I imagine this is one of the first mash ups of a live-twittered conference?  If not the first, one of the only ones because this was massively, overly, insanely, time-consuming.  I do think what came of it was worthwhile, and I hope this sort of serves as a testament to all we spoke about and considered during Eye for Travel SM SF 2010.  First thing: I am not going to list contributor names here – I assume this is mostly for those who attended, and we know who we are.  However, Susan Black was going to compile a list of everyone involved in the conference for further networking, and think we might be able to do that here?  Please comment and leave your info for people to connect with…. twitter, buzz, and anything else you wish to share about the conference.

The below words are basically a mashup of every single tweet (processed & filtered) from the #smtravel conference (blended with my commentary in the parentheses).  I arranged the information best I could, however *completely* subjective said arrangement is. I hope it makes some form of sense – or at least you can potentially peer into the chasm that is my logic.  At the least I hope I didn’t misquote or misrepresent anyone.  Speaking of transparency – I left some fairly meaty and helpful implementation/action ideas at the end that were not necessarily even part of the conference… I figure if you can find them and actually read that far down, well.. you deserve them.

I will go out on a limb saying that 100% of the data is accurate, because I basically copy and pasted from the tweet stream. I am sad to say the nature of making the “tweety casserole” of our conference helped it to lose much in the reference & citations arena, but if you need to see the authority and professionalism of those involved, please refer to list of speakers at the conference. For those that don’t know me – I am a big skeptic, and vigilant about data and non skewed statistics, as well as generally skeptical about enthusiastic marketing. If anyone would like to challenge any of the information or data below, please do! I am always up for conversation and learning…. and if incorrect data was given out at this conference I assume we would all like to know (this is highly unlikely)! So let’s have at it – Eye For Travel’s Social Media Conference #smtravel 2010!  (Boy I hope this makes sense)

My attempt at organizing the concepts throughout the conference:

  1. Social Media (general)
  2. Facebook
  3. Twitter
  4. Geolocation / Mobile / Augmented Reality
  5. ROI
  6. User Generated Reviews / Content
  7. Takeaway / Important Thoughts
  8. Action / Implementation

You will note a lot of information on Geolocation/Mobile & User Generated Reviews/Content.  I think that’s because there is real data, opportunity, and engagement in those areas.  The other areas are more guesswork and hoping.  Twitter provides ROI, to be sure… but I think we should focus on what provides results, vs. what we like to think *may* work.  In that, I personally suggest you alot some of your Facebook time to understanding and interacting with Geolocation, as well as becoming more involved in the review sites.

I) Social Media


  • 83% of adults use social media
  • 70% of participants in Social Media are spectators (lurkers – we know you are out there eating our posts)
  • 18% of US online leisure travelers do not have a destination in mind when they start their trip planning
  • For every 1/2 sec improvement in landing page download speed, you can increase page views 1-3% (I know.. this is SEOweb design. Sue me)
  • 58% of travelers use Facebook monthly, 40% use YouTube, 32% to Wikipedia, but 1 in 4 don’t visit any social media sites (this is in tune with understanding traditional marketing vital, still important, and should be integrated and aware of SM plan)
  • Email marketing still important but not as effective as it used to be. (I don’t think I need a stat for that, but 1) it still seems to be effective for some people & 2) it’s amazing how others simply won’t let it go when it is no longer effective. It used to be a cure all salve to some marketers)
  • Consumers follow and fan brands on FB and Twitter to learn about discounts (32%). Learn about new products (19%)
  • 35 Million LinkedIn updates/week, 600 tweets per second, 5 billion pieces of facebook content a week
  • An angry customer can lose you more customers than a happy customer can bring you new ones
  • Social networking is the new “morning coffee” – 4 in 10 people wake up to their social circles
  • 4 in 10 people recommend products on social media
  • eMarketer reports 81% of marketers say social media significantly extends their e-mail to new markets


