Introducing a summit session on social networking and considering the question of how the travel sector should manage consumer relationships in the future, Spannerworks’ client services director Dean Harvey asked whether a tour operator can ever be an authority on social media and the creation of communities.
“At Spannerworks, we think it’s too big for a tour operator,” he said, adding that the question was a critical one, because according to Forrester Research, social computing ‘is not a fad’.
It suggests that social computing “will affect every role of every company in the world.”
According to Harvey, social media is not just about community, but also about brand reputation. “Google as well as being a search engine is also a brand. And having great content on your site can generate more content, with the links generated improving your search engine ranking.”
Stephen Palmer, EMEA chief executive for Lonely Planet, said that when it came to creating communities, “a lot of this stuff isn’t new – we’ve been doing it for some time,” citing the creation of Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum and Bluelist.
“We get 8,000 posts a day on Thorn Tree, with travellers asking questions of other travellers, and this gives us strong brand recognition.
“We’ve also run a competition on Bluelist, which enables travellers to recommend experiences. We’re now bundling up the four winners of this year’s competition and taking them off to Morocco for a week on the road with a Lonely Planet author.”
He added: “We’ve also sanctioned our staff to go along and play with social media. We do want people to participate in conversations, because social media mustn’t become just a tick box in someone’s marketing strategy.
“Everybody that just says ‘Yes’, doesn’t get it. We are ‘digital immigrants’, and we must allow users to take control of it. Be authentic – and users will amplify that impact.”