t happen just because. There isn’t a marketing genie that pops out of a bottle and makes a wish. Marketing campaigns go viral because they have one or more of the following elements:

Emotion

Emotion drives most behavior. The stronger the feeling, the more likely a person will respond with action, like sharing a video the evoked such emotion that they want to share with others. “The world needs to stop being boring” and “It’s like that dude from Journey said, don’t stop believing” came from the Kid President during his Pep Talk video. The Kid President is an adorable kid who wants other kids to have a voice. He believes that kids and grown ups should work together to go about changing the world. The videos evoke emotion, whether it’s laughter or tears and make people want to be better (1).

Relatable

There are some things that can just strike a nerve because they hit so close to home. By seeing it, it’s almost like you’re back living it. Campaigns that are relatable easily pull at the heartstrings. The Dove Calls for Dad #realdadmoments definitely pulls at the heartstrings. Who doesn’t remember a time when they called for their dad or daddy? And for those dads now, who can’t wait to have their child need them can relate.

Engagement

IMG_2622Creating engagement for a viral campaign is impressive. Recently, an impressive campaign that encourages others to share is the “Share a Coke” campaign. The campaign has done so well for Coke that they’ve added 1000 names and hope more will use #shareacoke on social media (2). This campaign has hit home with me as I dig through Diet Cokes trying to find one that means something to me. I get great pleasure in finding Buddy and sharing with my group of friends where we all refer to each other as buddy.

Entertaining/Humor

Who doesn’t like to be entertained or laugh at something? Creating campaigns that entertain a wide audience can be quite daunting. The Paper is Necessary campaign by a French toilet paper company shows the downfalls to everything being digital.

Easy to Share

In order for a marketing campaign to go viral, it needs to be easily sharable. All sharing links to social media sites need to be easily available. If it’s too difficult to share, it won’t go anywhere. Loading the video to YouTube, one of the largest search engines in the world, makes the video very easy to share.

Viral marketing campaigns can be similar to TV shows or movies. There has to be a reason for someone to want to watch. Grab their attention and keep it.

References:

(1) http://www.kidpresident.com/whoweare.html
(
2) http://www.coca-cola.co.uk/share-a-coke/share-a-coke.html

Differentiation – Did Virgin America Airline’s Cancun afternoon sweat out all of the competition from United Airlines?

Airfare is expensive. If you have to fly, are you going to choose an airline that entertains you while you fly?

Gone are the days of watching flight attendants give boring speeches on securing your seatbelt and having your chair in the upright position. Perhaps airlines finally realized that air travelers don’t want to watch and listen to flight attendants who look like they would rather be anywhere else?

Introduce Virgin America, who debuted their new in-flight video last fall. The video, “Virgin American Safety Video #VXsafetydance” has close to ten million views on YouTube (1). The new video entails a snappy five-minute dance routine and song that explains the safety rules for flying.

Virgin America's Safety Dance

YouTube – Virgin America’s Safety Dance

The video falls in line with Virgin’s sleek image and sells the experience of flying with Virgin America. Another video is currently in the works. This go around, Virgin America had the idea to include real people in the video so they took to social media. People submitted their dance auditions. More than 7,000 tweets were received with the hashtag #vxsafetydance and 364 submissions through Instagram (1).

This summer, United Airlines followed with a release of their in-flight safety video titled Safety is global. United released the video with the following statement, “Buckle your seat belt and stow your tray tables – we are taking you around the globe with our new safety video. It’s clever, fresh, packed with fun surprises and most importantly, not boring. Safety is global and our number one priority, so please pay attention. We think you will rather enjoy it” (2).

YouTube - United Safety Video

United took a different approach to their video by pushing a more serious tone. The video portrays an all around the world sense of safety. I’m not sure if I personally agree with the statement that it’s not boring but…to each their own.

While the videos are quite different, they both take away from the once boring flight attendant speeches. Virgin followed up their success of the #VXsafetydance video with a new YouTube announcement of where Virgin is headed next. CoYouTube - Virgin America's Climate Controlntinuing with their sleek image, the company has paired up with Nest to allow more control for travelers to have more control over their experience. The video portrays Virgin’s sleek brand image while showing that their their focus is all about the experience for the traveler.

What other airline offers youyour own climate control? (3) Your choices for climate control include the following:

Virgin America Climate Poll

The two airlines are both active in social media. Whereas Virgin America tends to continue their sleek brand image in fun and witty videos, United takes a more staid and old fashion approach. High numbers are impressive on social media but they don’t mean everything. Driving engagement and communicating is more important.

Virgin America has taught us five things about social media:

  1. Know your audience – their ads, communications and videos reflect their brand, which is bold, casual and young.
  2. Taking challenges and being innovative – their new in-flight video says it all.
  3. Connect, don’t market – while on a flight, a passenger tweeted that he wasn’t happy that his meal hadn’t been delivered. The social media team contacted the aircraft and they delivered his misplaced meal.
  4. Make use of 3rd party applications – Virgin uses Hootsuite to organize all of their social media communication in one place
  5. Engage in social media with a genuine voice – They shared a lighthearted and funny article during the holiday season about travel being a beast. The purpose was to engage with travelers and connect with them. (4)United Broken Guitar

United is trying with a social media team but they are still trying to figure out how it all works. They have received public thank yous from travelers but they still are missing the mark in some instances. The famous broken guitar YouTube video burned United quite badly.

Their response to the horrible response time and mismanaged complaint was that they were merging with Continental Airlines and had to basically start over with social media (5). Perhaps they can spend some time reviewing what Virgin America is doing with their social media and learn from them? United Airlines has impressive numbers when you look at their social media. Now they just need to work on engagement and communication along with promoting their brand image.

(1) http://digiday.com/brands/virgin-americas-cabin-content-strategy/
(2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtyfiPIHsIg
(3) http://blog.virginamerica.com/blog/new-feature-destination-acclimation-with-nest/?cid=sm_social_MON_331_11a__G&stop_mobi=yes
(4) http://blog.digitalinsights.in/social-media-lessons-virgin-america/05125887.html
(5) http://skift.com/2013/06/09/uniteds-social-media-efforts-getting-off-the-ground/

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.

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