  • You can choose not to participate in social media conversation but….. that is *probably* not a good thing.
  • Most social media /generated content is crap. (This reminded me of a very relevant talk by Google CEO Schmidt, and the resulting piece The Cesspool We Call The Internet)
  • Social media is about relinquishing control
  • Social media/user generated content is the new brochure, and you have no say in how that brochure is made or what it looks like (I like the sentiment but mildly disagree… I think you be accountable of everything in your control and offer a worthwhile product and the brochure will be to your liking).
  • Transparency is not for the faint of heart, and it may not work for everyone. When people get an update, they want more on a regular basis. (IMHO, It doesn’t just happen, you have to fight culture of secrecy that most business cultivates).
  • Top 5 trends in Web 2.0 – 1) Semantic Web 2) SMO (social media optimization) 3) SGO (social graph optimization) 4) Affinity Graph (feel free to elaborate on this one) 5) HyperLocal
  • It is about the quality, not quantity, of followers. 500 committed followers is worth 10,000 non brand interested ones (what sort of followers do contests breed?)
  • Soc Media is a communication TOOL – not a PLATFORM – “do you ask for ROI on your telephone?”
  • Social Media is not a campaign, it’s a commitment.
  • How do you measure the value of a relationship? Lifetime value = more than the sum of transactions.
  • It’s amplified word of mouth, right? It’s been happening for years. It’s about creating community again – SM just a new channel for old-fashioned business sense.
  • Social Media let’s your customers do the talking for you.
  • Social media shares elements w/journalism: Who, what, where, why, how. Formula for getting the full story on a subject.
  • World has moved form 6 degrees of separation to 2 thanks to social media
  • Conversation about your brand will happen without you being aware or taking part…. you might as well listen.
  • Whoever earns trust, wins

Best Practices:

  • SOCIAL MEDIA DOES NOT EQUAL DIGITAL MARKETING – Social Media is 2 way communication (interactivity, conversation, dynamic growth), marketing is one way communication (forced/push marketing, print, billboards)
  • Good social media is about the 4 E’s: Educate, Excite, Engage and Evangelize.
  • Monitor, Engage, Respond.
  • Have a clear plan – where do you fit and how can you add value to your guests and social media. But you have to be prepared to manage the conversation. It’s not a campaign, it’s a commitment.
  • Bake social media DNA into everyone in the organization
  • You wouldn’t put someone behind the front desk without training. Don’t put someone in social media without training
  • Guest services should respond to social media just like email or phone calls.
  • Real time recovery is vital to hospitality’s use of & engagement w/social media – the internet is fast and speed is key.
  • It’s not about you the brand, it’s about them – about being available & listening
  • Non participation is akin to ignoring customers – a lost opportunity to engage, learn and make amends.
  • Social should live across departments like PR, cust svc, marketing, etc. It becomes “something everyone does” like email.
  • You can become pen pals with some of your customers thru social media. good way to build relationships, brand ambassadors (time consuming)
  • Using persona’s to identify your average customers is useful – but be real, be earnest, be transparent, and have fun.
  • Utilize effective management to maintain productivity, instead of limiting massively effective tools for business (social media being banned in the workplace)
  • Social media can be a very powerful recruiting tool
  • Use analytics & monitoring tools: Omniture, Cision, ReviewAnalyst, eBuzz, Revinate, Radian6
  • Social Media should be fun with the appropriate tone of conversation.
  • Manage Social Media both from corporate and property level – “Speak in the tone of the medium”
  • Blogs bring value to SEO efforts
  • Best ideas are often driven from the bottom up. Always listen to your front line people!
  • Experimentation is the key to social media success. Fail cheap, fail fast.
  • Social media is not free. Someone has to own, monitor, track, analyze etc.
  • The Return is on customer engagement, and ROI may take some time.

