In 2010 I wrote that Tripadvisor’s integration of Facebook connect offered a glimpse into the future. Well the future is here.
Graph Search, announced yesterday by Facebook, is a new way of searching. It’s using taking your social graph and the content shared on Facebook as the basis of relevancy. Graph Search will allow you to search for things based on your personal network of friends, your ‘friends-of-friends’ or Facebook users in general.
You can soon search on Facebook for “restaurants in San Francisco liked by people who live in San Francisco”.
Or ”restaurants in San Francisco my friends like”.
Or “restaurants in San Francisco liked by my friends who live in San Francisco.”
Or “Restaurants in San Francisco liked by my friends from India”
The possibilities are endless.
The travel decision process is going to be massively influenced when Facebook users adopt this kind of functionality. Because travel product is a heavy used item on Facebook. People check in, share photos and like places they’ve been all the time.
A whole new world of discovery and travel inspiration might open up. Imagine searching for ”Places people check-in who like scuba diving”
Or “Cities people check-in who like art”
Or “festivals people like who like Greenday”
Or “pictures from my friends in Berlin”
Yesterday I also read a nice post by a Techcrunch writer about a recent frustrating trip to the new MySpace. This part caught my attention and made me think.
A Techcrunch writer is obviously ahead of the curve. But what’s happening here is that people are starting to expect websites to personalize based on their previous behaviour and what they or their friends like on Facebook.
I remember being freaked out when Amazon recommended me books based on my previous purchases. Or when a laptop bag followed me around the internet thanks to remarketing. But that’s a long time ago. I don’t get freaked out anymore. We’ve gotten used to it. We even like it. We get mad when we see ads that aren’t relevant. And Facebook’s Graph Search might just deliver exactly the functionality at the right time. And travel and tourism marketing will never be the same. You better get ready.
Happy New Year everybody! Here are three things off the top of my head that are important things to consider for 2013. Do you have any more?
1) PUT SOCIAL AT THE CORE
I think it’s pretty clear by now that social media has a major impact on the travel decision making process. If your tourism business or DMO hasn’t realized this yet you better catch up. You should be at level 3 or higher by now.
Most marketers think of social media as an add-on to a traditional campaign, or at least start with traditional thinking. It’s time to flip it around. Start with a social idea and support it with traditional methods. Or do traditional things in a social way. For example, we recently worked with a DMO who let it’s Facebook community vote on what photos would be published in it’s visitor guide.
2) START USING SERVICE DESIGN
Mitigating a mediocre experience with brilliant marketing doesn’t cut it anymore. The experience IS your marketing and the stories your visitors tell each other is what it’s all about. You have two choices. First choice is to join the race to the bottom and keep offering specials, discounts and special offers. The second one is to create remarkable experiences people love and want to be part of, regardless of what it costs.
If your choice is the latter, you need to start thinking about service design. When you’re an operator you need to start thinking about the end-to-end experience you offer your guest. When you are a DMO you need to think about the end-to-end destination experience. Service design is gaining a lot of momentum in Europe, especially in Austria where destinations are starting to take an active role in the design of the destination experience.
3) MOBILE: THINK DEVICE PLUS CONTEXT
I was on a panel at a conference in Barcelona recently and somebody asked about mobile. Before I could even think about it I said “it’s not about mobile, it’s about device + context”. I probably heard it somewhere before but I have never really thought about it like that. But it’s true. Whether you build a desktop site, a mobile site, an adaptive site or an app, it’s not the device that’s important. It’s the context of use.
When you search google maps, it takes into account your device, where you are and what date and time it is. That’s the context of your usage and the information you get back takes that into account. You need to so the same thing. A consumer accessing your content at home is looking for very different things than a consumer walking down the street in your destination.
Now here’s the kicker. Often that means people use another website than yours. Somebody walking down the street looking for a restaurant is going to use Google Maps, Yelp or Tripadvisor, not a DMO website. Even a consumer planning as trip might never even make in onto your website (hello travel bloggers). Your content online strategy needs to include content on third party websites. From inspiration to transaction. Just like we used to do it in the 90s with travel guides and tour operator brochures.
