Rich Rust, social reputation manager for social media specialist agency Yomego (www.yomego.com) examines the corporate benefits of using social media sites.
"Last month, I attended TravelMole"s excellent Travel Industry Question Time on social media as a panelist. One of the questions that kept coming up was whether social media is a worthwhile exercise for travel companies, as the returns can be hard to measure. It occurred to me that many people in big brands still see social media as a pure marketing mechanic - another vehicle for promotion - and not as a way of connecting with existing customers.
Of course, social media has a hugely important role to play in marketing a brand - why wouldn"t you market your brand in a place where your customers are - but Facebook and Twitter in particular are emerging as important channels for customer service. The debate shouldn"t only be whether Facebook is a better advertising channel than TV, but whether it works for a brand as a way of connecting with customers and prospects, wherever they are in the buying cycle.
When the snow hit last winter, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways among others found that customers were flocking to their Facebook pages to find up to date information about flights. This is a much simpler way of the airlines communicating information to many, takes pressure off the call centre phone lines and allows airlines to spot (and sort out) any customer issues before they become major crises.
And this is where social media has its greatest power for travel companies. If United Airlines had spotted the first "United Breaks Guitars" video on YouTube (made by artist Dave Carroll following a flight from Halifax to Nebraska, at the start of which he saw baggage handlers throwing - and breaking - his $3500 Taylor guitar) a little earlier, it could have saved itself the endless media coverage, more than 10 million views on YouTube, and possibly avoided at least part of the share price tumble that ensued. That"s pretty measurable.
So the question isn"t "should you use social media". It"s "can you afford not to use social media, if that"s where your customers are going?."
Thursday, September 1, 2011