The travel industry is making use of social media but it"s still doubtful about return on investment, TravelMole"s Travel Industry Question Time session heard yesterday in London.
With limited budgets, lack of clarity on strategy and a fear of negative responses, only sections of the industry have grasped the nettle when it comes to engaging with consumers, delegates heard, and even then they may not be using social media as effectively as they could be.
With a panel of experts comprising search agency Hit Riddle"s Matt Barker, review site Qype"s Sarah Drinkwater, advertising agency Conrad"s Nick Henley and social media agency Yomego"s Richard Rust, the debate on how best to use the likes of TripAdvisor, Twitter and Facebook saw many at the session admit they were still perplexed on how to measure whether it was working in terms of bookings.
But Drinkwater was adamant everyone in the industry needed to get onboard. She said: "For me, it"s not a matter of whether you want to engage, it"s about having to. Businesses are nervous about it but more and more they are realising that it"s the best way forward to reach new consumers and solidify what the brand is."
Henley added: "The problem with social media is that you put the money in and you have to work out where the value comes back. But people can"t always measure that."
Hit Riddle"s Matt Barker disagreed with Drinkwater, however. He said: "There is a myth that you have to do social media. It is not necessary for everyone"s online marketing strategy. I think there is just too much hype about social media.
"I ran a marketing team for a travel agency and I know that the traffic you generate from a Facebook campaign will not give you quality leads as much as more traditional stuff like organic search or pay per click."
He said leads from travel discussion forums were much stronger than those from general social networking sites. "People using Facebook are not necessarily on the purchasing cycle," he explained.
Yomego"s Richard Rust believes that it"s crucial to enter the social media world simply because it is an extension of people"s every day lives. He explained: "It"s intrinsic to how people purchase things and that"s why Premier Inn incorporated TripAdvisor views onto its site. Enhancing your reputation is very valuable - it"s just about measuring its value."
But all agreed that if companies are to engage in social media, then it has to be done properly and consistently.
Said Drinkwater: "There are dangers in not using it wisely. You must have something to talk about, useful content and a particular campaign in mind."
Henley said one of the best aspects about social media was that it made companies raise their game. He explained: "You can"t go out there and start talking about your company unless it"s good. Social media makes you sort your house out."
It was also unanimously agreed that companies should take a cross-departmental approach to social media.
Said Henley: "15 years ago, when we talked to companies about the internet, the web was dealt with by a single department. Now it impacts every department. It should be the same approach for social media. Everyone should be involved in reacting to customer feedback."
by Dinah Hatch
TIQT is sponsored by Getabed.co.uk , Amadeus and Yahoo
Wednesday, July 6, 2011