Is there an 80/20 rule in social media for the travel industry?

NB: This is a guest viewpoint by Janet Gerhard, owner of Hospitality Gal.

There is no discussion on customer experience today that doesn’t speak to social media and its impacts on hotels, operators and brands.

But, the promise of social media monitoring is nearly as elusive as the financial returns of social travel sites as noted in Stephen Joyce’s recent piece in Tnooz.

What is at issue? Is it the quality of data? Is it the volume of data? The actionability? Or perhaps a combination of all of the above?

What I have come to learn and better appreciate after years exposed to the most iconic brands in the world is that in our industry, the 80/20 rule is alive and well in social media.

Activity is really focused around only a handful of sites and their international derivatives. In some circumstances, one could even argue there is only one real player when it comes to travel review sites.

And, they hold the majority of the cards, so to speak.

The TripAdvisor factor

TripAdvisor’s explosive growth only happened in the last couple of years. And, hoteliers, like it or not, you own some of the credit for helping fuel its tipping point.

Look at all the hotel brands today that are asking their guests to write TripAdvisor reviews on their behalf through post-stay thank you emails and/or their more traditional guest satisfaction surveys.

Hotel brands have been in the business of differentiating themselves (some may argue with limited success) for years.

The majority have been tinkering reviews on their own websites, whether powered by TripAdvisor or their frequent guests, for the last year.

Kayak’s move from TripAdvisor to TrustYou unveiled last week ushers in a shift away from such sole reliance on TripAdvisor for content.

There are several things refreshing about this evolution, including the extension of its metasearch principal. But truth be told, aggregating millions of verified reviews happens at a continent level not at the brand level, and definitely not at the hotel level.

A quick check on one property in Boston yields twenty-two pages of reviews, but by page twelve I was already looking at information from 2011.

So, as information ages and you merely have one more review piled onto thousands of others, the data does not change. Which is one of many reasons why the “delivering insights” message falls flat for most social media monitoring firms.

So, how do brands best capitalize on the 80/20 rule?

One way may be to carefully evaluate the return on your investment in paying to go to the far reaches of the universe to capture social media data.

If social media’s reward is engaging customers (conversions and bookings) and avoiding risk, then individual hotels may rethink their approach.

Perhaps then it is time for brands to more actively generate their own content for posting on the websites. The circular argument in most enterprises is whether or not consumers would ever truly trust reviews posted on the sites.

Given the press on fake reviews — such as the Wall Street Journal’s covering in earlier this year, (The Big Flaws in Hotel Rankings), I think any consumer knows to read reviews with a skeptical eye.

Throw out the outliers and use the information to feel better educated on a decision. Whether we’re talking hotels or vacuums, it is always a judgment call on what will suit your specific needs in that specific situation.

Completeness of coverage is often touted as a differentiator for the largest social media monitoring firms in our space, but its benefits are unclear.

The same could be said as you contemplate just how much content is required for the websites. Similar to any travel review site, recency is paramount.

Although complete transparency is not a risk most brands are willing to take, authenticity is crucial.

Real deal

In a study by Yahoo! Search marketing partnered with Compete Inc. to observe the behavior of two million online travel consumers- their travel site visitation and search behavior, it was revealed that on average and across all channels and types of products, consumers that booked online made more than 35 travel site visits in the 90 days leading to a transaction.

Moreover, half of the travel site visits were made on transactional sites related to their ultimate purchase and the rest on informational and content-focused sites.

Given these figures, the direct channel has major benefits to the brand but given the behavior of online travel consumers can one truly expect it to be sole sourced?

Volume remains an issue even for a behemoth like TripAdvisor which is why sites allow reviews to stay up long after what seems relevant to booking for future travel.

If brands are going to put effort into creating their own content, the opportunity to impact the 80/20 rule is slim to none without major investments.

Right now, “completeness” in your social media strategy means the big players rule the roost and most everyone else is along for the ride.

The 80/20 rule is here to stay… until it isn’t.

NB: This is a guest viewpoint by Janet Gerhard, owner of Hospitality Gal.

NB2: 80-20 rule image via Shutterstock.

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily reflect those of the author's employer, or tnooz and its partners.



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  1. Key to the Rockies

    This is very interesting and a issue we are trying to address as well. The return is they key and we continue to rely on TripAdvisor which is not the long term option.

  2. Janet

    Peter and Matt, thanks for your comments. Agree in the age of technology it is getting more complex not easier. As you’ve noted, it is important to be well informed on how to best spend your available resources. Social media monitoring for the purpose of problem identification and resolution is very different than engagement efforts, and is usually managed by differing departments. When you look at costs there is diminishing returns in some channels/sites. In my mind, authenticity goes a lot further than thoroughness.

  3. Matt Zito

    Hi, Janet

    Love your 80/20 social media article. Built a successful OTA and sold the travel company in 2007. The last three years our growth was off the charts and I mainly attribute due to implementing the 80/20 rule for our lodging partners and advertising partners.

    Agree that time and activity should be spent at the top tier sites that generate 80% of the social media but agree as well with Peter that if your niched you should go to the lower tier sites as well if the audience is ripe for your product or service.

  4. Peter Syme

    Thanks for a interesting article. We have started putting much more focus on reviews across our businesses and I took the view not to go with anyone review site so we are growing reviews organically across a range of social and review sites.

    With regards building content on I would argue that is a must as it is the only route that you have control over. However, content should also be built on high traffic sites that can assist the overall plan. All of which means more work and money and for small businesses a near impossible task. All this tech and it does not get easier it gets more time consuming!

    Unique product does help hugely in the social space we are currently marketing on FB spent less than $1k to get a reach of 170k but more importantly well in excess of $100k of enquires. When I try it with more standard product the results are very poor.


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