Mar082011

A blog is not a marketing brochure and other tweets from #smtravel11

“If I share your brand with my friends, it’s not because I like your brand, it’s because I like my friends” cassie_leung: #smtravel11

Loyalty Traveler takeaways from the Social Media in Travel 2011 conference:

Hipmunk.com – check out this site for hotel search. This combines hotel location with other geo-location overlays providing insight to food, entertainment, tourism, nightlife and vice.

Room77.com – this site allows you to see the room view from specific rooms in a hotel. Great concept, but right now it still looks like 1990s computer graphics for every hotel room I have checked. Watch for this site to catch on. An interesting aspect though is a video on Tnooz showed how the Room77 concept could create problems for hotel reservations when consumers request specific rooms. This Tnooz video explains the issue from the hotel booking side.

Update March 10: Jared Blank of Online Travel Review blog reviewed Room 77 website on March 7. He also reviewed hipmunk.com with regard to airline searches February 15.

TweetReach.com – another twitter analysis site. Honestly I think twitter influence is way overrated. So you tweet something and your message is seen by a few dozen or few hundred of your many thousands of followers. Just because you have a huge follower list does not equate to them reading you at any specific time.

What are the chances I will see your tweet right now as I am writing this? By the time I get back on Twitter will I see your tweet among the tweets of 1,700 accounts I follow?

TwitterAnalyzer.com – another Twitter account analysis site.

SocialMention.com – the aspect of this tool that I liked is LoyaltyTraveler ranking for passion and sentiment. Sentiment is favorable comments vs. unfavorable comments in social media. I guess I have not pissed off too many people yet. Although my rating dropped from 24:1 to 18:1 in past week. Someone apparently didn’t like what I had to say this past week and my negative mentions increased from two to three. 

Eye for Travel’s Social Media Strategies for Travel North America conference was held March 2-3, 2011 in San Francisco. The hashtag locator #smtravel11 generated over 4,000 tweets in two days.

Loyalty Traveler was not physically present at the conference. I retweeted information coming from the conference primarily to have a record of industry insights condensed in my personal Twitter account. Ultimately, I learned the entire #smtravel11 tweet transcript is available online here.

I tweeted some relevant and several not so germane travel thoughts to twitterati over the two days of the Social Media in Travel conference.

An important thing to keep in mind for the next time I want to make a personal transcript from an event on Twitter is I really need to retweet the other person’s tweet that prompted my response. The tweets in my account show replies from me, but without the tweet that initiated my response, the tweets read like a one-sided conversation without the context driving the conversation.

Here are some tweets that caught my eye from #smtravel11.

 “At the end of the day, does a deep discount erode your brand? I would venture to say yes it does… “ @RandyStuck #smtravel11

LT thoughts: The discount is bad was a tweet idea that was retweeted many times. I personally object to the concept that discounts create brand erosion. From my consumer viewpoint I often see a hotel rate discount that gets me in the door as your only chance for engaging me the first time. Without initial engagement there is little chance of me becoming a first time customer, let alone a repeat customer and potential brand advocate.

You can identify brand advocates with surgical precision in social media – Cree Lawson” #smtravel11

LT thoughts: Identifying brand advocates is a marketing objective from the travel industry supplier point-of-view. Ever wondered why there are so many Facebook and twitter sweepstakes asking you to share a story or retweet a message? These are examples of crowdsourcing, whereby the travel company outsources marketing work to brand consumers who create user generated content for the travel company that promotes the brand. Motivation for the consumer is a travel prize or just the opportunity to share travel experiences.

Cree Lawson started the Travel Ad Network and now runs Vertilect Consulting. There were several good Cree tweets being passed along to the twitterati from conference participants. My favorite one was this tweet that I used for my April Inside Flyer column.

“Facebook and Twitter have toppled governments. Imagine what they can do to your brand. – Cree Lawson”  #smtravel11  on Twitter.

LT thoughts: In February I received a call from CBS news. At least the person  identified herself as from CBS news. For all I know I was punk’d by the CIA or the RNC or some blogger. I was questioned primarily about Egypt.  I wondered if my couple of dozen #Egypt tweets had placed me on the national radar?

