“Social is underhyped..it’s a big deal. Share IS the new search,” said Rich Barton, founder of Expedia, chairman of TravelPost and Co-founder & Chairman of Zillow.com. “Facebook should be part of everyone’s strategy“… “Social networks are the most powerful thing that has happened to the web since it’s launch.”
Rob Solomon, COO of Groupon, now the fastest growing company in the world, says “SNO” (Social Network Optimization) should be part of all strategies.”
We heard it time and time again at The PhoCusWright Conference in Arizona last week.
Three reasons why sharing is the new search:
1. The sheer volume of users participating in sharing and their level of engagement in social networks – both are huge and increasing.
2. Traditional publishers are putting more content behind paid logins where search is blind and cannot work properly.
3. People respond to traveling the web with their social network.
In other words, sharing and social strategies can and will be increasingly important to brand building and for generating site traffic. With a solid social strategy, marketers can be less reliant on paid search and can attract quality users by harnessing and encouraging word of mouth.
So, how are travel brands using social?
Expedia is experimenting with TripAdvisor‘s Trip Friends on Facebook. If you sign in to TripAdvisor through Facebook it will show you which of your friends have been to the destination or place you’re searching for and you can get their advice, post questions etc.
Travelocity said they too are experimenting in social for customer engagement and to improve user experience in their quest to “humanize” travel.
Brands are using it to harness word of mouth. “Social is about word of mouth, and word of mouth does matter,” said Brian Sharples, CEO, HomeAway. A nice reminder – people are already talking about your brand on social networks so it makes sense to be part of the conversation, contribute and encourage it.
“People are more likely to take advice from their friends than brands,” said Pete Stein, Razorfish. Too true, travelers especially are savvy and can be skeptical of promotional sites. They want to hear from people who have been there. A recommendation from a friend weighs heavily in their decisionmaking process.
Facebook and Twitter by the numbers:
- One out of 13 people use Facebook
- Facebook has 620 million users worldwide, 60% visit daily
- Over 200 million people just use Facebook on their phones
- Users spent 42 billion minutes on Facebook in October alone
- Facebook has the most popular photos and events products, and recently launched local deals and email products
- Twitter has 120 million real time users
But can it be measured?
The answer is yes. But there are still companies that are not investing more into social because they say they can’t measure the ROI. Pete Stein, President of Razorfish quickly responded: “ I completely disagree with the argument that social media ROI can’t be measured. It can and it requires new metrics.”
So where are the opportunities for travel brands or new entrants?
The answer? Social commerce. Although I’d say Groupon is doing pretty well, but according to the VC’s (when discussing dedicated travel brands): “Noone has cracked the nut with social commerce” and “Buying travel should be more entertaining & fun.” According to PhoCusWright, too many organizations over allocate resources to “high yield decliners” and under allocate resources to new opportunities that can grow quickly. All of this means the door is wide open to new entrants.
Tips for success in social strategies from Razorfish:
- Keep it simple. Most social strategies fail because they are too complicated.
- Ensure the strategy is tied to social behavior. Take advantage of how people are using social networks already, don’t try to teach them something new.
- Beware of the agency that falls in love with ideas that don’t work.
- Keep in mind users are savvy about browsing and used to the touch experience.
- People respond to traveling the web with their social network.
- Make it fun. There is a lot we can learn from gaming and gamers.
So then, what happens when you combine social media with mobile…? That is the biggest focus of most of the online travel industry today… that topic is coming up next!