IN-DEPTH: Bruce Poon Tip, CEO, Gap Adventures on social media
Published: 10 Feb 2010
IN-DEPTH: Bruce Poon Tip, CEO, Gap Adventures on social media
Quite often, marketers acknowledge that the true metrics set for social media do not yet exist in its entirety. Sure, bits and pieces exist, but overall, no single set of metrics have been developed to help determine success in social media.
But it is quite clear that the aggregated impact of social media can be a major driver in shaping up travellers’ preference and perception of product value. So, one of the metrics that will have to be considered is the cost for not participating in the conversation.
A section of the industry feels the idea of social media for brands has gone beyond the test and learn phase.
Acknowledging the power of social media, Bruce Poon Tip, CEO and founder of Gap Adventures, a firm which caters to the adventure-craving traveller, says social media has just enhanced the ability for a brand to have a personality but ultimately that identity still comes from the essence of the company.
“Social media gives consumers more information to allow them to make smarter choices in the brands they identify with. It still comes back to the consumer having all the power, and social media giving even more power to help people connect to brands,” says Bruce, who will be presenting his insights into social media strategies in travel at the Travel Distribution Summit Asia 2010 (to be held in Singapore, April 28-29).
Well, if someone goes up and asks Bruce about how to develop a strategy for working on ways to engage with customers on the web, he feels there is surely something wrong with the approach of the company.
“Well, to be honest, I think if your company has to “develop a strategy” to engage customers there is already a much bigger problem. Trying to set up a strategy sounds scary to me,” Bruce told EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta.
According to Bruce, companies should inherently engage customers, and they should just be using different ways engage customers as times change.
“I think in Asia the opportunity is so much more vast than any other part in the world because there is much more acceptance of the web and social media. I think it is far more challenging in areas like Africa and Latin America where this is a lower base of users to start with, and there isn't as wide acceptance,” Bruce said.
At the same time, Bruce says for social media to have any impact on a company’s brand, the brand itself has to represent something. There is no point integrating social elements into anything if your customer cannot identify with your brand and/or product/service.
“So the major challenge goes back to how you run your business and on what level you identify with your customers. It isn't for everyone. It is for certain companies who wish to engage. But if you choose to engage you have to be ready to be transparent and share. It is a very unnatural thing for private sector business. Know your motivation,” explained Bruce.
From approach perspective, he said, “I think you have to treat it (social media) like you treat any marketing initiative. I do think it has to be something organic though and has to come from people who make up the business. It depends on what you want to accomplish.”
Each company must decide on how they want to measure ROI. If you want to measure customer engagement or guest satisfaction – both require different metrics. It is said that the biggest issue or potential mistake is to not get in and learn what works and what doesn’t with your audience, assuming you know who your audience is.
Bruce says anything in business has to show a reasonable ROI. While social media might get a bit of a longer leash to see results, it does ultimately have to generate business.
“I am also of the unpopular belief that not everyone and every company works on the social media stage. So I think you first have to understand your business and be clear on your intentions and expectations before increasing that budget. Or it could be a very long painful road. Be clear why you want to do it,” said Bruce.
As far as monitoring is concerned, Bruce says if one decides to go down the road of monitoring, it can be dangerous if one tries to lead the conversation.
From his company’s experience, Bruce said, “It is a fine line. There is a point where you have to trust that the consumer is savvy enough to gather enough information to make the right choice for them. We saw a blog that had negative feedback about us. When we simply “Googled” the names and email addresses that were adding to this conversation it came back to three different companies who are our competitors. That is their strategy.” He added, “It reflects on their brands and their business. At some point, you have to trust the consumer to choose what they identify with, and trust there is a tipping point where it will create the happiness and community without your not having to monitor.”
At the same time, a section of the industry strongly believes that if you don’t monitor this medium, you are going to end up on the short end of the conversation and potentially compromise your brand’s strength and equity in the long run.
Such variance in approaches does make any conversation an intriguing one.
For his part, Bruce is eagerly waiting to meet some of the established industry executives at the forthcoming Travel Distribution Summit Asia 2010 (to be held in Singapore, April 28-29).
“I am looking forward to getting a chance to speak to people about how they can build their businesses. For us, as a company, we're committed to “changing people’s lives” at the core of our business model and this comes in many forms. I hope I can serve people who are looking to embrace new concepts and drive fearless innovation. By allowing me to be in that position, to have that kind of impact, excites me and is at the heart of our values so that is what I am most looking forward to. I am looking forward to meeting anyone who can share new ideas and concepts that I can take home as well! I am happily a student as well so I look forward to meeting forward thinking innovators,” said Bruce about the two-day event in Singapore.
For more information about the Summit, click here: Travel Distribution Summit Asia 2010 (to be held in Singapore, April 28-29)
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