police parade

The social media thought police are really getting on my nerves, especially with the “glass half empty” rhetoric. For instance, TravelClick put out a release titled ‘One Quarter of Hotels Not Using Social Media’. Good on them for the research but I find the angle odd  when you consider this means 75% of hoteliers are using social media, to my mind an extremely impressive figure. But the more is less angle was immediately embraced online, as it usually is.

Here are just two of many examples: Tnooz (Quarter of Hotels Shunning Social Media) and Hotel Marketing (One Quarter of Hotels Not Using Social Media).

Seriously, I don’t get it. Where I come from, three out of four constitutes a large majority – most hoteliers are using social media (though, just quietly, 3/4 does seem on the high side).

Anyway, according to TravelClick, hoteliers prefer to use search and digital advertising.

“Only 20% of the poll’s respondents cited using Twitter, 10% cited using Groupon or other forms of online couponing (sic), and a minuscule 8% utilize FourSquare promotions,” the press release said.

“Facebook was by far the most preferred social media channel for hoteliers, with 65% of respondents using it to increase bookings and revenue.”

Jonathan Cherins, chief marketing officer of TravelClick, commented: “Instead of running cost-efficient promotions on social media channels like Twitter and Facebook, hotels are electing to increase their advertising spend through online advertisements (57%) and paid search advertising (20%).”

This is the first time I have heard anyone suggest that social media is more cost-efficient than paid search, though online banner ads are certainly open to debate (if that is in fact what the survey refers to – “online advertising” can mean a lot of things).

Talk to anyone on the marketing side of travel and they will tell you that paid search is the most efficient, transparent online marketing there is.

Quite simply search it at the front line of travel marketing – that’s why travel businesses are spending so much money with Google, now the world’s largest and most powerful travel company.

Hotels, airlines and tour operators can invest a $1 in search and track its performance every which way. They can ensure, given the right strategy and staff, that their $1 will return $1.10 or much more in business.

The same certainty cannot be found in social media, where everything I have read suggests inconsistency and a client base heavily orientated toward the younger demographic, which is great when Gen Whatever is your target market.

But a big-spending middle-aged corporate or leisure customer through Twitter. Please.

And while it’s certainly true that some social media campaigns work spectacularly well, others are massive, expensive flops.

Social media has awesome power, no doubt, but how to harness it so that it drives dollars to the bottom line in the same way as search?

No-one really knows.

Also, the real cost of social media must not be ignored. And that cost is labour.

Social media is labour intensive, you need real people working the angles to yield results, even if it is only curtailing the spread of bad news through key online opinion makers.

In conclusion, I believe in social media.

I think it is a lot of fun and has a real long-term future (though it is more about the platform than the brand – witness the decline of MySpace).

Just like the 75% of hoteliers who have embraced it according to the TravelClick survey.

So, to the social media thought police, leave the other 25% alone.

They have broken no laws.


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