There was an interesting article in this morning’s Internet Travel News about the power of social networking as a marketing tool. It caught my eye, not so much because of what it had to say to travel industry professionals in particular, but because it portended a marketing “tidal wave” for all industries. This was a timely confirmation that the subjects being covered in our November 1 Web 2.0 for Business conference are right on target. It also echoed Brian Lustig’s excellent August 14 post on consumers driving Web 2.0 applications.
This morning’s piece in the Travel News examines research conducted by Cindy Estis Green, managing partner of The Estis Group in Potomac, Maryland. Green just completed a comprehensive report on how social media and social networking represent the future of marketing for the travel industry. She spoke on the topic yesterday at an industry conference at the Washington Convention Center.
Her views extend to every business sector. Green stated, “There is a tsunami coming that few fully anticipate and it will dramatically change the marketing landscape in all industries, not just travel.”
Green continued, “It’s not just about a new set of media, it’s a sea change in consumer behavior. Social media opens the door for this new marketing model and as far as the consumers are concerned, the train has already left the station.”
Here’s an interview with Green, in which she explains how companies are moving toward this online, community-based form of networking:
Social media and networking tools are Web 2.0 applications that allow companies to engage with their customers. As I mentioned, my fellow bloggers have already done a superb job pointing out what some of these tools are and how they’re being applied. However, you might be surprised at just how many options exist:
- Profiles on social networking sites like MySpace, TripAdvisor, A-Space, other industry-specific sites, etc.
- Bookmarks, including Digg, del.icio.us, etc.
- Search-engine optimized press releases and articles
- Podcasts, videos, and photos
- Tweets (like blogs, with instant messaging)
- Voting on content
- RSS feeds
- Brand education tools
- Contests, games, and special events
These cost-effective tools should make marketing departments salivate. They make a high impact on a low budget and are easily accessible to even small businesses. Green points out that their real power comes through when they’re combined as part of a comprehensive plan.
One of the many things this MBA researcher did for her report was to poll travel executives about the expected impact of social media. The results are revealing:
- 65% ““ Deepen brand relationship with customers
- 55% ““ More targeted communications to niche markets
- 46% ““ Better understanding by staff of customer needs
- 42% ““ More recognizable brand image
- 41% ““ Improved revenues
The numbers remind us that marketing using social media can be targeted to meet specific company goals. At the same time, Green says that this new form of customer engagement isn’t about the same old “pushing and pulling” of the old days. Marketers and executives will be challenged to use social media in a way that furthers their agenda, but leaves room for flexible customer involvement.
Green’s full report is called “The Travel Marketer’s Guide to Social Media and Social Networking,” and can be purchased in late September or early October. To buy a copy, contact either the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) or the Travel Industry Association (TIA).