A major research study has said it clearly.
The Harrison Group in conjunction with Ypartnership, both credible sources I assure you, (but what does that mean coming from someone who also markets travel) published thePortrait of American Travelers research report.
Only 19 percent of those surveyed, and they were all travelers, said neither Facebook or Twitter were credible sources of travel information. Interestingly YouTube was seen as an even less credible source that either of the above at only 14 per cent.
Yet ask any web marketing company about social media and they will extol its virtues for any industry including travel.
So why the credibility gap?
Perhaps because most travel marketing companies really are not interested in real two way conversation.
Everything is just a post with no real desire to inform or explain beyond the basic few words typed into 140 characters or similar facebook notations.
It is all advertising…and advertising in its best form has, and will always be viewed with skepticism about claims of superiority of features and performance.
In fact traditional advertising, as it has come to be known in the days of the internet, itself has only a 29 percent credibility factor.
The study shows that blogs outperform advertising at 33 percent credibility.
The information has been an important lesson for me.
When we set up Journeys 10 years ago, while it was obviously meant to be a successful unique retail concept, everything I wanted to do was built around becoming the trusted source for travel information.
By being that to a broad range of world consumers, I felt confident it would lead to on going support in online and in store sales.
I think we have done that. But I admit to some guilt in Twitter and Facebook promotions, where I have not been looking for conversation and feedback.
While achieving that sense of real interactive conversation is not easy in either format, I intend to try harder.
From feedback I receive I believe my blogs are delivering information that readers seem to like. I will continue to try and get even better at that as well.
When I do product reviews I will make sure I point out all sides of the product, the good, the bad, and when necessary the ugly…even if we sell the product.
We actually have been doing that but not aggsressively enough.
We try to test all new travel products we can find in the market place. Some are great, some are so-so and some are awful.
Those we think don’t cut it we put on deep discount sales and tell the consumer why we didn’t like it…and most often they still buy it because as in many cases the price motivates them to accommodate the product to their needs.
In some areas I am confident we are truly providing a valuable service. On our website we only publish reviews of people who have come back from trips that they booked with us.
That section is not open to posts that come from the public. Those sites that allow that are now under scrutiny as competitors to properties and resorts are entering phoney, and negative reviews.
I have been amazed at the outpouring of information we receive from our clients. We post their comments without edit, good or bad, to our site. You can see them in the trip review section at http://www.journeystravelgear.com/TripReview.cfm
My weekly column in the Winnipeg Free Press, which is a question and answer format, has become a well read component of the travel section. With every question I respond to I try to provide as much information as possible within the confines of the space alloted.
Feedback has been tremendous. You can see many of the most recent questions and answers on the site as well at http://www.journeystravelgear.com/AskJourneys.cfm
In the future I will let staff and guest reviews post their comments of in store products after they have used them.
With 500 million Facebook subscribes and almost 200 million Twitter devoutees, the medium is an important interactive component of our society today.
We will try to respect that and earn credibility with the information and conversations we can engage in with you and others around the globe.