"The What, How, Where"

Social Media Best Practices

Archive for June 2010

What the Hospitality Industry Can Learn from Hostels

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Like many experienced career professionals, I’m hitting the road this summer. (according to Hostelworld, the 30+ crowd makes up 20% of their bookings). In my case, it’s to learn how Europe is approaching social media. Due to limited funds and the need for interaction with other travelers, I’ve chosen to stay in hostels for the majority of my trip.

If you’re not familiar with hostels, they’re typically a dumbed down version of a Motel 6 where you bunk with other travelers in your room. The advantage is they’re low-cost and have resources needed for backpackers (storage, internet, breakfast).

In the last decade we’ve witnessed numerous improvements to our lives including DVR, Smart Phones, Social Networks. I’m also pleasantly surprised that hostels have improved as well. Here’s how:

1- Reservations are completely automated

During my last tour in Europe (Summer 2001), I relied on Lonely Planet and Let’s Go Europe guide books to find accommodations. It’s no small challenge when you’re trying to find a hostel in Paris around Bastille Day (I wound up calling 40 places to find a bed, though it’s the spark that got me interested in sales). Since guides only come out on a yearly or bi-yearly basis, it was a challenge to find updated properties. The good news is this has changed and services such as Hostelworld, Hostelsclub or Hostelz are search engines to find rooms, even for last minute accommodations.

2- Reviews are in Real Time

These sites make it easy for members to share their experiences and rate hostels in almost real time. I can see numerous reviews on potential hostels from the last few weeks. Because they ask for feedback, I can see numerous reviews for potential hostels from the last few weeks. After each one of my stays I receive a short survey e-mail.

3- Strong Integration with Social Networks

According to Aisling White of Hostelworld, since their audience is on Facebook/Twitter they need to be there as an organization and have taken steps to fully integrate with these sites. What’s different is they don’t focus on the hostel, but rather the destination where members can share/discuss/collaborate. So it’s taking the environment of a hostel to the virtual world. Best yet it’s forming a community of like-minded people (i.e., if I see someone heading to X destination, I can establish a relationship, seek advice, or even travel with that person). The goal is not to push content out, but pull information in so their members can share experiences.

4- Strong FREE or low cost WiFi networks

What’s often a challenge during my hotel stays (note this does not apply to Four Points or Courtyard) is reliable internet access, even when you have to pay. Each hostel (no matter how dingy) has quick and reliable internet access.

So what can the hospitality industry learn?

When I’m looking for better accommodations or just need a break from the hostel thing, I turn to sites such as Kayak, Fly.com, Expedia, Orbitz. What I find challenging is reliable reviews and venue information. For example, I recently booked a hotel in Amsterdam. When researching venues I found some reviews dating back to 2001. Also, I couldn’t find where the location was near (points of interest, metro). These sites might want to take a page from the hostel industry by being more open and transparent. Allow for third party resources (external reviews) and focus on the destination, not just the property.

Also, sites such as Hostelworld and Hostelz are platform agnostic. They realize the social game is changing rapidly as their audience migrates to new sites such as Gowalla and Foursquare, as well as mobile devices

Benefits of paying attention to hostel marketing strategy

There’s a few reasons why the hospitality industry (not just hotels, but airlines/restaurants), need to pay attention to how hostels are approaching social media

1- They’re directly engaged with young travelers (18-24) (future customers)

2- People in hostels tend not to be leisure travelers but in it for the long-hall

3- Highly educated (Most have university students or have degrees)

In conclusion, it’s a great time to be traveling and with resources like these, it makes it easier.

Thanks for reading!


Iceland the Cashless Society

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I’ve been seeing lots of chatter regarding virtual currencies, location based social media incentives and monetizing your network, but what if we really went cashless as society? What would this mean and how would we do it? In spending time in Iceland, I see their model as one to emulate.

In one week in Iceland, I’ve found it unnecessary to complete a currency exchange credit cards (visa/mastercard, not American Express) is accepted everywhere. Here’s some of the more unique places

  • A fellow traveler I met in the hostel paid his speeding ticket (it’s 245 Euro should you be interested) on the spot
  • Chewing gun at a gas station
  • Daytrip hike

Here’s why it works in Iceland

  • NO transaction charges paid by consumer
  • Portable credit card machine for quick transactions
  • Most transactions as debit in nature
  • Iceland has the technology advances to support this (most digital country in Europe)

This has me thinking about why United States would emulate such a program

Benefits

  • Eliminate the need for the Treasury to print costly bills/coins
  • Allow for the government to collect tax revenue in real time
  • Give people the power to truly see their spending habits

Iceland is a highly educated (30% of the population have college degrees), forward thinking nation with a small population (b/w 280K to 320K). What works there won’t work in the US, but I do feel we can implement this

Challenge #1

Retailers will balk at paying transaction fees for low profit items such as a stick of gum

Solution: Set a min price where visa/mastercard/amex can start charging transaction fees such as $25. Credit card companies are incentived to get their customers to use their cards more, the logic being if they’re using a Capital One Visa card for a stick of gum they might for a new bedroom set

Challenge #2

Americans have far too much credit card debt.

Solution: Encourage consumers to use debit cards and offer realtime balance information before and after they make a transaction. Put limits on how much they can charge. Do not allow overdrafts.

Opportunity

With Smart Phone penetration approaching 50%, why night eliminate bulky credit cards and offer the use of cell phones to make transactions. Why not have visa/mastercard/bank apps that allow consumers to make purchases directly. This if environmentally friendly since instead of print paper, transaction information is processed directly in the phone. Social media companies/retailers benefit because consumers can instantly choose to share their purchases with their network.

These are just a few of my thoughts


Written by Derek Reese

June 5, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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Welcome to the Launch of What, How, Where!

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Welcome to the launch of the “The Who, How & Where” column. Over the next few weeks I’ll be examining social media from a European perspective.

  1. What’s their view on social media
  2. How are they approaching the medium
  3. Where do they think this is going?

I hope you enjoy this column!

Written by Derek Reese

June 1, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized