With the reach of digital overtaking that of large mainstream newspapers and given the additional advantage of cost effectiveness compared to traditional media, social media marketing is set to boom in India.

In a session on making money from social media, that was part of the Travel Distribution Summit India 2011 held in Mumbai today, digital experts shared various trends and how travel brands should leverage social media to enhance their business strategies.

Building clear objectives from social media that align with overall marketing and brand communication is the critical step to be taken before an enterprise decides to undertake a social media campaign, according to Mahesh Murthy, founder & CEO, Pinstorm. “Complaints are piling up online and companies need to do more than set up Google alerts.”

Costs of a digital campaign are currently between 1-10 per cent of traditional media programmes, he said.

Social is not about a Facebook app, said Ashok Lalla, president – digital, Euro RSCG, sharing his list of do’s and don’t’s. “Consumers do not want to talk to buildings and entities anymore so put on your name tags and join the conversation. A meaningful media stream is important online.”

In India, challenges, he said, such as legacy systems, silos and lack of integration across social networks continue to exist when it comes to engaging with users.

Real life success stories with social media such as Expedia gaining one million ‘likes’ on Facebook; Jet Airways’ usage of Twitter for delivering prompt customer service in India and Queensland’s ‘Best Job In The World’ campaign, that raked in a huge return on investment. Launched at a budget of $1.2 million, the campaign had an estimated benefit of $100 million, according to Hareesh Tibrewala, joint CEO, Social Wavelength, a Mumbai-based social media agency. The campaign involved inviting travellers to Australia to take care of the Great Barrier Reef in exchange for them writing and sharing their photos, videos and articles on their experiences with their friends on social networks.

Users can expect to see contextual search and more social features from travel brands, with the rise of traffic from social networks.

There are over 200 million Tweets published online per day; 341 billion websites on the Internet and 200 social media sites. Already, three to four per cent of Internet traffic to brand websites comes from social media, said Nikhil Ganju, country manager – India, TripAdvisor, quoting a PhocusWright study. TripAdvisor’s own Facebook app called ‘Cities I’ve Visited’ now has five million active users. The app was used in creating the next wave of social features on the website, that are being rolled out.

“Bringing content with a social layer will be the next step. Users will explore and discover online with maps,” said Balaji Ramakrishnan, co-founder and CEO, Verchaska. He offered the example of a search engine for travel called Inspireme.com, that displays travel related articles that have been shared on social media by your online friends.

Source: TechCircle

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