As the definition of Web 2.0 continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, companies across all industries, including the hospitality industry, must be limber enough to play a game where the rules and the dynamics change practically every day.
This Washington Post article highlights some of the opportunities and pitfalls of online word of mouth marketing, via sites such as Twitter and Yelp. The article starts out by mentioning the class action lawsuit against Yelp for allegedly running an extortion scheme by telling businesses that if they advertise with Yelp, negative reviews will be sifted to the bottom of the pile in favor of the cherry-picked positive reviews.
The underlying implication is this: for as much faith as we place into the seemingly democratic world of social networking, all may not be as it seems.
The part of this article that struck me as most fascinating was on page two, about halfway down. While one interviewee, the founder of a digital PR firm, states that everything put out online is transparent and verifiable, a Nielson executive cautions that anything put out online can be manipulated. Clearly, those two viewpoints do not easily reconcile. It is the inevitable clash between the ‘old’ school of thought and the ‘new’ school of thought.
The more important question for companies whose reputations are staked on online word of mouth—and the hospitality industry possibly has the most at stake, since sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor are some of the most eminent of these online word of mouth sites, and they center largely on hospitality—is, “How much trust do consumers actually place in these sites?”
Because the amount of time and resources invested in any given such site, of the thousands or even millions out there, depends largely on how wide the reach is and who the reach is. Ironically, this is not entirely unlike Nielson’s measurements of TV viewership informing how and where companies spent their TV ad dollars—back in the pre-TiVo and YouTube days, that is.