May 2010 Developments - (Page 64)

Trends ARDA Brings Social Media into Spotlight Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, and More ill a huge fan base on Facebook enhance your brand image? Will posting resort videos on YouTube turn leads into sales? Does the potential for negative feedback deter your business from having a public conversation? There is a buzz in the industry about how social media will impact our marketing efforts. A recent survey shows that 61 percent of respondents believe that social media will provide tremendous opportunities for their business.* But there is a lot to learn! Where should you start? These are some of the questions that were discussed in two recent venues sponsored by ARDA: the Social Media Symposium in January and the Marketing and Sales Forum discussion at the 2010 Convention in March. ARDA brought together social media experts with some of the best marketing minds in our industry to share insights, ideas, and best practices. If you weren’t one of the few hundred attendees at either event, here is a brief recap of what was discussed, as well as a look at what ARDA is doing overall with its social media effort. W Social Media Symposium Held in Orlando, this half-day event began with presentations by Peter Yesawich, chairman and CEO of YPartnership, and Professor Sree Sreenivasan, dean of student affairs and digital media professor at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. “Social media today is like TV in the 1950s,” according to Sreenivasan. “We are still waiting for color and CNN to be invented.” He encouraged the “pioneers” in the audience to get active and stake a claim in this industry. No one owns the timeshare space on any of the social media channels. In fact, of those who are chatting about timeshare online, very few have followers or fans. Since it is so early, it’s difficult to quantify return on investment, 64 but it’s important to recognize the cost for not being involved. Social media shouldn’t be thought of as just another broadcast channel but rather as a way to listen, to talk, and ultimately to sell. It’s important to have a clear strategy and to employ the right tools for the right targets. LinkedIn may be a great way to recruit and keep up with professional partners, while Twitter may be the best avenue to quickly offer a rental discount for an upcoming week. Both speakers reminded the group that this effort should not be “all about sales” but rather a way to create real fans that will carry that word-of-mouth marketing for you. Harnessing the power of true fans that will defend your reputation and promote your product will drown out and cranks and naysayers over time. Yesawich noted: “Nearly one-third of people surveyed write on-line reviews about their travel experience.” So, understanding what people are saying on TripAdvisor and in the blogosphere is crucial to managing your reputation. The speakers were followed by a panel discussion, “Putting it All Together,” moderated by ARDA President & CEO Howard Nusbaum. He was joined by Yesawich, Sreenivasan, and Frank Ioppolo, COO and general counsel of Market Leverage, a marketing company. They were quick to point out that there really are no “experts” in this area yet. It’s a learning experience for everyone at the same time. They agreed that “marketing speak” won’t work here. It’s all about being authentic—being too “scrubbed” will backfire. Transparency is important and anything that looks too pure will arouse suspicions. Listening to the customers in blogs and other forums may be difficult when they have something negative to say. But it’s a real opportunity to engage with them, fix the problem and create an evangelist for your brand. Taking the time to understand their issues will go a long way in providing that authenticity and dialogue that successful social marketers embrace. At the same time, the speakers cautioned the audience about becoming too emotional over critical responses or negative comments. While your business will ultimately have to determine how to respond, many times a naysayer can be diluted just by hearing back from the company that they appreciate their feedback. Use it as an opportunity to test out effective responses. The biggest barriers to better social media engagement for companies surveyed is the lack of resources (54%) and the lack of knowledge or understanding (50%).* One way to gain that knowledge is to begin investigating the top sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Set up accounts for yourself and start experiencing the challenges and opportunities within each. But remember, this is a rapidly changing world. Luckily, you can get breaking updates and tips from Sreenivasan at his Web site, Sales and Marketing Forum The Sales and Marketing Forum at Convention built on many of these same topics. The session began with a lively presentation by Andy Sernovitz, CEO of GasPedal Consulting and author of Word of Mouth Marketing. During his general session keynote presentation on Monday afternoon, Sernovitz had described the importance of word-of-mouth marketing, referencing the “five T’s” as its main components. During the Forum, attendees delved into three of the five: Talkers, Topics, and Tools. Sernovitz directed attendees to discuss concrete applications for each of the three areas in the resort industry. Developments • May 2010

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of May 2010 Developments

May 2010 Developments