Going beyond fan counts and offers to create conversations

eMarketer notes: Social media provides an unprecedented platform to collect meaningful customer feedback on a mass scale. It also provides a space where marketers can humanize business-to-consumer relationships. However, there’s a catch: Consumers want to interact with brands through social media, but they want to be the ones to start the conversation.

“Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all social media marketing strategy for engaging these conversation-ready consumers, especially for travel companies,” said Dan Marcec, eMarketer analyst and author of the new report, “Social Media for Travel Marketers: Cultivating Conversation to Capture Customer Sentiment.”

Travel consumer behavior is undergoing what looks to be a permanent shift. Though the economy may be normalizing according to cyclical trends, the way consumers react to and interact with businesses may never be the same. Social media is the central hub of this new relationship. As a result, travel marketers are looking to be more social in 2012.

According to Frommer’s and Tnooz’s “2011 Digital Marketing and Content Survey,” 65% of travel professionals polled worldwide planned to increase their social media marketing budget in 2012, a higher percentage than for any other digital marketing tactic.

Expected Change in Digital Marketing Budget in 2012 According to Travel Professionals Worldwide, by Tactic (% of respondents)

According to ROI Research’s April 2011 survey “S-Net: A Study in Social Media Usage & Behavior,” more than half of US fans of travel brands and companies “like” or “follow” such brands and companies because they want something in return—specifically deals or information about deals.

Reasons that US Social Network Users* Decided to "Like"/Follow a Travel Brand/Company on a Social Network, April 2011 (% of respondents)

“Offering incentives like coupons and discounts certainly works to build a fan base,” said Marcec. “But while a high number of ‘fans’ and followers was widely considered the measure of success in the early days of social media, simply seeking to gain them for numbers’ sake may not be the best strategy in 2012, as the economy continues to limp back from recession.”



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