Just putting the word ‘social’ in front of everything doesn’t make it better

Have you noticed these days how just about everything has become ‘social’, as social media and its enthusiastic band of experts  look to cash in on its ‘popularity’, largely resulting from its success as a self fulfilling prophecy, but with little real substantive proof in terms of proven commercial successes.

We now have the social web, social search, social travel, Trip Advisor is now a social media site, you name it, social is it. And the latest – mobile is social.

Living Social is now an example of ‘social travel’, which by association means that Groupon,  Itison, KGB and other more local flash selling sites are examples of social travel.

From a recent article – ‘Commentary: Social travel is going strong’ – basically a Living Social dismantling of HeBS digital’s CEO Max Starkov’s I told you so: How the flash sale bubble popped’ article  – – – – – – – –

“Starkov’s piece was led by the self-congratulatory header of “I told you so: How the flash sale bubble popped.” Unfortunately, as anyone working in the travel distribution industry today knows, the exact opposite of what he predicted is happening, as social travel is skyrocketing in growth and popularity.

While the social commerce industry is still in its infancy, and it’s too early to predict what it will look like in the future, it is quickly solidifying its role as a powerful distribution channel with unique advantages for hoteliers and travelers alike.”

Rea the full article here – http://www.hotelsmag.com/MembersOnly/webNews/details.aspx?item=29818

I was forced to leave a comment on this article, also trying to protect my fellow professional – –

“Just a load of semantics if you ask me – put the word ‘social’ in front of everything and its all the rage, and overhyped and interpreted in the most ludicrous ways – – the social web, social travel, social search – if everything is suddenly ‘social’ then social works, that’s a complete no brainer – but there’s way more to commercial success in travel if your’e a quality product supplier rather than a parasite. I’m sorry but Mr Starkov has my respect and support on this occasion. ‘Social travel’ results in hotels for example getting left with 20% of rack – big deal! If rack is £100, they get £20, so it costs them £80 to get £100, looked at in another way. Challenge me to get more than £100 form an investment of £80 and i’d beat these ‘social travel’ sites in to the ground. Lets get real.”

There really is so much not just mythology about this whole social media explosion, but also the ability of these experts to turn and twist their positions to make it something that will target the market with something commercial. For example, it is about ‘engagement’. Hotels first and foremost sell rooms and hotel solutions, not ‘engage in’ chatter.

‘Social Travel’ sites like Living Social are legalised robbers when it comes to hotels. No wonder customers love them. I have been involved with several hotels contemplating these flash deals, and I’ve seen the attitudes and tactics of these social travel sites. In the main, they suck.

I ask all my clients to turn the equation on its head like I’ve done above, and come back and tell me they couldn’t generate better returns, customer retention and value elsewhere. The answer has always been – of course we can. Flash selling from a supplier standpoint is born out of desperation – the desperation of the hotel to get its hands, usually on the cash rather than the customer, as these customers are as often as not proved to be of low value, and of zero loyalty. (although i grant you there are opportunities to try to make the best of them your own customers going forward).

So hotels generate the funds to please their bankers for example. This can be total folly, but the banks are evaluating businesses ion such weird and wonderful ways only known to themselves, that a perfectly sound business with gre4at people can be driven to financial suicide at the behest of their bankers. I wonder when we’ll get ‘social banking’.

You wouldn’t expect social media marketers to mention

1              Downsides

2              Risks

3              Costs

and true to form, most of them don’t – so by hook or by crook, you should get to know these as they are very important indeed, and you might have a good lawyer handy just in case..

I see now that the social media marketplace is also characterised now by real mud slinging and slapstick marketing  – Google+ was first written off as no contest to Facebook  and Twitter, now its a mega competitor apparently, how wrong can these analysts be in such a short space of time. meanwhile businesses are being run off their feet to even attempt if they want to, to keep up with a rate of technology change that has rendered the concept of obsolescence almost obsolete

Read what Twitter currently thinks of Google+ at http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/01/11/us-google-idUKTRE80A03O20120111

By the way, just in – a hotel has been told to take a deal off its own website because it’s competitive with a flash selling offer – what impertinence. These flash selling sites are taking the mickey.  How dare they plunder other legitimate channels.  Hoteliers beware. So much for Living Social’s comment – – – – “for example, every LivingSocial Escapes promotion includes direct links to the hotel website, and we encourage users to visit the hotel’s page, learn more about the property and build a direct relationship with the hotel.”

Think about it.


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