Understanding the ideological clash between official web content and UGC

Social Media Strategies Travel 2008 SpecialIs there is an ideological clash between official web content and user-generated content? Does it create a lot of uncertainty and confusion among travel suppliers and travel consumers alike?

Published: 07 Mar 2008

Social Media Strategies Travel 2008 Special

Is there is an ideological clash between official web content and user-generated content? Does it create a lot of uncertainty and confusion among travel suppliers and travel consumers alike?

In order to know more, EyeforTravel.com's Ritesh Gupta spoke to the speakers of Social Media Strategies Travel 2008 Conference in San Francisco. Here is what they had to say.

Max Starkov, Hospitality eBusiness Strategies:

Many travel suppliers forget that Social Media a/k/a Consumer-Generated Media (CGM) is online content created by Internet users and made available to other Internet users via Web 2.0 interactive technology applications. A travel supplier cannot create social media content. It can create the framework for the creation of consumer-generated content via various Web 2.0 applications and features (e.g. photo-sharing feature on the supplier site). It can instigate and encourage it. But ultimately the online travel consumers are the ones that create the social content.

In this new Web 2.0 environment, travel consumers like to see 'both sides of the medal" –the "official" content, descriptions and presentation of the travel product on the supplier's website/brochure/marketing piece, and in the same time review the "unofficial" content on peer review sites, blogs, etc. If the official content differs vastly from the unofficial content, guess which is the more credible content in eyes of today's sophisticated online traveler? All surveys and our own research point that the consumer generated content on social media sites and networks is perceived as more credible by the online travelers. The bigger the disparity between official and unofficial content, the bigger the gap in credibility.

What can and should travel suppliers do? They should review the content on their websites, brochures and promotional pieces and align it with the content on the social media sites about their services/product (i.e. align the official content with the unofficial content). For example if you describe your hotel as luxurious, while all customer reviews describe your hotel as clean and nice but an economy category hotel, then you should drop the "luxurious" description, because clearly your customers do not perceive your hotel as such.

Ted Souder, Head of Sales - Midwest Travel Vertical, Google:

Travel suppliers need to embrace UGC and the world of social media. Feedback and commentary is a critical element in providing the highest level of service. In today's commoditised travel environment, customer service and the customer experience is going to be the key differentiator. Suppliers need to take the feedback from the blogs, review sites like Trip Advisor and video blogs and use it to their advantage. If people are complaining about a dirty hotel room then the hotel GM should fix that. If people are raving about a certain experience or amenity then the supplier should expand upon that. The suppliers should then also respond to the feedback and let the public know that they are listening. This could be a very powerful communication tool for them.

Travel lends itself to UGC and social media. People love to exchange stories about trips, they love to make suggestions about which airline to fly or which resort to go to. They love to share pictures and videos of their trips. They love to be able to take a video of their child hugging Mickey Mouse and then post it on YouTube so Grandma can see. On the flip side, people do not generally share stories and pictures when talking about a great CD rate they got at their bank.

This is the one industry that can really make UGC and social media something special. This is a very exciting time in our history and I look forward to seeing how this all unfolds over the next 12 months. A year from now, there will be some clear winners here and there will be those who resist it.

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