My wife relaxing at a property we found through Social Media
I’m very much looking forward to speaking at the International Conference on Travel Technology India
in June next year.
Hosted by the Association of Travel Trade Organizations India, the event is a first-of-its-kind travel and technology conference
in the country, and will examine how the travel industry there can leverage Social Media and Internet technology. I am delighted that the organisers asked me to speak at the event.
The idea behind the three days, is to help hotels and tour operators to learn new and innovative ways to market, sell and generate business through the Internet. It will also assist tour operators and travel agents to adapt to new trends online, and also act as a platform for Travel Technology companies who have developed new software and mobile applications to showcase their products and innovations.
It’s clear to anyone how technology is changing the travel industry – particularly in terms of how we find, assess and book long and short breaks locally and overseas. Just a few years ago, finding a holiday destination could take many hours sitting in a characterless travel agent’s office in your local high street. Choice of hotel and destination was usually fairly limited, and often your selection of location and venue came down to the experience, enthusiasm or knowledge of the travel agent you happened to be sitting with that day. Yes, one person and perhaps their supervisor could end up being the people who could make or break that year’s hard earned vacation.
Today it’s very different. Indeed, the world of travel is one of the industries most changed by technology and the Internet; I don’t think I can even remember the last time I set foot in a travel agent’s or tour operator’s office. From booking a taxi, through to arranging a wedding in the far off land of your dreams, it can now all be done with a few clicks of a mouse on your screen or a few swipes of your finger on your mobile device.
No longer do you have to rely on the recommendation of a spotty part time Saturday boy in your local travel agent; reviews, videos, maps – everything you need is at your fingertips to help you make your decision and to book and pay with ease. And if you fly with one airline, you can even choose who you sit next to on the plane simply by calling up the other passengers’ Facebook profiles. Two years ago, I had my own experience of how technology is changing the travel industry in a quite unexpected but dramatic way.
My family and I had booked two weeks vacation in southern Spain. We had found and rented (online) a lovely villa and arranged the flights separately with easyJet. A hire car would speed us from the airport to the property.
As the day came closer before we were due to fly out, we started to notice news reports on the TV of forest fires which were raging in an area near to the property in which we were staying. My wife and I nervously joked that it would be a terrible shame if the villa we were staying in would be affected by the fires.
As the days went by, we joked less about it as we watched Spanish fire-fighters struggling to gain control over the blazes, which were now enveloping a wider area of the region.
And then sure enough, seven days before we were due to leave, the property owner sent us an email saying that the worst had happened – the property had been destroyed by the fire. Indeed, many people had lost their homes – not just their holiday homes. To be precise, the property owner said that the house was still standing, but the garden and surrounding countryside was ash. Other than that we were still welcome to stay at the property!
We politely declined and thanked the owner for his offer of returning the money we had paid and wished him well. That left us with easyJet flights for four people that we were unable to reclaim on the insurance because they had been arranged separately from the villa.
With a week to go until we were due to fly out, we wondered whether we might find a replacement property in the region that was a) available at this late stage (and in peek time during August) and b) not yet ravaged by fire.
I took to Google and searched. And searched and searched, but to no avail. There seemed to be no properties at all that were still available and any hotels were either unsuitable or full. And then, as a last resort I thought I’d search in a different way – using Social Media
. After all, statistics were starting to show that the number of visits to Social Networking sites were gradually overtaking the number of visits to Search Engines. Maybe real people out there on the Internet might know of a property that was available at this short notice? It felt unlikely, but worth a try.
So I posted messages on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – plus on my own site at IFA Life along the lines of “Does anyone know someone who happens to have a villa in southern Spain available for a family of four in two weeks’ time?”
Helpfully adding “…with a pool and access to a range of nice local restaurants.”
Even as I typed it out, I realised how unlikely it would be to find something.
And then to my amazement, after just thirty minutes of posting the message, I had three responses. One from someone I knew and the other two from members of my own website – who I didn’t know personally but with whom I had previously connected online.
Twenty four hours later I had five responses in my inbox. One of the properties couldn't have been more perfect (see photo above). Not only was it available, but it had just been refurbished, had a massive pool and the owner even offered us a discount if I could take a few photos for his forthcoming website where he would be promoting the property. Within a couple of hours, we gratefully accepted his kind offer and the rest is history; a perfect holiday was had by all, local villages, bars and restaurants were frequented and we had made new friends.
As I said at the start of this blog, the idea behind the International Conference on Travel Technology India event, is to help hotels and tour operators to learn new and innovative ways to market, sell and generate business through the Internet. Like in a lot of industries, many travel companies around the world will see Social Media as another way to push its destinations out to a wide audience who increasingly travel through cyberspace.
