The Future of Social Media, Part One – Consumers Trust No One…Except Themselves

[This is the first part of a three part series this week about the near future of social media, and what it means for hoteliers.]

The next three years - just like the last three years - are going to be full of landmark changes in the Internet itself, and the ways in which humans relate to the Internet at large. Social media, even as a constantly repeated and oft-misunderstood buzzword, describes the diversity of Internet technologies that enable humans to relate information about themselves to the Internet. This definition goes beyond Facebook and Twitter; social media encompasses almost any piece of user-generated content generated by individuals - blogs, review sites, and specifically socially-focused technologies such as Twitter, Tumblr and Foursquare.

In the near future, social media will grow to further dominate the way humans interact with the Internet. At the same time, the “information chaos” that has been created by this movement towards user generation will be simplified by technological advances in information management. Finally, the business world will continue to gain acceptance of the fact that, in order to make money, firms have to engage in an active, social media-based conversation with customers.

The presence of socially-focused technologies in the last few years has been the most recent step in an ongoing process: the physical world is becoming inextricably intertwined with the digital world. There are now over 700 million users on Facebook, and that number still continues to expand at an alarming rate as more of the world forms their social lives within the network.

With the development of Web 2.0, we’ve seen humans participate in the Internet ecosystem not just by socializing, but also by generating information. But information on the Internet is not a one-way street; it is a conversation. Users are now valuable generators of information, and are trusted by other users. In the future, they will continue to share and generate more content about the physical world, in review sites, on blogs, on Twitter etc. They will also continue to place more trust in other content-generating users in the digital world, viewing their opinions before they even glance at traditional advertising copy. Other users who do not generate content will begin sharing, increasing the number of voices present in the ever-growing conversation of the Internet.

For marketers, it’s essential to know how your customers find out information about your business. In the hotel space specifically, this means that potential customers are going to find out most of their information about your hotel not from your own website or advertising copy, but from what other users like themselves are saying. Online travel agencies (OTAs) and review sites are at the forefront of this trend, and form the backbone of the way consumers trust their own kind the most. Just look at TripAdvisor's own logo - it implies that it's a tried-and-true, consumer-trusted source in the slogan "Get the truth. Then go."

In the next part, we’ll explore what these changes mean for you, as a hotelier. Stay tuned, and feel free to add your own voice to the conversation in the comments!


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