Social is the vital ingredient of any omni-channel strategy, an Accord half-day travel conference hosted by Google was told last week.
Andrew Grill, global managing partner of IBM Social Consulting, said social provides vital data and is what sticks an omni-channel approach together.
He told delegates “social media is the best piece of market research you never commission”, urging firms to “translate social noises into something you can understand”.
Grill said: “Senior executives do not get social. But when you change the language of social to talk about research they say ‘now you are talking my language’.
“It becomes very powerful. The challenge is how do you make sense of all this data, because it becomes very, very noisy.”
Grill said the millennial generation – generation Y, born between the early 1980s and 2000 – are a bellweather for the industry.
He said these people do not use conventional websites like Tripadvisor to research and book travel, instead choosing to collaborate on sites such as Pinterest, Instagram or airbnb.
This is creating a generation of customers who become data loyal to their social media platform of choice where they have spent most time curating and creating their data.
Grill said: “Imagine in the future if these disparate social networks can come together. We [customers] want our travel experiences enhanced because we are telling you everything about us.
“If you look at airbnb, I put everything on there. It’s very difficult for me to leave that network because I put all my data there.
“The question is who gets all this data? The real power in market research is having access to all this data. What is your data strategy? What is your social strategy?
“With omni-channel the wheel is broken if you do not have social in there because data is what sticks all this together and makes it work.
“There is so much rich data out there and we can all benefit.”
Grill said the millennial mindset was a marketers dream because they are prepared to share their data as long as they get a better product, experience or deal in return.
He said he was a great believer in ‘social serendipity’ explaining he got his job at UBM thanks indirectly to a Tweet.