UGC sites - a dream come true for loyalty marketers or a total nightmare?
Social Media Strategies Travel 2008 SpecialRecently, a senior hotel executive mentioned that loyalty marketers are inherently successful at utilising the social media/marketing environment because they've been doing it in the real world for years.
Published: 12 Mar 2008
Social Media Strategies Travel 2008 Special
Recently, a senior hotel executive mentioned that loyalty marketers are inherently successful at utilising the social media/marketing environment because they've been doing it in the real world for years.
How easily can a marketer resonate with new age web communication tools?
"UGC sites are probably either a dream come true for loyalty marketers or a total nightmare since they're based on real advice. There's no hiding now, so if a business develops a lousy reputation, the marketer is going to have to devote a lot of energy to correcting that. Since they're used to building business on feedback and repeat business, this is very much their arena," according to Giampiero Ambrosi, General Manager, VirtualTourist.com.
Speaking to EyeforTravel.com's Ritesh Gupta in connection with Social Media Strategies Travel 2008 Conference in San Francisco, Ambrosi said any smart business owner will pay attention to their online feedback.
Does he think fear of negative publicity is holding back suppliers from participating full throttle or encouraging participation on their sites? Considering the likes of Starwood, is he satisfied with the level of encouragement being offered by travel suppliers?
On this he said not making customer-focused improvements based on reviews doesn't make any sense.
"If three reviewers complain about the pillows being too soft, you should probably consider changing them," said Ambrosi.
According to the data available, users are spending on an average of 30 minutes on top social networking websites on a monthly basis. When people invest their time contributing to UGC, what do they expect in return?
"People expect a variety of things. In our case, one of the biggest things they expect is community. The VirtualTourist experience doesn't just involve posting reviews; it involves creating friendships, exchanging information, elevating one's view of the world. Yes, you can find out where to get a great bowl of clam chowder, or which hotel has lousy water pressure, but you can also come to understand why someone who lives 6,000 miles away from you thinks a certain way or has a certain sense of humor. When you consider that we have meetings that people come to from literally all over the world, or that we've had 25 weddings thus far, there's no question that community is what sets us apart," he said.
"Like everyone else, our members also enjoy a certain amount of recognition—there are members who put an astounding amount of effort into the site and we do our best to reward that with special member titles, rankings, and even a little swag from time to time. Sometimes, even if a member just drops us a really great note, or posts an especially useful or entertaining forum tip, we'll pop a t-shirt or something in the mail. We want them to know that we know how much time and effort goes into making VirtualTourist what it is."