Archive for July 2010

Using social media in the travel and leisure industry

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One sector that is really embracing social media is the travel and leisure industry. And it is an industry well suited to social media and online communities - people share an experience or situation and this provides a reason for them to connect and engage with each other (and with a brand). We have seen some great uses commercially from companies like Marriott and InterContinental and Expedia but social media really works well in the travel and leisure industry when it is used in real time. In the latest FreshNetworks Video, Matt Rhodes describes three areas where this works well:

  1. For customer service - Social media is a great customer service tool - not only does it allow you to connect with and engage customers online, but it also means that when you solve one query you do so publicly for all to see and for all to share. This winter I was skiing in the French Alps this winter when snow back in the UK  caused a halt to most of the flights leaving Geneva for London. I knew that Easyjet were using Twitter, but rather than tweet them myself to ask if my flight was going I saw that somebody else already asked the question and I could see the response. Saving me from having to ask the question and Easyjet the hassle of having to respond to the same question multiple times.
  2. For real time experience capture – Social media is quick and easy making it the perfect media for allowing people to express the way they are feeling in the moment, which does not always come through if you are writing a review after the experience has finished.
  3. For real time information sharing – Holidays and stays don’t always got to plan and things change: the weather, the times, the traffic etc and so social media is great for being able to transmit information in real time.

See our video post on Social media in the travel and leisure industry below.

Social commerce - the future of e-commerce?

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shopping_trolley

We’ve written previously about the value of social shopping and how it can benefit online retailers,  and it seems that the issue of social commerce has risen to the forefront of e-commerce strategy discussions again.

Social commerce involves the use of social media, in the context of e-commerce, to assist with buying and selling products and services online. It includes features like customer ratings and reviews, user recommendations and referrals, social shopping tools and online communities.

While social commerce has existed for some time now, with brands like Dell claiming to have made $6.5m (£4.2m) from computer sales via Twitter since 2007, social commerce has become a major point of strategic discussion for online retailers again because of 2 reasons:

  1. Facebook announced it will shut down the Facebook Gift Shop next month in order to prepare for the launch of its virtual currency,  Facebook Credits, possibly as early as September. Facebook Credits will initially allow users to pay for virtual goods such as games, but will eventually let them buy anything. It is expected that Facebook will take a 30% cut of all transactions.
  2. FMCG giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) has started selling its Max Factor brand cosmetics through Facebook .

Michael Nutley, editor-in-chief of New Media Age, rightly points out in his Marketing Week article that these two approaches to social commerce take social media a step further by bringing the ability to purchase what’s being talked about on the social network within the network itself.

Etailers are more than aware of the fact that every page they ask customers to click through to results in a drop-off in numbers of people who convert, so the strategy employed by P&G is a clever one in that it brings the checkout to the potential customer, rather than the other way round.

It’s this ease of purchase, in combination with the persuasive buzz and consumer-driven product discussions that will have been generated on the social networking site, that’s likely to increase sales.

So is social commerce the future of e-commerce? Will etailers move more towards using Facebook or their own branded online communities as a direct space for selling products? It would be interesting to hear your thoughts.

David Cameron’s India trade mission and FreshNetworks

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On Republic Day, i went to Muthukadu, where ev...
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We’re full of excitement as our co-founder, Caroline Plumb, is off to India with David Cameron as part of a UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) delegation to promote UK exports and investment in India.

As Caroline will be representing a social media agency, she will be promoting the use of  social media technology for businesses - an area  in which the Indian business community seem to have already made good headway.

Caroline’s invitation to join David Cameron’s delegation to India is an exciting prospect given that India has topped a recent survey about businesses who use social media for new customer acquisition.

The survey, commissioned by workplace solutions provider Regus, revealed that 40% of businesses around the world have successfully leveraged social media for new business development.

India topped the chart for the country with the highest percentage of companies using social media for new customer acquisition, followed by Mexico and then Spain. Rather surprisingly, only 35% of US companies and 34% of Canadian companies have successfully leveraged social media to develop new business:

  • India - 52%
  • Mexico - 50%
  • Spain - 50%
  • Netherlands - 48%
  • China -  44%
  • South Africa - 43%
  • Germany - 41%
  • Australia - 41%
  • USA - 35%
  • Canada - 34%

With 67% of companies in India also using professional social networking to source information about new customers, clients or competitors, compared to the global average of 54%, it seems that Indian businesses are leading the way in implementing a social media strategy that successfully helps with new business development.