II. Facebook


  • 100 million people now using Facebook mobile app at least once a month (how many are exploring brand pages?).
  • 56% users check Facebook each day
  • 48% of people talk about products on Facebook
  • 5 billion posts of content from Facebook per week


  • “Facebook will remain relevant because of its privacy controls” (- My rant: I wholeheartedly disagree – twitter inherently allows the user to opt out of privacy, so the user is quite aware of what they are entering into.  Buzz is similar in this respect.  Conversely, Flickr VIGOROUSLY champions the right of privacy & ownership, so does Tribe.net.  Facebook is constantly altering their architecture so as to potentially generate constant cash flow.  These attempts at creation of revenue wholly disregard the individual users’ privacy & bungles the process constantly, while adding layers to a flawed structure/network that is based off of non-meaningful geo-connections.  Connections, of course, should include *immediate* social circles, but the strongest connections are based off interest, not educational institution – which pits classmates across broad socioeconomic and political backgrounds into similar social circles.  The preceding line is precisely why Facebook *could* eventually fail. The sky is not falling, and the landscape is changing constantly… but until Facebook figures this out, their dominance is tenuous.  You cannot create a solid network based off of “loose interests”.  Topics/Subject matter drive content creation, and content creation drives social networks.  There can be no meaningful brand interaction in “loose interest” networks – there is limited opportunity to get the network effect started around brands if one user who likes you suggests your brand to a user completely foreign to it’s necessity or disinterested in it’s existence).
  • I voice constant concern about Facebook – is the conversation meaningful? Do they book?
  • Facebook pages for brands as a “fad” was brought up, many disagreed with the concept.

Best practices:

  • Instead of attempting to create a new social network, connect with an existing one: FB connect picks up that slack – interactivity is at leisure of user. Facebook connect allows published content and comments on both your website and Facebook. Helps build engagement in both places. Travelmuse received a 30% increase in membership from using Facebook Connect. One of the best ideas was this – “It’s easier to buy access to someone else’s audience than to try to build up your own in order to market to them”
  • Add a booking widget, customize the tabs and cross-integrate your Social Media channels (connect but do not auto-post – remain native)
  • Tag FB pages w/Omniture(Analytic) tags to help measure ROI
  • 5 Essential Apps for Your Business’s Facebook Page
  • Competitors’  followers should be at the top of your list of who to find & target
  • The Facebook ads that work best to grow a fan base show the user their “friends” that are fans, and has a “Become A Fan button” on it.
  • FB doesn’t always grab people not coming to your hotel, so it is often better used locally. FB pages work GREAT for F&B, spa (incremental revenue).
  • FB apps can best be seen as complimenting a good FB marketing campaign instead of the center of it
  • (I just started realizing the mapped network of facebook pages creates a tighter community online if you connect – try to get as many local businesses to highlight your page, and vice versa. Creates a stronger local presence overall.)
  • Create “status questions” (what are you doing today?) so you can check engagement and how often guests interact/check-in with you.

III) Twitter


  • Michael Perhaes with MGM Grand said Twitter is 5x more effective than email for us, & GM Grand’s Twitter customers have higher ADR than email customers (someone suggested this as savvy, but honestly I would imagine a savvy consumer to find a lower price?)
  • 600 tweets per second


  • If you’re going to make money, Twitter must become a transactional platform at some point
  • Twitter is the new flight attendant call button
  • Twitter drives revenue, no doubt about it.  Twitter = ROI, Facebook = idle brand chit chat.
  • Young kids don’t trust it, and think it’s for old people or fame seekers

Best practices:

  • Twitter is not a direct marketing platform
  • Twitter can be used as an R&D tool
  • Uses “extended” shelf space by having multiple twitter accounts to represent brand :chef pages, nightclubs, hotel, spa, etc. Multiple Twitter accounts for multiple audiences
  • Consider integration with API to expose what is tweeted about your brand (like highlighting reviews, it does suggest letting go of message)
  • Even if you do have a group of people working on social media, don’t forget to tweet (fb/blog) with personality – be a real human voice & be real – but be transparent, be consistent,
  • Separate conversation – promotions, customer service, etc should be separate Twitter accounts so as not to confuse (this is debatable depending on your brand)
  • competitors’  followers should be at the top of your list