Conferences are inherently social. People gather to learn and discuss topics that they are passionate about with people who care as much about it as they do. Yet the way conferences are created and promoted are incredibly traditional.
There’s a better way: bake social into the conference.
A good example is the Social Media Tourism Symposium Think!’s very own Dave Serino started in 2010. The mission statement describes what the conference is all about:
The symposium is a combination of destination marketing organizations, hotels, resorts, attractions and any other tourism related entities sharing ideas and learning more about how social media is effecting promotion within the travel industry.
What makes this conference unique is the involvement of attendees throughout the entire process. Attendees will have a voice in everything from the location to the session topics and presenters.
By involving the people who care about the subject matter in the planning process, Dave creates a conference that is more relevant and, therefore, more likely to be attended by the people who helped create it. Because all of this happens in social media, people who care are also promoters of the event.
For example, the destination selection process is driven by the SoMeT Facebook community. DMOs respond to an RFP and the Facebook community votes where the conference is going to be held. The 2012 selection process is entering the final stages.
In the process, people also get to know each other. They make friends online and want to attend the conference to meet those new friends.
This is what conferences are all about. Going to a cool place, learning relevant things and meeting new friends. By baking social media into the conference itself (instead of looking at it as an advertising vehicle) you make conferences more relevant with attendees who feel strongly connected and want to help make the event a success.
At Think! we believe consumers will do the marketing for you if you offer remarkable things. One way to generate awareness and consideration is by creating remarkable content that’s relevant to a specific niche. In Norway they have the concept down to perfection.
Innovation Norway’s gorgeous Geiranger birds-eye panorama view has generated over half a million visitors to their website through Stumbleupon alone. StumbleUpon is a community that recommends remarkable content with each other.
Innovation Norway has been at it again. This time with an amazing panorama video of a wingsuit flight. According to a recent blog post, the video has been viewed over 1 million times in just under one month. What’s also notable is that Red Bull shared the video on their Fanpage of 25M fans. For a Red Bull fan, a wing suit flight is relevant content and it was liked 2,350 times and re-shared 651 times. This is earned media in 2012.
Generating awareness doesn’t have to come through advertising. Norway is showing that producing remarkable content will get shared in the right social media communities.
You can’t. A destination brand is:
Ten years ago, your TV ads, brochures and other forms of marketing collateral contributed a sizeable portion of the stories people heard about a destination. Not anymore. People telling other people, aided by new forms of communication (including social media but not exclusively) is now dominant and has make brand advertising hopelessly inefficient.
Ensuring your destination has quality experiences, getting your operators up-to-speed in modern marketing and actively managing your destination’s reputation in social media, especially in niche communities is how you build and manage a destination brand.
Yes they do. But is it the most effective way for you to get your stories told?
I get it. It used to be so succesfull. You’re still proud of the results from 1998. And it’s really hard to stop doing something. Staff will be effected and change management in an organization is often messy.
But lets get real. Most people have moved on. The biggest bang for your buck lays elsewhere and we both know it.
Stop making excuses, take close and hard look at your activities (budget + people) and stop doing the things that have become inefficient or ineffective.
It probably won’t. And if it does, it’s going to take a lot of hard work against stiff competition.
I know it’s tempting. There’s the potential for extra revenue and your hotels are putting on the pressure to fill their rooms now instead of focussing on the long term. It’s also something tangible to measure and the technology is so easy now. And cheap.
But consumers just don’t think of a DMO website as a place to transact. They have a gazillion options to book. And usually at a much better rate than the DMO will ever be able to offer.
Making a booking system produce results is hard work.
When you choose to operate your own reservation system where your accommodation operators give you specific rates and inventory, you also need people to manage this process. That means chasing operators for rates and inventory, sending out commission cheques, chasing operators for money and dealing with customer service issues.
You’ll also need people who stay on top of your website and the conversion funnels. What advertising drives bookings? Where do people drop off in the funnel? What do you need to tweak to increase your conversion rate?