And because Social Media is perceived to be so powerful, many businesses simply can’t resist using it for sales and marketing. Yet, time and time again they will discover that Social Media is even more powerful when used to listen to people
– rather than to push and sell to people.
Social Media is increasingly being used by us all as a search tool, and we tend to favour results we receive from real people
who care about helping us.
Now that the Internet dominates how people find, review and assess everything from holiday destinations to hotels, restaurants and flight operators, I’m looking forward to sharing a variety of ways for the delegates at the International Conference on Travel Technology India to use Social Media to listen to and to engage with consumers online - and to further enhance their customers' vacation and travel experiences..
India, here we come.
By Philip Calvert
Such is my social whirl that I've been to two parties in the last two weeks. Neither were formal dinner parties; the group of forty-something invitees spent both evenings lounging around the kitchens of our hosts, beers and wines in hand and engaging in social chit chat around kids, sport and... Social Media.
So whilst we were socialising face-to-face, we were also talking about socialising online. Pictures were duly taken on iPhones, posted to Facebook and hangovers were Liked and shared the following day.
Pretty well everyone in those kitchens was on Facebook, but many admitted being a little bored with endless pictures of cute kittens, puppies (my own puppy included), baby rabbits and inspirational quotations. And we’re just weeks away now from endless photos of Christmas trees...
No, it seems the forty-something employee or business owner is looking for somewhere a little more ‘substantial’ to do their online socialising, and it turns out that LinkedIn is ticking the right boxes for many of them.
Out of all the party goers, only one was actually looking for a new job, so why would LinkedIn increasingly be their online party venue of choice? After all, whilst LinkedIn has evolved into a powerful real-time networking platform, there is still much about Facebook that is highly appealing.
To start with, by the time we get into our forties, many are making good progress in their career or are building their own businesses. Either way, they now see LinkedIn as their default search engine when looking for information about people they are about to meet at work or potential partners, suppliers or clients in their business. And yes, if they are looking for a job, they can use LinkedIn for that too.
And every day we’re spending more time on LinkedIn. Even in my own niche of Social Media Sales within regulated industries where many people are still figuring out the benefits of ‘Social’, we can quite clearly see them spending more and more time on the site.
'People buy people' has always been the sales mantra, and most of us now 'get' that an attractive, compelling, intriguing online profile is essential in today's Internet world. Indeed, many of us are discovering new things about the professional lives our fellow party guests - and we love it. Yes, we’re still intrigued by their holiday snaps on Facebook, but we’re increasingly intrigued by their professional activities, their business skills, where they came from and what makes them tick.
I already know that my friend Brian adores his tennis (he tells us about it ad nauseum on Facebook), but what I only recently discovered is that he's an ace copywriter and has a background in graphic design.
Serena posts pictures of her chickens almost every week, and love her as we do, I might soon be tempted to go round there and stock up my freezer. But again, a quick voyeuristic glance at her LinkedIn profile tells me plenty that I didn't know. Guess what, she used to be a forensic accountant until she gave it up to start a family.
And what about Mike who adores his gadgets and his golf and his gardening? Turns out that in a former life he used to be a fighter pilot and is still qualified to fly light aircraft. He has some inspirational stories to tell.
I've known Brian, Serena and Mike for several years, but I didn't know anything of their work/business skills. I've never needed to; they have always been just mates I meet at parties or in the school playground; they’ve certainly never been part of my business circle.
So armed with this information, what can I do with it?
Quite apart from giving me a more rounded knowledge of my friends, I can now use it in my networking and can potentially connect them with people who might need their skills. But most importantly it shows them in a new light – one which adds flesh to the bones of the relationship we have on Facebook.
And right on cue comes a new feature on LinkedIn called ‘Skills Endorsements’, where at the click of a mouse we can say how much we acknowledge and appreciate our contacts’ skills (even if we haven’t actually experienced them); a kind of professional version of the Facebook ‘Like’. The very excellent Chris Voss describes it as ‘the gamification of LinkedIn’, and it wouldn't surprise me if we soon see more features which make LinkedIn more fun and engaging. After all, games were one of the key drivers of Facebook...
I for one am enjoying seeing more of a human touch appearing on LinkedIn profiles, where we get to see more of the people behind the masks. However well optimised your profile is and however high up the search results you appear, you still need to stand out from the crowd to win the business, make the new connection or get the job.
Appearing high in the search results is soon not going to be enough; to be attractive and compelling to future employers, potential business partners and new clients, we’ll need to learn how to be significantly more engaging online. Our profiles will need to be infinitely more than a resume with a few endorsements of our skills; and employers, business partners and customers will want to see much more of the person behind the skills.