IV) Geolocation / Mobile


  • Google estimates 50% of web traffic to come thru mobile devices w/in 5 years (if that doesn’t blow your mind, re-read it slowly, twice).
  • 240 million people mobile browsers in 2010, surpassing PCs for first time
  • 100 million people now using Facebook mobile app at least once a month
  • According to a recent comScore report, 30.8% of smartphone users accessed social networking sites via their mobile browser in January 2010, up 8.3 points from 22.5% one year ago.
  • Access to Facebook via mobile browser grew 112% in the past year, while Twitter experienced a 347% jump.
  • 1 in 3 mobile search queries have local intent
  • Mobile Shopping to balloon to $119 Billion by 2015


  • Morgans Hotels tagged NYC airport codes on Foursquare during recent blizzards, ran ads, & generated some sales.
  • Are iPhone apps a “flavor of the month”? Or should you just develop a good mobile-optimized Web site?
  • Geolocation tools like Foursquare mark a significant shift in social-real time interaction – it’s valid, useful information
  • hyper local = search + social graph + mobile + your location
  • Impressive: Morgans Hotel leverages themed twitter hashtags, 4Sq hotel checkins, Artist Generated Content and analytics tools
  • Location-based marketing will be a trend. “It’s clearly good.”
  • Adding hotel rates to Google search results enhances relevancy of listing – mobile access & booking to skyrocket. One thing, however, is that rates in Google maps is customer friendly, but maybe not so great for suppliers (link to maps blog post here: http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2010/03/experiment-to-show-hotel-prices-on.html)

Best Practices:

  • You got me. I think, again, I defer to Del Ross from ICH – “Experimentation is the key to social media success. Fail cheap, fail fast.” But frankly, FOCUS ON IT. I would be willing to bet my name that it’s worth limiting some Facebook time to interacting with Foursquare.



  • What we are after (and trying to define)! *or* “No clear, easy way to track back social media ROI” says panel, “An attribution model has yet to be developed.”
  • Forrester Research says it is a way to enhance relationships with customers, build brand, help hiring & recruitment, engage in customer service, and helps to build employee morale.


  • If social media goals are not clearly communicated, how do u know what “good” looks like?
  • If you aren’t paying attention to conversation about your brand, who is? A different ROI – Return on Ignorance
  • Interesting perspective on generating demand vs conversion in social media. Examples: FB = demand, Yelp = conversion
  • Will virtual cash become taxable? (It apparently already is, in some places.)

Best Practices:

  • Social media is not free. Someone has to own, monitor, track, analyze etc. It is ROCS – a return on customer satisfaction in early stages
  • Measurement involves many different goals, not just sales. Overall revenue, room nights (Hilton’s ROI measurement) are just two of them.
  • Southwest measures SM ROI by: employee satisfaction; ratio of cust compliments to complaints; new signups; conversions.

VI) User Generated Reviews / Content


  • Their data shows that people believe online strangers to friends and family in regards to reviews, user generated content. Expedia
  • Travelers search 20 different sites when planning a trip
  • 44% of online travelers trust other travelers before commercial advertising
  • 32% of Yelp reviews are 5-stars. Only 15% are 1- or 2-stars
  • TripAdvisor has 32 million reviews and gets 16 new contributions every minute.
  • TripAdvisor gives less weight to older reviews than newer in terms of ranking
  • Content submitted to TripAdvisor at its start 10 years ago is still on the site. There are no plans to remove those.
  • Management response to critical reviews more important than review content according to Tripadvisor research
  • TripAdvisor says an average traveler reads about 30 reviews
  • Only 4% of hotels respond to tripadvisor reviews


  • By being confident, taking ownership, & being enthusiastic, authors have altered or taken bad reviews.
  • Immediacy of customer feedback on mobile posed to change how companies use social media
  • Online Reviews allow satisfied customers play “ambassadors” of your business
  • Negative reviews play an important role too, you can’t please 100% of the people 100% of the time
  • it’s better to join the conversation than not. Reviews can go from 3 to 5 stars because of this

