The Future of Social Media, Part Two: So Naturally, You’ve Got to Know Your Customer

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

With more voices in the “conversation” of the Internet, generating more content than ever, this veritable “information chaos” we introduced in the last post will grow. Yet in order for the Internet to continue working, the Internet will begin to reduce and simplify this chaos on its own. The focus in maintaining this chaos will begin to shift away from enabling users to find the most relevant information, as in a traditional search mentality. The focus will instead shift to encouraging the most relevant information to actively find the end user. The technologies around us on the Internet are collecting information about us all the time - what movies we like, who our friends are, where we like to eat etc. With this new meta-information about users, the Internet will increasingly be able to serve us the content we want based on who we are. Traditional query-based search will slowly become less valued as these new technologies become more intelligent.

Since humans and the Internet will continue to evolve, then naturally the way commerce happens will have to evolve as well. It will no longer be enough for a business to be merely present in the Internet environment to survive; they will need to rise above their competition by having more valuable and relevant interaction with that environment. In order to do this, they will have to be aware of the fact that their potential customers will not as malleable or persuadable as they used to be. Instead of shaping their desires with advertisement, firms that want the best customers will have to accurately read their target customers and give them precisely what they want in a service. And the only way to discover what they want lies within the glut of online content that users now feel completely comfortable with generating themselves. This again encompasses reviews, but also somewhat more essentially, every other social technology - such as blogs, Twitter, foursquare and so on.

So as a hotel or tourism service provider, what would your plan of action be? You now know that your best asset in this space is knowledge of your customer - and knowing what your customers know and trust in other online opinions. The next logical step, then, is to simply read through everything anybody says about your business on the Internet, right? That would take far too long. How about averaging out all of the review site’s scores to come up with a meta-rating, alike Rotten Tomatoes does for films? Neither are viable options, since the former is practically impossible, and the latter lacks solid qualitative data points as well as any analysis of the social media/blogosphere.

What are your options then? Short of making small improvements to your business, why do you need quality qualitative data about your customers? In short, it’s all because you need not only to respond in action to your customers; you need to respond in word, and to engage with them. We’ll discuss this in the next section, coming next week!


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