Social media’s effectiveness is tightly related to how it is being used, rather than any inherit fault with the channel itself.
Social media has now been around for a while. Some companies have been using it for longer or more effectively than others. Many companies incorrectly assume that they can just set up a Facebook page, without a strategy or dedicated knowledgeable resources in place, and fans will follow. In fact, travel marketers need to think about promotional marketing activity to drive uptake of such initiatives. Overall, with companies, including ones from the travel sector, starting to measure the social media ROI in several ways – be it for setting up their own metrics to working on monthly reports to evaluate exposure and revenue generated through such efforts – social media marketing is becoming an integral part of Internet marketing.
“Social media marketing today still has a heavy element of experimentation. Since it’s such a new vertical, we have to take some educated risks to see what has the greatest impact on our communities,” says Edward Perry, senior director of e-commerce, WorldHotels.
“Today, travel companies are cautiously moving ahead, encouraged by the success of retail businesses that have successfully used sites such as Facebook to be a natural extension of their selling reach. Merchants such as Starbucks, J, Crew, etc., have opened our eyes as to what could be, especially if we adapted some of their key principles. Pages such as those of Delta Airlines prove that full social marketing can occur within Facebook without even having the customer exit Facebook,” said Perry, is scheduled to speak at the forthcoming Travel Distribution Summit North America 2011, to be held in Las Vegas (19-20 September) this year.
The goal is not measuring for the sake of measuring or reporting, but to gain actionable insights to help you achieve your business goals.
“The definition of success in social media is open for wide interpretation and varies per company,” Perry told EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta in an interview. He added, “If I had to pick the very best way to measure to the success of social media, it would inevitably be engagement with one’s brand, pure and simple. Open and honest dialogue about a company and the resulting buzz in the market has a far more reaching, long-term effect on a brand that any singular monetisation campaign could offer. This is especially valuable for companies that perceive branding as a valuable ROI position through their social outreach.”
When it comes to optimising for social media and measuring ROI, the first step should always be to establish your business goals first, before you even look at a dashboard. You cannot start measuring, if you do not know what is it that you are trying to accomplish. Once you have set out your business goals and strategy, you can select the relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) which will then be tracked to measure success. This also does not necessarily mean that it is only about revenue. One should take into account the revenue opportunities as well as the potential savings. For example, a KPI could be to generate a certain amount of quality media mentions which would equate in certain amount of PR value, or to achieve x amount of links with brand related anchor text, which again could easily be monetised in terms of SEO savings.
There are three main types of metrics: Revenue/Business Development (sales, average order value, request for proposals, etc), Cost Savings (recruitment savings, online media mentions vs PR agency fees, online customer support vs call centre fees, etc) and then a set of typically qualitative metrics, be it share of voice, brand awareness, NPS (Net Promoter Score) and so on, which should ideally be benchmarked before you start your social media efforts, for pre/post comparisons. The latter group is very relative. If you cannot measure your NPS, focus on what you can measure and makes sense to you, based on the tool and resources you have available
The full impact of social media has to support the brand’s strategy, as does every marketing effort. The biggest challenge is that most (large) companies are not comfortable with it, because it’s difficult to get your arms around and it’s generational too.
The perception is changing, according to Perry. He added, “Given the right “social evangelist” representing the core values of a company, any company can benefit from social media marketing. Although I agree that younger generations are more likely to adopt quicker, we should not rule out older generations either. Some of the most engaged tweeters I know are in their golden years!”
What proof or conviction can a marketer bring in front of the senior management to get a buy-in for social media marketing? Is there any tangible way of explaining the utility of social media marketing?
A social media marketer needs to be armed with statistical analysis, available from the best research companies, according to Perry.
“He/she must also have a firm understanding of the competitive landscape in order to best advise a company on strategic direction. Most of all, the individual must have a driving passion for everything social. That passion, combined with tangible arguments, will break even the most critical member of senior management,” advised Perry.
He added, “The key is trust. Arm (team) them with a sound social media strategy, a clear direction, clear objectives, a clear position of the company’s value structure and let them be. Be there as support, but don’t stand in the way. Social media takes a life of its own. Trust your team to make the right decisions.”
The best social media outreach usually engages multiple departments within an organisation, ranging from marketing to product to engineering to editorial.
In a report for EyeforTravel last year, Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau (OCCVB) shared that like so many organisations, it was heavily print driven. The organisation started really focusing on transitioning its entire team to achieve more balance from top management to support. It all started with more discussions on websites, value of SEO, how digital works. The Bureau conducted training sessions for its team. It engaged those connected with social media to be a part of the planning process. And, finally while social media is important, OCCVB developed a Digital Strategy document to ensure the organisation was working off the same goals, language and to ensure focus and resourcing. As far as social media implementation is concerned, OCCVB took the team approach enlisting visitor services, advertising, interactive marketing, publicity, corporate communications and promotions to work together to maximise the medium.
Perry says there has to be a clear dialogue as to the impact of social media outreach in every department of your organisation. The social media evangelist needs to be able to speak and interact openly with all departments and be able to communicate the objectives of the company. Each person plays a role in the story we tell, highlighted Perry.
And finally on how should travel companies go about recruiting “the social media person”, Perry said it’s all about grooming passion.
“Seek people in the industry that exhibit a passion that meets your brand objectives and nurture that drive to the fullest extent. Some important job attributes include: well versed, caring, culturally aware, people oriented and dynamic in nature,” concluded Perry.
Travel Distribution Summit North America 2011
Edward Perry is scheduled to speak at the forthcoming Travel Distribution Summit North America 2011, to be held in Las Vegas (19-20 September) this year. Perry is scheduled to be a part of the Marketing & Social Media Track.
For information, click here.