Best Practices

  • Be humble, be swift, be specific – How a hotel property responds to criticism says more about them than the criticism itself
  • By replying to reviews, you humanize the brand – it’s less of a place to complain & more about commerce
  • Every negative comment is an opportunity to turn around the relationship, and create a long term brand centric consumer.
  • Bad reviews are exciting to highlight, celebrate, and learn from. Great marketing opportunity. Your reaction is vital.
  • responding is never a knee jerk reaction #smtravel they take a LOT of thought, editing attention. Good impulse control – required quality for persons chosen to respond to customer comments on social media

VII) Takeaway & Important Thoughts

Stats/”Subjective Facts” 😉 :

  • Social media is about relinquishing control
  • Google estimates 50% of web traffic to come through mobile devices w/in 5 years
  • Investing money in search visibility reduces need to spend money elsewhere.
  • If anyone says they are a social media expert, they are lying to you. We are all learning and failing constantly.
  • For every 1/2 sec improvement in landing page download speed, you can increase page views 1-3% (content heavy, uber-marketed sites are going bye bye)
  • User Generated Content (UGC) is the 21st century’s word of mouth, and your new brochure – and you’re not the one writing it. your customers are your new copywriters (Jennifer Davies, Expedia)
  • Virgin will soon have 3 FTE people handling SM. Hilton has 1. Southwest has 6.
  • The new big three in travel = Brazil, China, and India. New travel up 50% in recent years.
  • People under 30 use email only to talk to you if you are over 30, or to talk to brands/companies (suggests the data… there are exceptions to these facts)
  • Social media matters, but does not replace traditional channels. One in four travelers are not on social networks
  • People want to connect, people want to share: this is what drives social media growth


  • Ignoring social media today is like ignoring Google in 1999.
  • Customers no longer search for news & deals — they want the deals to find them
  • It’s a conversation, not a broadcast. Be authentic, honest, transparent.
  • Think about shaping conversation, not controlling it
  • When social media relationships become “real” they become private & go offline
  • Social Media is most powerful when integrated directly with the product
  • Work with your competitors to create a “trend” for media coverage
  • Social media is not a “nice to have” anymore. It now must be a part of an integrated marketing strategy (but it isn’t just marketing, and it isn’t just a strategy)
  • It’s easier to buy access to someone else’s audience than to try to build up your own in order to market to them
  • Consumers want you to engage with them in social media, but only when and where they want to hear from you.
  • Not sure contests are meaningful so much as getting endless non brand centric people following you for free “stuff”. Free stuff followers are not as useful as brand followers.
  • “Social Media builds employee morale” was a concept that came up a couple times during the conference.
  • You don’t market what you want to say. You market what your customers want to hear.

Best practices:

  • Social operates on a shoestring at most brands – requires empowerment, education and training to succeed
  • Not all social media programs are the same.
  • It’s important not to isolate social media for the organization; you need to immerse your business in it. It’s everyone’s job…. it shouldn’t be just one person.
  • Make conscious choice for structure – do not do the easy thing and lump it with PR or Marketing
  • Use everything as an opportunity for learning – Don’t overreact to customer comments
  • Flickr, YouTube good social media for hotels to use for customer engagement. Visual content very importnat for hotels (and has SEO value too)
  • Leverage existing social networks and influencers – go to existing communities instead of wasting time and money building one (Facebook Connect, for example, expanding between brand site and “vibrant” community).
  • Consider a dedicated page on your website for social media – Hard Rock Hotel has one full page dedicated to all social media & review sites. To shatter industry benchmarks, it’s essential to bake your SM strategy into your site. Consider your market – go to where they are and engage them. Morgans Hotels has whole website section dedicated to music
  • Employees can take brand message, localize it, and put their personality behind it. – participation FUN for employees! Don’t just throw a bunch of rules at them.
  • The days of content heavy & marketed website are changing – they go to review sites and then go to the hotel site for booking. Consumers don’t trust pretty, over the top, content laden sites.
  • By utilizing closed loop promotions you maintain parity with OTA’s.

