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Published on Monday, February 21, 2011

TravelMole Guest Comment: Are you ignoring social media?

Paul Richer, senior partner Genesys – The Travel Technology Consultancy, issues a warning to those who are sceptical of Facebook and Twitter...

"I was in a discussion with a couple of travel industry journalists this week. We were talking about social media. Journalist One said that she really doesn’t see what Twitter is all about and she is not at all interested in Facebook. Why would people she hardly knows be interested in everyday routine details of her life? If she wants to tell her friends such things, she will pick up the phone and talk to them, she declared. Journalist Two then sheepishly admitted that she does tweet, “but only occasionally,” as if this was something to feel guilty about.

Which camp are you in; the ignore-it camp - living a simple life without the pressures of informing the world of your doings, the occasional tweeter - not giving too much away, or the enthusiast – wanting to tell the world your every thought and emotion because the world really wants to know?

If you are in the ignore-it camp which I think many still are, the question you need to ask yourself is whether your business is going to suffer as a result?

I have just finished organising a conference on social media. The publicity went out and I was amazed at the reaction. There is a huge amount of interest in the subject. I had quite a few emails from social media marketing consultants and agencies wanting to be involved. There is a whole new industry here that has grown from zero to employing significant numbers.

What was very encouraging, though, were the emails I received from travel people saying that they don’t need to come to the conference, thanks, they are already doing social media and it’s going great.

Examples of social media in action include On Holiday Group’s Share and Earn scheme, rather cheekily called Google Bypass by Steve Endacott until it was decided, for reasons unknown to me, to change the name. This is a viral marketing initiative that relies on participants spreading the word on social media. It could not be done without tools like Facebook that allow the fast and wide dissemination of a message.

Then there was social media in action during the snow crisis in December. Some airlines were using Twitter to frequently update customers on the latest situation. For example, Virgin Atlantic’s tweet volume rose from an average of around 12 per day to a peak of 460 tweets on 21 December – one every 20 seconds. These were a combination of status messages and replies to customers’ tweets. I wonder how big a team one needs to support that amount of tweeting?

Interestingly, for a big company to act small and engage in one to one conversations must take quite a bit of internal re-organisation. Who is responsible; marketing, customer relations, e-commerce or perhaps a new social media group? How will they be empowered? What can or cannot they say? What decisions will they be allowed to make?

If yours is a smaller business then, organisationally, it is much easier. Resource-wise, though, it is going to cost you. Not in money, but in the time it will take to properly communicate with your customers.

Are you up for it or are you brave enough to go against the tide and say that social media is an over-hyped waste of time and energy. Look forward to your comments."

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  • Oops - here is latest link

    Here is correct link to video for those that want to know more on social media. (see earlier comment) Agree with comments that it's first about listening.

    By Kathryn Bullock, Monday, February 21, 2011

  • ignore them and they'll ignore you

    Good article Paul. I give talks on social media to various businesses once a month and EVERY time, irrespective of the industry, there is about 75% of the audience who either: a) don't understand 'this social media thing', so they stick the head in the sand; b) they know they have to do it, but they don't know how/why, so they give it to the intern; c) open an account with twitter/FB, but get turned off by the shere size of (often irrelevant) info. One of my accounts (@TravelMagazine) has over 160000 followers. The secret of success is not to have something to say, but being prepared to listen. You can ignore them, but if they don't talk with you, they'll still talk about you or about your product/industry somewhere else: with their friends, strangers, journalists/bloggers, your competitors... For example, we could have been talking about Virgin Atlantic, but looks like Fergus is all ears when it comes to his brand. ;) Martino Matijevic CEO, WhichBudget Flight Search

    By Martino Matijevic, Monday, February 21, 2011

  • Similar Experience at the Travel Blog Project

    We have had a similar experience as Mr. Richer with regard to agents attacking social media. The Travel Blog Project is a 100 day online marketing effort that includes blogging, Facebook and Twitter. We send an email posting theme everyday. Mondays we blog, Tuesdays we Twitter, Wednesdays we blog, Thursday we post on Facebook and Friday we follow and comment on each other"s social sites. We have had 215 mostly independent travel agents sign up. Of that about 50 are actively posting. I have received many emails from agents indicating they are getting business. Most of the ones who are not actively engaging in the social media posting effort say they are just too busy. Which I guess means they do not need new clients? George Oberle, Founder

    By George Oberle, Monday, February 21, 2011

  • How did we live without social media?

    Hi Paul, I'm firmly in the enthusiast camp having worked with fans of clients that love the opportunity to connect with each other. If anyone wants to know what it's still all about I've put a link to a video from Travel Tech show on how to get started. Hope that helps to galvanise the "ignore it" camp.

    By Kathryn Bullock, Monday, February 21, 2011

  • Update by Virgin Atlantic

    Hi Paul The answer is we have just 3 staff who handled the volume of Tweets and also Facebook messages during the snow disruption in December. They worked in shifts to cover 24 hour cover for 3 days. We couldn't magic the snow away but at least we could keep customers updated. Rgds Fergus, Head of eBusiness, Virgin Atlantic

    By F Boyd, Saturday, February 19, 2011

  • Global Reach through Social Media / New York Guest

    Social Media has had a hugely popular and positive impact at New York Guest, in particular our Facebook (20K fans) and Twitter (3.5K followers) pages. They have opened up communication channels across a very broad spectrum and New York Guest is able to engage with people all over the world at a level that would not be feasible without these channels. Our reach is extending further and further every day through comments/tweets from fans and followers which are then visible to their friends and so on. At the same time, social media enables us to also strengthen the relationships that we are cultivating with our B2B partners and suppliers. By cooperating on cross-promotions and assisting one another to grow digitally, we are now using social media in a different manner and to a much greater capacity than was first imagined. Communicating to clients via social media enables us to quickly highlight the positive elements that make New York Guest unique vs. our competitors: the depth of our expert, local knowledge and personal service; our flexibility in promoting new ideas; the ability to offer limited time opportunities and specials to specific demographics. These are features which simply cannot be matched in our market. Social media is not a flash-in-the-pan; it is an evolving spectrum. Travel companies who are not embracing these tools of engagement, may wonder where their clients have gone in a few years as they quickly fall behind the curve. @Newyorkguest

    By Terra Walker, Saturday, February 19, 2011

  • Global comapnies need global soutions

    Those journalists you spoke to (oh go on Paul, spill the beans, who were they!) probably focus on the UK. If you are UK centric then your conventional networking mechanisms (face to face meetings, phone calls etc) work just fine. However for companies like us (TourCMS) with reservation system clients in 30 countries now - there is no way we could build trust or even engage with tour operator customers unless we were active in travel industry B2B social media. Other competitors build local sales forces / offices to address the same problem. For us, social media is the preferred option and is much more cost effective. Additionally social media has the benefit of being asymmetric... so we can communicate in a semi-broadcast rather than a 1:1 way. @alexbainbridge

    By Alex Bainbridge, Friday, February 18, 2011

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