Business leaders in each country were also asked whether they believed that social media was an effective enough marketing channel to be awarded its own portion of marketing budget. More than a quarter of businesses worldwide confirmed they have set aside a proportion of marketing budget specifically devoted to social media activities, proving the benefits of social media for commercial organisations.

More about David Cameron’s India trade mission

David Cameron will be accompanied to India by six Cabinet members and around 60 CEOs, including Michael Queen of 3i, Philip Dilley of ARUP, Andrew Moss of Aviva, John Varley of Barclays,  John Griffith-Jones of KPMG, Graham Mackay of SABMillar and Vittorio Colao of Vodafone, as well as our very own Caroline. You can see the full list at the link below.

Foreign Secretary William Hague, Chancellor George Osborne and  Business Secretary Vince Cable are also among the British government representatives travelling to India.

Read more about David Cameron’s UKTI delegation to India.

Why is Facebook such a success?

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Our last post looked at Facebook’s announcement yesterday that it had reached 500 million users. A huge number but it should not be mistaken as proof that Facebook is now ubiquitous. However, Facebook’s growth is impressive both because of the size the social network and the way it has grown when alternative social networks have been less explosive.

Yesterday, I appeared on BBC News talking about exactly this issue. Amongst the many reasons why Facebook is a success (and I’m sure that an element of luck and good timing is, of course, in that mix), I explain why I think two things have made a real difference:

  1. Having some really good products that have helped people and change the way they connect with people online. Most notably the photos product - by allowing an easy way for people to share photos and associate people with the photos they are in (through tags) they have created a powerful tool that many people use. In many ways Facebook is to photos what YouTube is to videos.
  2. Making it really easy for people to set up their own groups. For individual users this means that their experience of Facebook is often made up of their connections and the groups of these that they are part of. It is a huge social network made up of lots of little groups. This second point is great for user created groups but adds to the reasons why Facebook is a difficult place to play for brands and is not always the answer to their social media strategy.

Below is the BBC News piece from yesterday that I am interviewed for, we’d love your thoughts on this and why you think that Facebook is such a success.

93% of the world is not on Facebook

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The Social Network

The Social Network

Facebook will today announce that it has reached 500 million users. This number is incredible, and perhaps even more impressive is the rate at which the social network is growing. Just five months ago they had 400 million users. The site’s user base has grown by 25% in less than half a year. Incredible stuff.

The problem is that huge numbers like this can stop us from examining them in more detail and acknowledging what they don’t tell us as much as what they do. It is true that Facebook usage is growing at an incredible rate and large numbers of people use the social network. But let’s not get carried away by this. In some countries, Facebook is not the most popular social network - in the Netherlands it is Hyves, in Brazil Orkut and in Russia Vkontakte. In other countries social networks are not yet the main way that people interact online - they use message boards, forums, blogs and other social media tools. And, of course, in other countries still they use of social networks is very low.

There are many comparisons made about the user base of Facebook - from how big Facebook would be as a country to how many people are joining each day. But a statistic that isn’t often cited is this:

  • 93% of the world’s population is not on Facebook*

This is, of course, a slightly unhelpful statistic - it considers the whole world population whereas it might be more interesting to understand what percentage of the online population, or perhaps the population who use social media are users of Facebook. It also belies the fact that in some countries Facebook usage is very high indeed. But it is no more unhelpful than many of the statistics and comparisons being made. It does, however, shine the light on the fact that, whatever we might think and however impressive these numbers are, Facebook is not an all-encompassing social media tool. It does not reach everybody and it is not right for us to use.

Brands thinking of their social media strategy can all too easily think that Facebook is the answer. And all too often it isn’t. Everybody isn’t on Facebook and Facebook isn’t the right place for all brands to play. In fact there are often many other more suitable places. Big numbers are impressive, but they shouldn’t blind us from a sensible, business aims-led approach to using social media.

* The 93% figure uses data on the current world population from the US Census Bureau - this will no doubt have inaccuracies, but it’s more about illustrating a point than mathematical accuracy this time around!