Two terms used in #smtravel11 tweets were never defined for the twitterati. The terms crowdsourcing and crowdpower resonated with me. Crowdsourcing had a positive connotation I detected in the context of the conference tweets and crowdpower was used with a negative connotation. In my Loyalty Traveler world I might look at these a bit differently and switch the positive and negative connotation to the terms from a consumer POV.

Here are the definitions I generated for crowdsourcing and crowdpower from my internet searches.

 “Crowdsourcing is a concept employed by many travel suppliers to get customer generated content in the form of stories, trip reports, reviews.

“Crowdpower” is the ability of a large number of ordinary people to effect change through social media and other direct action.

“…travel is less about the places, and more about the conversations and experiences.” – Spencer Spellman #smtravel11

LT thoughts: This tweet was retweeted many times. I don’t know how much I agree. For me travel is mostly about the places. Conversations and experiences happen everywhere and often have the context of place, but not necessarily. I find the place is the focal point of my travel and the conversation and experiences are generally shaped by the places.

@uptake Susan Black says: Groupon is the fastest growing company in the history of our planet #smtravel11

@HHotelConsult: I respect our speaker’s skepticism of @groupon type sites. People who shop for discounts are not the guests you want. #smtravel11 It’s spam.

@LoyaltyTraveler Ric Garrido, my reply to HHotelConsult:

@HHotelConsult Get with the modern world where economics of spending is the priority for most travelers paying their own way.

LT thoughts: This is an example of me jumping in the conversation before taking the time to know the audience.  Michael Hraba put out the most #smtravel11 tweets over the two days and I responded to several of them. He replied a couple of times that we are talking about different guest types. He was focused on 5-star guests and I kept bringing my discount “fuck-the-stars” guest logic to the conversation.  He seems like someone I might want to meet with a knowledge of the hotel industry, social media and punk rock, but I don’t think I made a good first impression.

iMediaMichelle: Panel debating the potential of Groupon and others like them to grow in travel – spontaneous travel vs. finite local audience. #smtravel11

LT thoughts: Discount travel sites will always exist as long as travel suppliers offload their inventory to third party travel sites. Consumers want a discount and they will find sites offering the discounts.

HHotelConsult Michael Hraba, Retweet by LoyaltyTraveler

@TMFproject ‘s post “a blogging state of mind” http://bit.ly/f9bFtY #smtravel11 re: blogging as sales with some interesting thoughts.

LoyaltyTraveler Ric Garrido, I retweeted the link after reading the article.

“A blogging state of mind” – Ashley Ambirge is good read for bloggers new and old. http://bit.ly/f9bFtY #smtravel11

LT thoughts: Ashley discusses what makes a good blog. ‘A blogging state of mind’ is a profit-oriented piece focused on the eight seconds you have to make an impression with your audience. As Ashley puts it, bloggers need the sales mentality – “And only then can you escape personal journal land.”

“successful social media isn’t about the self… it’s about everyone else.” via @delross #smtravel11

“Social media evolution process: About me > Help me > What have I learned today, and how can it help you? 

LT thoughts: a blog is not a marketing brochure, but then again, money is necessary and that requires generating sales in one form or another.

 

What is @Gowalla? A social network that inspires people to share the places they go & discover the world. #smtravel11

Hotels can use Trips on @Gowalla to recommend experiences for users and join in on the conversation #smtravel11

LT thoughts on Gowalla: I failed to see the conversation on Gowalla when I checked several places in San Francisco. I don’t care who has been to a place if there is nothing to give back to me as a reader who wants to know more about the place. There are some photos to see, but my impression is Gowalla mostly looks like a waste of my time to spend time on.

“Goals of enagement: brand to customer, customer to brand, customer to customer” – @simpliflying #smtravel11

“Identify and energize Advocates to share recommendations and positive Word of Mouth through various channels #smtravel11

LT thoughts: Travel brands are looking for cheap marketers. A free hotel could be in your sights if you want to work for room and board. Much of the social media interaction I see taking place between bloggers and travel suppliers is the exchange of hotels and travel expenses for blog post customer to customer endorsements.

Most bloggers say that their posts are not influenced by the free travel components of their sponsored trips, but I certainly have my doubts. 

One part of me thinks I am an idiot for not taking free sponsored trips for blog posts. Hotels are expensive and free travel sure would be good for my profit margin as Loyalty Traveler.

