Thursday, May 08, 2008

Are social network advertisers barking up the wrong tree?

Our latest column in Travel Weekly:

For many people in the industry there remains a big question mark over the value of using social networks to reach potential consumers.

At Travolution we have been unashamedly guilty of talking up the benefits of throwing increasingly scant resources at sites such as Facebook, MySpace and others in order to spread the marketing of a brand into these hugely popular new areas.

It is becoming clear to some marketers that traditional online advertising is not as rewarding – in terms of solid leads – as many would have expected, given the enormous volume of people using social networks.

One marketer said to us recently: “People use social networks to talk to each other, not buy products.”

This is a dilemma for travel brands and travel per se is one of the most experiential products.

Consumers appear very comfortable with using a social network to talk about their holidays – the planning process and, most importantly, what happened in resort.

Some travel brands – STA Travel in particular – have capitalised on this by creating simple applications within a Facebook page for people to visit, rather than traditional advertising slots.

Nevertheless, a new report by digital marketing agency Tamar suggests travel brands are still missing out on the goodwill factor often associated with a holiday.

There is a “great deal of consumer support” on social networks for travel brands, but only a few have registered their presence there.

But the most interesting fact to emerge from the study is this: brands that have tried to embrace social networks have a massive 59% more unofficial supporter groups than those with no presence.

It seems that just acknowledging the existence of social networks and creating some kind of presence is a good start.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

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