I think its time infinite made it clear its position on social media. Our MD Robert Gilmour has been belittled, bullied, named and shamed, you name it, from the army of social media evangelists, bloggers and fanatics out there for daring to suggest that social media is not cutting it in the travel and hotels sector(and is seriously deficient in the one acid test in today’s embattled economic state in travel – ROI).
We’ll say it again for those that don’t seem to get it, or are perhaps not used to working to budgets which are often controlled by someone else namely a board of directors – a hotel business requires to make choices, prioritize spend, money doesn’t grow on trees, and hotels are being given the distinct impression by theses ‘experts’, gurus – and simply, the obsessed, that if they don’t ‘do social media’, they’ll be disadvantaged. Enter 4 recent articles – –
Do you get it? – then I don’t need to further elaborate Innfinite’s take on social media. And while we’re at it, those that do ‘do social media’ aren’t doing it right, that’s why they don’t make money from it /get conversions/direct business from it – in the law according to the fanatic. Every excuse in the book has been used to prop up social media in the care of serious financial and economic cross-examination. Furthermore anything that IS successful deserves the title ‘social’. So we have social search, the social web, the social world, SoLoMo, you name it as social tries to attach itself to anything that can be shown to be successful, rather like a parasite – and then perversely becomes the raison d’etre for it.
The other great excuse is – its early days yet, hang on in there, it will deliver results long term you wait and see. Well it has been around fore years and nothing’s changed, but that great game change is always ‘just round the corner’ – trust me – it will never come.
Because social media is ‘social’ is the rock it perishes on. Its not commercial. It doesn’t generate income in any acceptable direct or indirect sense. The definition of attribution would have to be turned on its head to suggest that many, if any, hotel bookings are ‘attributable’ to social media – and prove it. Because social media is a solution looking for a problem. It is a wannabe. It is social, not commercial. It is rooted in personal interaction, a means of communication, which incidentally is turning people into robots, devoid of public personality , obsessed with devices.
There are big risks attached to social media, too, both socially (big time qv the racialist tweets &c) – and commercially (where bringing business issues into the worldwide public domain has almost brought businesses to their knees).
One area which has been branded ‘social’ is the flash selling game for hotel rooms and deals. This is ‘soc ial selling’. We’ll fine, but if that’s the best ‘social can do, again its at the bottom end of most hotels’ priorities (most of them hate flash selling, for obvious reasons).
One major travel resource that has acquired the title ‘soc ial’ is Trip Advisor, apparently it is now ‘travel social media’ – when for years it was an online travel company dressed up as a review site, and a very successful one too, because its pone of the few companies that has used the platform od a totally free service in travel to make billions, and engage the travelling public in a meaningful commercial way. Therein lies another commercial rock that social is perishing pon – its not about sales, its about ‘engagement’ – yet hotel brands are telling me that despite their best attempts to engage with customers via social media, only about 3% of customers are actually engaging back with the brand. Compare all this with what a recent commentator said about Facebook – –
‘Connecting people has value but not necessarily economic to the FB member. Researchers refer to this as ‘psychic income’, an emotional reward from sharing something with someone you know be it media, text, or discussion threads and comments in a geographic or interest based social group. If you go back to the Yellow Pages model (geo and category search), this is what Google reinvented using the Web, something the telcos grasped too late (disclosure: I was responsible for business and consumer marketing at PacBell in California and Nevada). Ad placement in a search world has a logical affinity. But social media has a more fragile advertising relationship because what people “do” while on the site does not correlate well with what they would buy. Even the publisher content model has a long way to go using contextual relevance to ensure good ad placement and click through. If corporations can promote brand in social media (assuming they have enough data on their own customers), then behavioral targeting could improve using FB member profiles. This data bridge is still missing as GM found out. Perhaps the problem is not FB but the concept of any free service being subsidized by advertising. Twitter is trying to experiment with ad free for a fee services. Unfortunately, people are so conditioned to no fee or freemium as their base cost, that in the long run, with CTR at .003% (FB), businesses may end up creating and paying for FB brand pages but promoting outside of FB through other channels and entirely skipping ad placement on member pages. Whether that translates to return to shareholder is probably a weak prediction for now. This probably holds true for all social media sites that do not offer paid for services. LinkedIn does this now for recruiters, something not in their original business model. Fortunately it seems to work for them but for sites like FB, their future revenue streams need to come from other than advertising.’
What about all the other social media sites other than Facebook and Twitter – does any hotel use them? – in the overwhelming majority of cases, probably not – so for non-travel social media, read Facebook and Twitter. Linked In is business media – and Google+ has still to settle into a groove although its biggest asset may actually lie in search and SEO.(Google has got ways of rewarding the hand that feeds them)
Most hotels now have a Twitter and Facebook page for the simple fear of what might happen iof they don’t – wll let me tell them that this really amounts to a red herring, and a potentially dangerous one were social media ever to really take off – it was hotels joining OTA’s for fear of what might happen if they didn’t – that’s created the world on line travel company network – agents and merchants, who are ripping off hotels with exhorbitant commissions, (also charging commission on VAT which is obscene – and getting away with it)and dictating to the industry the terms of trade, unilaterally, and taking absolutely no inventory risk – this is about the nearest thing to Utopia!
Then of course there’s the great Facebook IPO – not. Before IPO, Facebook was living in some kind of synthetic environment and was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Not any more. There’s nothing like putting a market price on something and making it tradeable to bring a reality check to a product. And just as Facebook doesn’t produced tangible returns for hotels per say, it clearly doesn’t do that for investors either. It has failed the reality check on both counts. Largely because we are trying to give it a commerciality which it doesn’t have it in itself to possess.
On the IPO – get a bit of this below( notice how easy it is AFTER THE EVENT to say the IPO process was flawed) – – the reality is financial delusion on a huge scale, as catastrophic as some of the biggest financial disasters of our time – – – –
‘The IPO model to price the stock was flawed for FB – and while there was a ton of hype around the IPO, the question remained – was it priced right !! And therein lies the answer – what does the stockholder value.. – Strong revenue model – Growth in business – Potential to drive more value So what was working against it… and what a lot of people choose to ignore: – Slowdown in growth of FB subscribers !! No longer growing at 20% – No revenue model existed for mobile application – Revenues were growing but at a slow pace – Popularity of revenues from games like Zynga were falling All this was know before the IPO – some did not get disclosed to public until a few days before the IPO. FB was being touted to be the next Apple of the market; seriously a company that has proven hardware and software innovations year after year currently at $600B cap and FB was planned for $120B cap … based on what !! Call it media hype or cause it is the largest social media platform in the world run by a young fella that does not wear suits to work 😉 Goes back to basics …. where is the value in the company !! It needs to be proven to shareholders… Did people forget the lack of valuation during the dot com bubble burst of 2000. There is potential for FB… yet to be proven and if managed effectively can yield good returns to the business 😉 My heart goes for those that paid $40 plus for the IPO stock !! Wish I could say ‘hold-on’ to your FB paper, at least for now.’
I’ll leave the rest to the bloggers and the fanatics, I could go on and on and on – by the way I am not ready for persuading yet that Innfinite should change its bill of fare to embody social media services for hotels anytime soon – and ‘ll need significant proof of concept first – I’ll risk not being first in the queue for now. E have to show a commercial return for EVERY service we provide to hotels, that’s how both we and the hotels judge our performance, nothing short of this will do.