Friday, May 14, 2010

Overhead at Eyefortravel TDS – social media stole my conference

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.


steve sherlock said...

hey Tim, yeah i agree with you.

if innovation is encouraged in online travel business then what better way to demonstrate innovation than in peak conference formats.

also agree about self promo - in that the audience only really cares about what is relevant and in context to them. therefore if someone self promotes out of context i tune out.

i reckon organiser (of all conferences btw) should look at powerpoint guidlines to avoid "death by PowerPoint".

i find it hard to believe that presenters think the audience can read fine print and listen at the same time.

i was once given a guideline of 3 x slides with 0 x words allowed, for a 7 min preso. that might be a bit drastic but max 10 words per slide by ten slides (mostly pics).

im writing this from bangkok. pretty sad place right now, but not scary as violence confined to city centre. some people here reckon human rights is a real issue here.

Tim Hughes said...

@steve - agreed. If the slide has all the necessary words on it then what is the presenter going to say?

Hope you are OK in bangkok

Marco said...

Hi Tim,

Thanks for the round-up and encouraging words. Re 'death by powerpoint' - I am in total agreement and this is something that needs to be addressed but establishing a set of hard and fast rules to limit slides in a presentation is problematic as it depends largely on content and the speaker's style and delivery.

For example, Barbara Pezzi's presentation contained over 30 slides but was widely considered to be one of the most engaging and insightful contributions of the event.

Re Format - Would be interesting to hear people's thoughts on this.. What are the most compelling and valuable conference formats from a delegate's perspective?

Many thanks once again to Tim and all our other speakers that contributed to a fantastic event,looking forward to TDS Asia 2011!

Freddy @ In Marketing We Trust said...

@ Tim,

Thanks for the post
Speaking about Search, since it's my addiction.

On the social "likes and tweets" we definitely seen a strong correlation between SEO and Social. Not only it is vital to create good content, it is now important to distribute it and let user share it.

I would agree with brand mention also I would suspect that only a series of sites within the article content (and not comments) would trigger positive changes. After all brand spam is much easier than linkspam.

Next big move
IMO, result dislay change will be the true game changer.

With places google is trying to diversify its revenue stream mechanisms.

We have seen some big name in the industry trying to resist this tide without success.

I see changes coming faster on the tablet market than on the mobile or desktop and this new consumption mechanism may alter significantly the way SEO is handled today.