Social Media Changing the Tourism Landscape
Social media is reshaping the world we live in. Greater connectivity with friends and family gives "word of mouth" new meaning; advice on what products to buy and what brands to avoid is only a mouse click away. Social media is reaching deep into our everyday lives, including affecting things like how we travel.
Once upon a time, travelers used the Internet to read guidebooks and check out hotel and restaurant reviews or what is better known as an "expert opinion."
However, as this story details, consumers are suspicious of "expert opinions." After all, how do you know a good review wasn't written by a restaurant's owner? What if local business paid to get on a list of "great places to visit" at your destination? Marketing experts are paid a lot of money to massage consumer expectations - and consumers are on to their game due to social media.
Most social web communities are formed by family or local relationships; others are formed by people sharing a common interest, such as travelers interested in a particular destination. This is similar to different kinds of animals on an African plain assembling at a water hole; their shared interest (drinking for survival) brings them together in one place. Instinctively though, they share information that helps other animals get to the watering hole.
Travelers, such as these animals, exchange information to help each other through many popular social media tools, including:
Many businesses see social media as a new communications challenge to overcome, using precise marketing techniques to pin point the right customer target from the "herd." Ironically, this is exactly the kind of marketing consumers shelter themselves from by joining social communities. Instead, a business can encourage communication between its customers without trying to "manage" the conversation. This makes both good and bad travel news move faster. A customer who has a pleasant experience, and tells others, is far more likely to be believed than "experts" or testimonials in brochures. The positive customer word-of-mouth message is far greater than anything money can buy.
Just as importantly, a dynamic social community offers richer, more detailed feedback. Random bad luck can ruin one person's trip, but 10 people reporting a problem with your service tells you something is very wrong. Fixing that problem earns respect and loyalty.
As social media continues to embed itself in tourism, those entities that harness the power of the social web will prosper most.