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How does one measure “engagement”?
They strictly recommend that success in travel social media shouldn't be considered as something other than supporting one's core business.
Assessing the same, Ric Shreves, Founding Partner, water&stone, says there is still a little acceptance / recognition of an agreed set of meaningful metrics.
"It's understandable, as this is a hard sector to measure. How does one measure "engagement"? Certainly, user site activity and membership levels are very useful and easy for everyone to grasp, but aside from numbers related to those key factors there is a little agreement in this space. I look at metrics as part of your ongoing monitoring and feedback cycles -- they are indicators of the impact of your efforts and should help inform your strategic decisions, but the bottom remains the ultimate judge of success," says Shreves, who is scheduled to speak during EyeforTravel's Travel Distribution Summit Asia 2009 to be held in Singapore (1-2 April).
In this phase of online travel, consumers are using the web to ask open ended questions for the first time rather than the traditional close questions.
The response to these open ended question is an avalanche of answers and information from a almost limitless range of content providers.
On how travel 2.0 sites or community portals can differentiate themselves, Shreves says differentiation in this space will be achieved through reputation and responsiveness.
"Sites premised on helping consumers decide where to go, what to do, where to stay are in the service business. If you are going to premise your business on advice, the credibility factor has to be there -- people have to trust you as a reliable source of information. In terms of responsiveness, users that post questions need timely responses. You have to engage them else they will solve their problem another way -- possibly on a competitor's site," said Shreves.
On monetisation, he mentioned that the key is getting users to transact on your site once the travel planning decision is made.
"Your only other option really is advertising and that is not going to pay the bills by itself. I have yet to see a membership model that seems viable," said Shreves.
Most travel sites are directly tied to a purchase decision, but there is also the opportunity for paid membership based communities; research and feedback communities; loyalty programme communities and of course the media property model based on advertising revenues or value of the database. As with so much else, it comes down to developing UGC sites not because they are voguish, but because they specifically address a business need, customer need or a market opportunity.
Regarding the same, Shreves said: "For an existing firm, I think UGC has huge marketing value. Done properly, you raise awareness, educate the consumer base, provide customer support, give a boost to your affiliates / resellers / agents and, in general, build goodwill around your brand. I'm a huge fan of indirect marketing and being a rich information source for existing and potential customers. Whether that fits in a particular firm's marketing philosophy and resource allocation is to be determined on a case-by-case basis."
He added, "This is a completely different issue if we're talking about building a new business based entirely on UGC. This is a tough slog, though clearly sites like TripAdvisor and Craig's List show the way. Question is, are they category killers? Will new sites moving in this space be relegated to staking out a niche?"
EyeforTravel's Travel Distribution Summit Asia 2009
Shreves is scheduled to speak during EyeforTravel's Travel Distribution Summit Asia 2009, to be held in Singapore (1-2 April).
For more information click here: http://events.eyefortravel.com/tdsasia/conference/agenda.asp.
EyeforTravel is a media company specialising in business intelligence for the travel and tourism industry. Its was started by Tim Gunstone in 1997 as part of the FC group. The news website is one of the top three most visited travel trade websites globally and for over 11 years eyefortravel have successfully held travel marketing and technology events on 6 continents, providing an networking platform for thousands of travel companies.
EyeforTravel organises over 30 events per year globally dedicated to technology and online travel. Our flagship Travel Distribution Summits in North America, Europe, Asia and most recently India are the industry meeting places for travel e-commerce and technology executives in these regions. These events attract between 400 and 2000 attendees. Speakers include many of the industry's leading strategists and innovators and as such the events help to shape the future of travel distribution. In addition to the Summits, we also run numerous highly focused conferences on business critical topics including revenue management, social media, ancillary revenue, online marketing, internet content, distribution technology and more. Such is the popularity of these events that many are repeated year after year, and across all regions that we serve globally.
EyeforTravel also provides some of the most in depth research into global online travel markets and trends. Our research site at www.eyefortravelresearch.com is the information hub for the global travel and tourism industry and is an indispensable tool for anyone who is involved in online travel or travel distribution.
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