Published on Thursday, September 1, 2011

TravelMole Guest Comment: Social media: marketing or customer service?

Rich Rust, social reputation manager for social media specialist agency Yomego ( 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?."

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  • Both my captain

    Surely, the question is not anymore about "Should I use social media". That's a fact. of course you could live without it but your brand would lose a significant leverage in the closer to the customer race. Social media can be both marketing and customer service but not technical support to my opinion. Happy customers on your facebook page will be the best ambassadors ever for your brand. But your facebook page for instance should also give the possibility to your fans to buy your products or services. When we (Availpro) did our presentation on the social media last july in front of london hoteliers their questions were more like "How do I start from scratch", "What are the best practices", "How can I increase the number of fans and make them interact, participate so that it would be lively". It was not about "should I be there". Ultimately, how can I make more direct sales through the social media (Facebook page in that case. All these questions were addressed during our conference. At that occasion, we unveiled our new hotel booking engine for Facebool pages. You can see a video here:

    By Emmanuel Fremau, Friday, September 2, 2011

  • A lot of sense

    Your comments make a lot of sense. To broaden slightly, there is also the consideration of what users want each platform for. For example, in my humble view, Twitter is more useful for customer service due to the quick pace, group comment (i.e. hashtags), short and snappy messages. Would a Facebook user (who is mainly using the site to communicate with their closest friends) experience the same quickness of news/customer service response? I believe not. Then there is the consideration of smaller niche networks (for example, communities managed by clients themselves or the one I work for at - Where Are You Now?). Our platform is all about users dreams and what they would love to do. This makes us an inspirational, marketing site rather than a customer service portal.

    By Nathan Easom, Friday, September 2, 2011

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