My selection of some of the best bits from last night's Travolution Question Time
Talking to communities in the right tone of voice? Air New Zealand wanted to talk to the WAYN community in a suitable tone of voice. "Larry Travel Guy" set up as a member and was sponsored as the member of the month by Air New Zealand. Larry is ANZ's marketing manager and this was clearly said, but he's also a man full of brilliant anecdotes, experiences and advice. So he now has 20,000 fans and whenever WAYN members are planning trips to New Zealand they are following Larry asking advice and the Air New Zealand site has seen some great traffic increases as a result.
Tamara Heber-Percy of Mr & Mrs Smith also pointed out the way that Hyatt was using Twitter as its concierge service and any question, no matter how tiny, can be answered by people who have booked one it its hotels.
Does user generated content fit in the booking process? Joel Brandon-Bravo of Frommer's Unlimited said yes. Research he's undertaken with EDigtal Research shows what information people want in the booking process and reassurance from others outside the brand is very useful. Orange head of community Mark Watts-Jones, was sharper: "don't mess with the booking process" he said. Give information at the right point, but keep the booking process as simple and clean as possible. Something like Twitter can create "an extraordinary amount of randomness" which he said is right in its place but not at booking.
What's the role of celebrities in social media? Joel Brandon-Bravo general manager of Frommer's Unlimited said he felt celebrities were a great way of getting people engaged in social media. He went on to Twitter to follow Steven Fry but found his tweets fairly dull and unfollowed. Mel Carson community manager of Microsoft Advertising said Ashton Kucher's recommendation to try a new website had crashed the site because it had driven so much traffic. But he also told a great story about rugby legend Will Carling who has 17,000 Twitter followers. Mel sent him a direct message on Twitter talking about his social media site Rucku.com and asked him if he'd speak at an event he was running. Three minutes later Mel's mobile phone rang and Will was on the line and did indeed come to the event.
What's the generational difference online? Generation Y - teens and early 20s are almost exclusively on Facebook and instant messaging. Generation xers - early thirties and above are on Twitter and blogs. But Frommer's Unlimited and EDigital research has shown that every demographic uses the internet in the same way and to the same extent to research their own holidays.
Evaluate, evaluate evaluate. All panel members talked about the need to obsessively evaluate all their online work. But only 20% of people in the room said they used any buzz tracking. Two years ago there were only 60 tools on Twitter now there are 11,000 applications, so services and tools online are also exploding. I'm absolutely loving Google Analytics which finally gives PR the holy grail of some precise feedback - links from coverage we've generated.
Mobile is again tipped as the one to watch this year. Jerome from WAYN pointed out that there are more mobile users than internet users in India and Africa. For emerging economies, mobile will offer the digital revolution we've seen online in the west. WAYN had 30,000 users in India a few years ago. It's now got 3.2 million and that's been a word of mouth growth.
The next big thing? The panel all agreed this will be something which integrates the multiplicity of platforms so one item of information can be communicated on any platform - Twitter, Flickr, blogs etc in one fell swoop
And finally for all those Twitter fans out there I'm going to now try Quitter - mentioned by Joel Brandon Bravo of Frommer's Unlimited. It shows who is unfollowing you on Twitter. You can even see what the last post was you made which caused someone to unfollow you. Scary. There is no hiding place in social media.