I’m not saying offering bookings is a bad idea, especially not if you’re a city DMO. An aggregator like JackRabbit is a good option add booking capabilities to your website without the operational overhead for example.
An even better option is if you have a way to differentiate yourself from online travel agents by creating value added packages online travel agents can’t offer and target these to niche audiences.
They don’t. The workplace of the 90′s was very much a leftover from the industrial age.
Let’s see what has changed over the last 15 years. Technology and the internet has turned travel planning and booking up-side-down. Everybody knows this, but most DMO’s just added some form of online unit or department in their structure and left it at that.
And there is more! Technology has also completely changed the way people work with new productivity and collaboration tools. Technology is becoming ubiquitous. Cloud computing allows you to outsource pretty much everything and access your data from anywhere. People stay connected through mobile devices and take work home on their laptops while Social Media has completely blurred the line between professional and private life.
The industrial age is over. All of the above has completely changed the way new generations think about the workplace. Corporate structures, hours of work, roles and responsibilities, staff retention all has to be re-thought. Just read Don Tapscott and Charlene Li.
It usually isn’t. More and more DMO’s are challenged with their agencies of record based on what I hear at conferences.
From my perspective, the reason why most traditional agencies are still having a hard time with digital and are often completely clueless about social is because their culture and business model is based on traditional advertising principles.
In traditional advertising, you only have one shot at getting it right. You buy the media, produce the communication pieces and let it ride. An outcome of that is getting the creative right the first time is really important. As a result, right brain creatives run traditional agencies.
In digital marketing, the creative is still important but you should spent more time after launch by looking at the data, and keep iterating the tactics to keep perfecting it. Data and real-time analysis is part of a digital agencies culture. That’s a fundamental difference.
In social media, on top of digital marketing principles, you also need to humanize the message and open up your brand for consumer input. That’s often just too much to ask.
The result is that in most cases, DMO’s need to go best-of-breed and hire multiple, specialized agencies and contractors. With the new collaboration tools, it’s much easier to manage these days. We experience this with the increased number of RFPs out there specific to social media. Maybe a new ‘agency of record’ model will emerge at some point but that will take some time.
A one-stop-shop is definitely easier to manage on an executive level. Only one RFP to run, it simplifies managing the relationship (only one person to have lunch with or yell at) and streamlines back-office accounting processes. If you still want to go one-stop-shop, look for a digital agency that also does traditional instead of a traditional agency that also does digital.
Note: I understand that especially the first and last point on this list can be perceived as a pitch for my company. The reality is that this is exactly why I joined Think! in the first place. To help DMOs innovate and break through some of the conventional wisdom out there.
Every year Google launches over 500 improvements to its search algorithm. There’s a lot to learn from this video for modern day marketers.
Focus on your end user
It all starts with a focus on the user. “Google has made a huge investment in understanding what works for users (3:25)” because “when you align Google’s interests with user interests, good things happen (3:17)“.
Aligning business objectives with user objectives should sit at the core of any online marketer principles. Without it, you’re sure to fail.
Keep improving what you have
Google is obsessed with improving their search product; “we get excited when we hit on an idea what helps a lot of users (3:37)“. Continuous improvements sits at the heart of their culture.
Traditional marketers spend almost all their efforts before they launch because it’s hard to change things after. Online marketers need to spend the majority of their effort post launch. You receive instant results and it’s easy to change things.
This includes websites, social media, search, email marketing, etc.
Base decisions on data, not opinion
In too many organization, decisions are made based on opinions. Usually a senior person doesn’t like something or receives pressure from a stakeholder with an agenda and want something changed. Or a real problem is being dismissed because it’s invisible (a technology upgrade for example). Rarely does anybody actually look at the data in detail.
At Google, “a problem identified and hypothesis created (0:35)” and subjected to “rigorous scientific testing (0:53)“, using a trained panel called raters (0:59), live experiments (1:14) and analyzed by a search analyst (1:14). The decission to make the change is then held in a “launch decision meeting (1:47) by the leadership, based on data with an unbiased view”.
