In the last two years the proliferation of social media in tourism has brought a range of new tools and platforms for tourism and hospitality organisations around the world.
A new generation of marketing, sales, public relationships, professionals emerged to take on the task of communicating the company message across the new media.
What looked as innovation for the first six months soon become a commoditised and cliche type of interaction.
Lacking innovation and imagination many organisations outsourced this process to “experts” that are looking after the social media accounts, or they employed a typically young marketer to sort social media out.
Soon the message that was getting out was stereotypical and often meaningless, offering no value or no engagement with users.
How many times can a hotel company say “good morning” to you or show you bedroom photographs.
Social media is becoming a boring me-too, similar to Web 1.0 ten years ago when everybody started to imitate everybody else, essentially killing all sorts of innovation and failing to address the opportunities.
Research and professional practice from around the world needs to better understand and feed into the strategy of businesses so they can take advantage of the fantastic opportunities available to us all – and travellers – through social media.
So here is a 20 point plan (call it a manifesto):
1. Engage, engage, engage with the wider communities and stakeholders: employees, customers, local people, special interest groups
2. Consumers centric approach to absolutely everything â€“ this means that:
- TIMING – you cannot simply interact in the office hours of the marketing personnel but around the clock.
- TOPICS – speak about what users/consumers want to engage with â€“ not just promoting your products.
- VALUE – engage with what consumers perceive as value.
3. Human centricity and connections – identify how people connect with people, whether these are employees, customers, tourists. Build the community feel and engage everybody in positive interaction.
4. Address criticisms instantly and fix things in real time, restoring the promised level of services as soon as possible and give alternatives to compensate inconvenience.
5. Harness the collective power and knowledge of the community to share solutions for all.
6. Facilitate co-creation at all levels: Consumers with business; consumers with employees and consumers with consumers.
7. Visual multimedia rules: encourage users to take photos, videos, drawings etc and upload to their social networks.
8. Offer genuine value and reward engagement through special offers, value added services, special experiences, engagement behind the scenes.
9. Challenge all operating practices and “normal” processes to reflect consumer dynamic requirements within the context of “now”.
10. Explain operating difficulties and issues and engage consumers in finding creative solutions.
11. Geo-tagged user generated content will demonstrate the real experience and maximise impact.
12. Facilitate interaction by offering FREE WIFI to guests. This is a preconditions for people to generate and share content, especially for travellers that do not want to pay data roaming charges.
14. Fully exploit the potential of TripadvisorÂ including its Forum and Â listings.
15. Make guests, customers, and locals brand advocates and ambassadors giving them the opportunity to champion and defend the brand online.
16. Stop being paranoid on Return on Investment ROI in Social Media and focus on value generation and co-creation for all involved.
17. Develop context and location-based services that are integrated with social media. Use QR codes to direct people to deep links with special offers and engagement.
18. Create photo and video opportunities and incentivise sharing.
19. Fully integrate social media with web presence and aim to convert to bookings.
20. In-source and resource social media as the mainstream communication channel.Â Train most of the work force to contribute and engage in the dialogue, from the CEO/general manager to receptionist and front line employees.
Please make sure you do all the above with passion and integrity and with the genuine engagement principle at heart.
But, above all, innovate by providing rich and memorable experiences enhancing your competitiveness through offering incredible value for time and money.