The word social media appeared nowhere in the title for Eyefortravel’s Trave Distribution Summit Asia (they have other conferences that do) but it was the number one topic from presenters on April 29 in Singapore.
In my keynote, I spoke about the rise of transactional questions on Facebook and Twitter. I highlighted a number of examples of consumers using twitter and Facebook to ask questions that are begging for advertisers to provide answers. Opening up social search as a real competitor for Google. Sharat Dhall of Tripadvisor spoke of the never ending flood of user reviews/photos and hotelier responses. Particularly of interest in his presentation was the launch of TripWow and how Tripadvisor is expanding their insatiable lust for content from text to photos. Joe Nguyen of comScore showed the numbers with a left to right sharp incline for Facebook travel stats. Starwood spoke of having 1 million mentions in social media in 2 weeks (though many of us weren’t sure the numbers were right). Brett Henry of Abacus called Foursquare and Gowalla as the future must watch emerging businesses. Morris Sim of Circos Brand Karma told a story of a 4000% ROI on a social media marketing campaign (though admitted that scaling it was extraordinarily hard). Aloke Bajpai of ixiGo spoke of the future of apps and mobile as social devices – as soon as someone launches a more advanced mechanism for app search and discover. Even speakers that started by expressing concern that the conference had become dominated by social media talk ended up talking non stop about the user forums on their site.
It turned me to thinking about whether or not it was fair to hijack the conference and talk so much on this one area of consumer interaction and marketing. On one level it is understandable given that social networking sites are generating the most traffic, buzz, funding and consumer attention. But (as I said in my keynote) we cannot allow ourselves to get caught up in excitement and forget that the number one online battle ground for transactions is still on Google/Yahoo/Baidu/Naver etc. We must get engaged in social networking and content but cannot take our eye, money and talent off the traditional search battleground. My tip for social media was to focus on data, content and customer monitoring first them look to transactions in social media in a year or two (or three). For more on my thoughts see my post ad:tech thoughts here.
Some of the hoteliers in attendance may have felt disappointed that they did not hear more about how to rank on Google, spend on banners effectively, sign up with OTAs, manage content and improve SEO performance. This is was not a conference for talking about what to do now in the places that generate traffic and business. This was a conference for thinking about what was next – where we talked about how to engage with an audience that wants to talk to you and be with you online.
Attendance was solid in terms of numbers with a majority hoteliers, then online agents then technology and service providers. I have been noticing more and more that airlines have all but stopped turning up to online specific conference, limiting themselves to airline specific ones. On the format, eyefortravel are pulling good quality speakers but it is time to do away with the 3x15+QA format. That is the format where each session has three speakers giving a 15 minute presentation each followed by panel Q&A. Conferences like this need less power point and more QA and interview formats. Moving the format away from collective presentations to interview and panels will reduce the sales pitching that continues to creep (and sometimes storm) in and increase the speed at which the conversation gets to the interesting analysis.
Finally snaps to Don Birch who was a great chair. Insightful questions and summaries.