Implementing this at your organization
These are some key elements of Google’s success. But even when you’re not Google with a large team, here’s what even the smallest organization can do:
What about all this BS that technology and social media stop people for having real and genuine relationships? Social Media is making my life, and my relationships with people better every day.
Here’s my story.
My wife and I adopted our daughter two weeks ago from Japan. It was an amazing experience. But hard as well. We had to wait for two weeks in Tokyo for paperwork to processs. Anybody who is a parent knows how weird those first few days are. Being in a strange city where you don’t know anybody without a real support system can be tough.
But it didn’t feel like that at all. Skype allowed us to have our family in Canada and the Netherlands share the moment when our daughter got placed with us live. It was like they were there with us.
And over the next two weeks, people checked in all the time, we never felt alone. There was always somebody to see and talk to.
All our friends made us feel very connected and supported with an outpouring of well wishes and excitement from our personal networks on Facebook.
Even my Twitter followers, some of whom I don’t even know in person, were amazing in their support.
This wouldn’t and couldn’t have happened 10 years ago. And it was all free.
Social Media and technology connects people and builds stronger relationships with more people over larger distances. Because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s artificial or incomplete.
It’s just different, and it’s awesome.
Every year I use the ‘quite time’ around the holidays to have a look at what other DMO’s around the world are doing. I love poking around to see what I can learn. I’m thinking of creating a giant presentation with my findings (let me know if you’re interested).
One of the things I’m looking at is what DMO’s are doing to incorporate real time information. This is a trend DMO’s can’t ignore. Brochureware websites are no longer acceptable and consumers expect content that is timely as well.
Florida has created a Florida Live section on their website. The page includes their Twitter feed, Flickr photo’s, YouTube videos etc. It also includes a Google Map with the Twitter feeds from local DMO’s, live webcams, YouTube videos and Fishing Reports.
The fishing reports are very cool. Every day the captains call in from their boats to give an update of the fishing conditions of their area. Users can listen to each captain reporting on the conditions.
Incorporating expert content from industry members or residents is something I’ve been pitching for a long time now. Most DMO’s do this with expert bloggers (some better than others). This is a very creative idea to make it timely, relevant and credible.
Great idea, good content, good execution. I love it.
Do you have examples of ‘live information’ incorporated into DMO or other tourism websites?
Google added a new feature to Gmail recently called priority inbox and Facebook today announced something similar with their social inbox. Google and Facebook are using algorithms to predict the messages you really care about from the ones you don’t and put them in different folders for you. You can further refine this yourself of course.
I’ve been using this feature in Gmail a lot. I love it. Because it separates the few emails I really need to respond to from the ones I don’t. The emails that don’t make the priority list include all enewsletters I’ve signed up for. I scan the non-priority emails once or twice a day to make sure there’s nothing important in there.
The implications for direct markers are that this feature is another barrier between your email message and a consumer’s attention. It’s not just about getting permission anymore, you better make the priority list as well.
Keep an eye on your open rates for gmail (and soon Facebook) users. Are they dropping below average? This means these features might be impacting your marketing and you should re-think your strategy. The key is to be relevant in the content you serve and in the frequency of communication, or people will ignore you.
Today Google announced instant previews in search results. You can hover over Google’s search results and you’ll see a small preview of the page.
For users this is a great feature because it eliminates some ‘pogo-sticking’ where people move back and forth between websites and the search results before they find the right page for them. Google claims people are 5% more satisfied when they’re using instant previews.
For website owners, the implication are that SEO all of a sudden also means making sure the preview of your web pages look relevant and appealing enough for somebody to want to click on it.
Keep an eye on your web analytics over the next few weeks. If your percentage of organic search engine traffic goes up and/or your bounce rate decreases, the feature could very well work in your favour. If not, you might have some work to do.
Google already put out webmaster guidelines for instant previews and SEO forums are buzzing.
You can test drive the new feature here.