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People Powered Travel Marketing

September 19th, 2006 · 3 Comments · Destination Marketing

Like many industries struggling to adapt, travel is ideally positioned to leverage the emerging Web 2.0 trends to maximize what are typically tight budgets. The beauty of social media is the ability to harness the power of the community. What better marketers for a destination could be found than satisfied and converted visitors? I would say none. There is no more powerful recommendation than a referral from a trusted source. When you aggregate these individuals, what you have is a credible community. Steve Rubel, among others, notes the launch of yet another Travel 2.0 style website. Right now I’m seeing the creation of plenty of these kind of sites and likely there will be some consolidation and attrition as time goes on. What should travel marketers do?

While most traditional marketers are still discovering Search Engine Marketing, those with limited budgets and forward-thinking execs are already participating, creating, and aggregating within the new Social Media realm. These are the folks not committed to the status quo or tied to some arcane financial arrangement with a monstrous analog marketing and promotion program (old-style agencies, printers, truckers, mailhouses, call centers, etc.). Of course, the old media still has some relevance, but there is no doubt that those days are numbered.

There is the big fear of giving up control in what is a very comfortable one-way communication system. There is the fear of hearing “bad reviews”. There is the fear of having to become a real and credible expert. But mostly it is the fear of irrelavance. After all, with a community of real experts aggregating themselves, who needs a paid mouthpiece? The fact is, pushing out messages is over. We need to embrace two-way communication if we want to remain relevant destination marketers. It’s not like we have actual control of our products and services. What we can do is guide the conversation, position our brand within the universe of products, and take advantage of user-generated content.

Here are three articles which have really peaked my attention:

Embrace Fragmentation – The demassification of media is not something bad. After all, isn’t ‘target marketing’ something we are supposed to be doing? Web 2.0 can only make this activity more efficient.

The fabric of real communities in American life is slowly being rebuilt with virtual threads in online communities. Those threads are the building blocks of a new social ecology in which brands can both derive critical insight on consumer experience as well as serve as markers of identity in both the real and virtual landscapes. In combination with behavioral targeting techniques, these kind of data form living consumer profiles that can be mapped in digital media and mirrored in traditional media.

Will Social Media Optimization become mainstream? – Cameron ponders the future of Social Media Optimization and some of the obstacles that need to be overcome.

Get Your CMO to Spend More Online! – This is great for those that have yet to free themselves from the shackles of traditional media.


3 Comments so far ↓

  • Henning von Vogelsang

    Great article, and more to the point of what Web 2.0 actually does than many other explanations I’ve read elsewhere. I wrote an article about another travel site, TravelPost, with similar conclusions. Travel business seems to be one of those markets that is probably best suited to let users participate in the brand experience. I think we will see more of this happening in the close future, and sites like and will likely not wait for much longer to join the movement.

    TravelPost: a good example of brand participation

  • Portagehog

    Check out Tripmates, and These are all user-generated review sites. Just search Adirondacks. Zero results. OK, how about Lake Placid? Maybe one review from a guy who lives in Georgia. Helpful? I doubt it.

    Consumer-generated content and conversational marketing are just one small piece of the pie. Who has time to wait for these websites to build enough users to create a market for our destinations? ADK needs visitors right now. I agree, destinations and resorts should post their Trip Advisor link right at the top of their own website home page. Transparency is critical. However, old media will not die. Not now, not ever. Why? In the example of TV, the majority of people want to be entertained and not have to do a thing but sit there (at least those who work for a living). DVRs, blogs, RSS, podcasting and multi-tasking all interfere, but not to the extent that everyone assumes. Look at penetration/adoption rates of these technologies. Small. Look at the number of people who watch American Idol every week — 30,000,000. I know that doesn’t say much for the entertainement taste of Americans, but that’s another story…

  • TourPro

    Your right, there is a dearth of content in some of these new Travel 2.0 sites. But look at Flickr, ADKForum, and others – there is a huge wealth of stuff being generated. The benefit for us now is the ability to involve ourselves at the beginning and monitor, participate, create, and embrace the folksonomy about our topic. Heck, we are just scratching the surface. For most, SEO is still a foreign topic, let alone Social Media Optimization. I’m not giving up on analog media now, but ignoring this emerging medium will put us at a disadvantage in the not so distant future.

    My thought is that there are too many Travel 2.0 sites being developed now. What we need to do is create a system on OUR site which aggregates through API’s the “best” of what’s out there. Would it be too much to ask to have a Flickr photostream of the Adirondack tags? How about an official person participating in arenas like Yahoo Answers? When it comes to message, the days of preaching from the top down are over. The power, the “truth”, is now in the hands of the consumer. If we are not monitoring what is being said within this new medium and the blogosphere, we do so at our own jeapardy.

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