VIII) HHOTELCONSULT’S Action / Implementation

For FB:

  • Add booking widget, customize the tabs and cross-integrate your social media channels.
  • Add analytics tracking wherever you can to gauge success in raw data form
  • virtual gifts/money (First 10 to post get a comp glass of wine, and then after posts say the deal is the free glass has to be for a close friend… be tricky, have fun, get creative)
  • Leverage Facebook Connect when possible.
  • allow management to post changes, updates, pics
  • Birthday related offer?

For Twitter

  • compartmentalize social media campaign by having smaller departments reach out – multiple twitter accounts across all hotels for different reasons – chef, F&B, sales/banquets, spa (whichever works or would be viable)
  • add analytics tracking
  • integrate/allow management to post changes, updates, pics
  • Reached out to influencers at smaller groups – 500-700% ROI from inviting “influentials” to a tasting
  • Twestival?
  • Birthday related offers?

For Geolocation:

  • Research about Gowalla, Twhrrl, others we can possibly interact with?
  • Create Foursquare Mayoral Advisory Board
  • Foursquare deals/offers
  • Flash mob or Swarm Badge opportunity?


  • local tweet map on site mashing up tweets with brand mentions, associated conversations
  • have one dedicated social media page per hotel
  • If you offer discounts, info, events, etc online, make them “Facebookable” and “Twitterable”


  • Be creative – Morgan’s printed QR codes on cocktail napkins
  • showing OK Go on YouTube $100,000 spend to sponsor video – less than 3 weeks 10 million views on YouTube. Press exposure
  • Fairmont launched dedicated Presidents Club forum on FlyerTalk in July ’09. Now has 412 threads; page views >200,000

Follow Up Questions (endless, frankly – and I WANT TO HEAR YOURS! What didn’t we talk about that you wanted to talk about?):

  • I would like to chat more about HOW, & not WHAT: how to integrate API’s, how to interact w/mobile-geolocation, how to implement facebook connect, etc. Check out mobile hotel app – Smart Stay
  • Contact morgans about themed hashtags – Morgans Hotels tagged NYC airport codes on Foursquare during recent blizzards, ran ads, & generated some sales.
  • Live streaming video & webcam opportunities?
  • Is creating a list of your hotel’s followers on twitter necessary?
  • How do you use FB connect for one small hotel?

About Michael

10 Responses to “#SMTravel Conference Mashup – Hospitality/Travel/Tourism & The Current State of Social Media”

  1. Del Ross

    Well done and very welcome summary of the conference. Thanks for this work – I will shortly be refering lots of newbies and wannabes to it as a kind of primer for getting engaged with Social Media. (Veterans will benefit as well!)

    – Del

  2. Brian Hayashi

    Mike – what a great compilation. Saves me a ton of time and much friendlier than that darn Hootsuite embed. While Hootsuite does a lot of things right I’m disappointed that their technical team seems disinterested in getting ow.ly links to work consistently with mobile browsers.

    I compiled an A-Z list of #smtravel participants at http://twitter.com/#/list/connectme/smtravel
    I didn’t realize @SusanTravels was compiling a list, mea culpa. Susan Black is an awesome resource and I hope you voted for her at

  3. Jackie Raccuglia

    This is a great and wonderfully detailed recap. Nice to see almost the entire conference tweets at-a-glance and the very cool commentaries’ compilation. Great job!

    This is my 3rd year attending the conference and I have to say there is still so much more to learn from each other and having spent yet again such good quality time with the geeks, gurus and newbies is just priceless.

    Keep passing along the great knowledge, insights and ideas obtained from the well respected speakers. I am sure all who attended are not likely to forget anytime soon!


  4. Katie Morse

    Hey and thanks for the Radian6 mention! I saw some of the chatter coming through when the conference was taking place and it certainly looks like it was full of great content and a bunch of smart speakers.

    Katie Morse
    @misskatiemo | Radian6

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