Identifying a hotel’s strengths and weaknesses in the social media world
IN-DEPTH: There is a ‘big data’ revolution underway in the travel and hospitality industry. More travel businesses are embracing technologies that gather, organise and understand online consumer sentiment, says Benjamin Jost, CEO and co-founder of TrustYou.
Jost says the winners in the social media world will be those companies who encourage guests to talk about them online, who are able to listen to all of these conversations effectively, who respond in time and who at the end of the day are able to promote their business not in spite of all these reviews and posts but because of their good reputation everyone is talking about.
By Ritesh Gupta
The rise of social media has brought new found stature to the consumer in the digital landscape and opportunity for engagement.
Many in the travel industry have a basic understanding of social media’s power to engage consumers but do not know how to capitalise on social media commentary to market their brand and services. Like all other industries, the travel sector has had to reevaluate strategies for connecting with their consumers in a proactive way.
In 2012 and moving forward, in order to remain a relevant industry leader, those in the travel business will need to incorporate a social media strategy that engages their customers to talk about them online, that has an analytics and performance measurement in place and that uses the feedback and insights to actively market their reputation online, says Benjamin Jost, CEO and co-founder of TrustYou, a specialist in semantic search and social media management for the hospitality industry.
Clearly gaining an information advantage about guest preferences and conversations from the Internet is going to give travel companies more opportunities to market and seek out opportunities.
There is so much information out there across so many sites, in so many languages, that it is becoming difficult for these travel companies to decipher what is and how to use the information advantage.
Travel companies that have a social marketing strategy will definitely gain the information advantage. The challenge, particularly faced by global hoteliers with thousands of managers, pertains to monitoring conversations in various languages.
Jost, who believes that 2012 will be data-driven and laser-focused on the customer, and the industry will start to see innovations in the “area listening”, spoke to EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta about data analytics in the travel sector, the maturity level of social intelligence and other related issues. Excerpts:
What do you make of developments pertaining to data analytics in the travel sector at this stage?
We believe there is a ‘big data’ revolution underway in the travel and hospitality industry. Hoteliers and destinations now have access to better information that makes them more efficient and ultimately more profitable in a way we have not seen before. The winners in the social media world will be those companies who understand to encourage guests to talk about them online, who are able to listen to all of these conversations effectively, who respond in time and who at the end of the day are able to promote their business not in spite of all these reviews and posts but because of their good reputation everyone is talking about.
How are travel businesses currently tracking how they are engaging with customers and guests online? What were the major developments in this arena in 2011?
More travel businesses are embracing technologies that gather, organise and understand online consumer sentiment. For example, TrustYou has over 10,000 travel businesses globally using our social media services in order to engage and respond to as well as understand their customers’ social media habits. One of the major developments is the power of semantic technology. At TrustYou, we have developed a semantic technology platform specifically designed for the travel industry. Travel businesses can get customer feedback as well as access insights to online reviews in more than 15 languages, engage with guests directly, identify their strengths and weaknesses, see where they stand against their competitors and find out the global sentiment about their business.
How is the travel industry focusing on analytics to understand, predict and act based on intelligence from social media data?
The travel industry should focus on achieving the circle of trust by deepening the relationship with consumers and becoming a trusted resource. In order to accomplish this, the travel industry needs to listen to what the consumer is saying by encouraging the customers to write about them. To help streamline the constant flow of information and commentary, analytics are available through powerful tools like semantic technologies, which help travel businesses understand consumer sentiment – what is the customer really saying, how can we better serve our guests, what is our competitor offering that we are not? And if you make a good job in listening and understanding customers, you can finally use this feedback and directly market your reputation. You can integrate trustworthy reviews and the TrustScore – the global sentiment of all travelers around the world - onto your site to convince your customers with the feedback of others.
Can you cite an example how a business benefited by identifying key influencers, and understood how social media conversations affect business results?
Accor, the hotel operator behind Sofitel and Novotel, has recently started a terrific social media campaign called A Club Surprise. The project uses the social graph to discover and engage potential customers in a unique way. TrustYou was selected as Accor’s social media partner back in January for 3,300+ of its properties worldwide to help them gain customer specific-insights about their properties. Now they are in a unique position to react and respond in time to everything that is being said about each individual property and their brands.
What do you think are still the major challenges when it comes to making progress with social media data?
In the travel sector, one of the great challenges with social media data is the breadth of information available. Travel is global and growing. According to UNWTO, in 2011 international tourist grew by 4.4% to 980 million, and in 2012, international tourism is expected to reach one billion. Developing the tools to capture feedback from all these guests and analyse the social media data for this large audience can be daunting, but we’re making strides to effectuate the process. For example, at TrustYou, we offer free guest satisfaction tools to capture feedback and our technology gathers and comprehends what the customer is saying in 20 different languages across all social media channels worldwide.
What new trends do you foresee in this arena in 2012?
In the last 10 years there was a trend to say ‘what can we do against user reviews?’. Now we see a trend: ‘what can we do with user reviews?’ We believe there is a tremendous opportunity for hotels to generate trustworthy ratings and reviews for their own properties and brands. Guests will find and eventually book your hotel through those reviews and your reputation you have online.The winners in the social media world will be those companies who understand to encourage guests to talk about them, who are able to listen to all of these conversations effectively, who respond in time and who at the end of the day are able to promote their business not in spite of all these reviews and posts but because of their good reputation everyone is talking about.