Social media gurus (is that term trademarked now?) are often telling the industry that the social world is all about engagement with customers and creating communities, etc.
Evidence perhaps suggests otherwise.
Research last year from eMarketer (ROI Research Inc - S-Net: A study in social media usage and behaviour) indicated why US consumers, for example, decide to follow (in the case of Twitter) or like (Facebook) travel-related brands in social media.
The results were clearly in favour of product-related reasons, such as access to discounts (over half of respondents) and sales, rather than arguably more dynamic reasons such as wanting to share their own content and because they simply have some affinity with a brand.
Nothing wrong with that - everyone loves a bargain, right?
But what happened to all the wild talk of travel brands using social media for customer service and getting fans/followers involved in generating content?
Hotels, for example, appear to have followed (no pun intended) the behaviour of their customers in social media and are now overwhelmingly using social media channels to meet such requirements.
This study by eMarketer (L2 Think Tank and Buddy Media - Digital IQ Index: Hotels) from earlier this year indicates less than half of the content on Facebook pages for luxury hotels around the world is related to customer service (engagement), but more than three-quarters covers so-called couponing and product sale-related material.
Perhaps the approach and style by travel brands is wrong, then? Customers simply fail to see there is an advantage to them using social media to interact with a brand?
Another study by eMarketer across many verticals found that over half (55%) of consumers believe they can have an impact on a company by writing about them in social media.
A similar number found that the best way to give feedback was by using social networks and 53% agreed that companies should gave a Facebook page to stay relevant.
The desire is there from consumers, but the execution by the brands is wrong?
Dan Marcec of eMarketer warns against the over-use of discounting and so-called one-way conversations in social media:
"Offering coupons and discounts through social media is not inherently a poor strategic decision, and engagement tactics and goals differ for every travel marketer, but the practice leaves one to wonder whether consumers follow brands because they offer discounts, or is it that brands give discounts in order to reward loyal customers."There’s something to consider on both sides. If consumers are following brands only because they offer discounts, those fans and followers may drive a few sales and convert some new customers, but it will be under the premise of a devalued product."
Many travel brands are showing that they can use social media in interesting and valuable ways beyond a sales-led approach. But perhaps the industry generally is still stuck in the classic chicken versus egg dilemma - only reacting to and building a strategy based on what the perception is for what consumers want.
So, quite possibly the gurus are right - it is just that brands are unsure of the best method or are nervous about implementation and getting it wrong.
NB:Like image via Shutterstock.