But the dominant and prevailing part of me as Loyalty Traveler feels that I am unfettered by hotel sponsorship, albeit poorer for the moral stance.  I feel free to be critical of many aspects of hotel service that do not meet my expectations as a paying customer. I keep the authentic connection to travel as a consumer since my focus remains on the cost of travel and how to get better travel for less. I make judgments on the value of hotels based on the cost vs. the experience.

My consumer price connection might be lost if I stop paying my own travel expenses. Hanging out in free hotel rooms might leave me with little incentive for hotel rate analysis.

On Social Media Forums and Platforms:

Consumers are going to use whatever social network they want. Your job isn’t to promote a platform, but go where they are. #smtravel11

Big companies think they can do a lot of things well. They’re often wrong. – @delross #smtravel11

Going Amish- that’s the last privacy frontier LOL #SMTRAVEL11

Location based services are a near-perfect convergence of customer intent and marketing opportunity – #smtravel11

Loyalty Traveler thoughts: Going Amish was in reference to disconnecting from the electronic social network. When you make a living from or in social media, the thought of Going Amish is really a desire for a vacation and state of being disconnected from the SM world.

Privacy in social media is a trending discussion topic.

There was quite a bit of discussion on location based social media. I personally do not care for the services I’ve tried like Gowalla, FourSquare and TopGuest.

Collecting a few hundred or few thousand loyalty points is not worth my time to check-in and give up my privacy.

This is my take on location based social media services. Occasionally I show my wife Twitter accounts of women who place seductively attractive photos of themselves on Twitter and Facebook as a profile picture for a travel business account. And then I point out to Kelley that I can see where the person is at that moment from their geo-location tweet.

Do you really want to be that social with people who don’t know you? I’ve met some creepy people over the years and I do not like the thought of how vulnerable some people make themselves when sharing location information over social media that can be used for malicious intent.

And I’ll stop the tweets with this gem:

The key that everyone is missing is that all these conversations are around marketing and discounting #smtravel11 not loyalty.

And I am out of here. Monterey is too gorgeous today to sit in front of my computer.

I am Going Amish!

At the Beach

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »

Comments

  1. Very interesting post.

    I for one am grateful that you don’t take freebies from hotel companies in return for “reviews” and other posts. It’s very easy to lose the trust of your followers/readers and it’s very hard to (re-)earn it.

    I am curious — how many tweets do you get each day and what percentage do you read, given that you follow 1700 accounts. I think the key to preserving my sanity and productivity is to follow the right people (like, ahem, you) who curate the truly interesting material for me. Thanks for that, Ric! 🙂

  2. Oliver – Most of the accounts I follow are individual hotel accounts. As a group there is actually very little tweeting from the hotels. Most of the tweets I see and read are from other travel bloggers with a few cyclists like Levi Leipheimer and some political/journalism voices like Jeremy Scahill.

    I scan twitter for interesting travel news and occasionally I find it. Certainly not as useful as my Google alerts for hotel chains and airlines and checking RSS feeds for key blogs.

  3. I considered editing out my comment in this blog post about sexy Twitter and Facebook photos on business blogs, particularly in recognition of the fact that it was International Women’s Day on March 8.

    My concern is an authentic concern for safety that I think the use of location social media infringes on for women and men and children.

    I saw an interesting article today on Huffington Post.

    Women Post Photos On Facebook To Boost Self-Worth, Study Suggests http://huff.to/h8OJSh via @huffingtonpost

    Actually the comments to the photo story are the more interesting aspect of the article.

  4. I guess there is no way it was censored, since comments seem to autpost? Pardon that accusation I am way off! =) I just thought it was interesting you posted your response to my comment without any facts.. just opinions. I guess I lost a comment on this a couple weeks back where I posted a bunch of articles. I will try to find them again.

    There’s plenty of data about groupon not working for hotels, not being a smart direction to go as it’s about panic discounting…. I just want to go on record as saying it’s likely not the right choice for a hotel, and there are less precarious ways to innovate business.

    Cheers!!

  5. I do not censor comments as long as they are not spam.

    Akismet filters my comments extensively and 95% of comments go into the trash pile automatically. Your intial comments may have been shuttled there automatically. I rarely check to see which comments have been filtered.

    Groupon may not not work in the best interest of hotels. In general, I am looking out for the interests of consumers, so perhaps Groupon is a good deal for guests.

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