Whilst LinkedIn is yet to have the mass appeal of Facebook, with a little care, thought and imagination we can make it a real asset in our online lives – and still have fun too.
By Philip Calvert
It's not long now until Social Media Week - 24th to 28th September 2012.
In the organiser's own words 'Social Media Week is a worldwide event exploring the social, cultural and economic impact of social media. Our mission is to help people and organizations connect through collaboration, learning and the sharing of ideas and information.
In the past few years social media has shown us the true power of what a connected society can accomplish. Over the next 10 years, 3 billion new people will connect to each other through the Internet and mobile technology - more than three times the number who are currently online.'
One of the core themes of my conference speeches and presentations, is that despite our love for the Internet and the acres of column inches that are written about it and Social Media, we still don't really appreciate just how much it will eventually impact our lives - at work, home and play.
We are already starting to see this happen, with many companies and industries being profoundly impacted by the Internet. Some have their heads buried firmly in the sand, refusing to acknowledge that everything is changing - rapidly and on a daily basis. All too soon, the day will come when they wake up to discover that they have no more customers because they no longer have a product or their service is no longer relevant in an online digital world.
On the other hand, sharp-eyed entrepreneurs and Internet-savvy companies of all shapes and sizes can't contain their excitement at the opportunities that are starting to emerge.Social Media Week
has a vision of helping people and organisations to connect, learn and share ideas by focusing on collaboration, content and conversation. A phenomenal schedule of events has been put together, with seminars, workshops, presentations and meet-ups taking place in key cities around the world, including Barcelona, Berlin, Bogata, Chicago, Glasgow, Hong Kong, Jeddah, Los Angeles, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Torino, Vancouver and London.
I'm delighted to be taking part in a small way, and during the week I'll be training a private company on how to use and leverage LinkedIn, plus also taking part on the 26th in an official Social Media Week event The Secrets Behind Social Content
- hosted by the Content Creation Collective in London.
It's taking place on board the HMS President, which is a permanently moored ship on Victoria Embankment, and an amazing venue for meetups. If you are a blogger, author or involved in creating content, then please do sign up. Details here
If you are attending the Content Creation Collective on the 26th, please come and say hello - or tweet me at @PhilipCalvert.
I took this of the Olympic road race just outside Shere in Surrey
As London and the world reluctantly get back to work after the amazing Summer of Sport, commentators are reflecting not only records made on the track, but records made by the Olympic and Paralympic Games themselves.
Record levels of tickets were sold, and demand for tickets exceeded all expectations. But many people are also staggered at how Social Media came into its own over the Summer, with more tweets and Facebook posts about the games than ever before.
In many ways that’s hardly surprising because users of Facebook and Twitter have increased significantly since the Beijing 2008 Games. Nevertheless, the conversational nature of Twitter brought an additional human dimension to coverage of the events. I also enjoyed seeing countless photos of families and people I know posing at the Olympic Park – with many of them striking Usain Bolt’s now famous pose.
And we didn’t hold back with our use of Social Media. According to Twitter, there were 150 million Olympic related tweets sent over the 16 day period, with Usain Bolt’s 200m victory alone seeing 80,000 tweets per minute. What’s more, 40% of all Britons online visited the official London 2012 website, which is an incredible number whatever way you look at it.
And according to figures from Neilsen, the London 2012 Games featured in 19% of all Social Media conversations on 27th July – the day of the opening ceremony. There were also more tweets about the Olympics on that single day than during the entire duration of the Beijing 2008 Games.
The point of this post though is not to spout statistics; we can take it as read that Social Media played a massive part in enriching the overall experience of the games.
But for me, one of the most valuable ways that Social Media ignited the Games, was how it connected athletes to ordinary people. Before the Games, there were stories that athletes were going to be banned from tweeting and using Social Media, but right from the moment that they started checking into the Olympic village we knew that we were going to be treated to wonderful behind-the-scenes glimpses into their world.
What was particularly heartening for me, came at this week’s special parade of athletes in London. Many of our new Olympic and Paralympic heroes were interviewed by radio and TV, and it struck me how many of them said how amazed they were that people – many of them children, had been inspired by their performances, and that through Social Media they had been able to express that directly to them.
Nicola Adams was the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal for boxing and is now widely seen as a role model for a new generation. Nicola told an interviewer that people had tweeted her saying that "she had inspired them to take up sport". And Jason Kenny the track cyclist said that people had been tweeting him telling him how excited they were that they had just bought a new bike.
With all the talk about which Brands had won Gold in the ‘Socialympics’, it was great to hear the human side of how Social Media played its part in the Games – connecting people to each other and to their sporting heroes.
And that surely is what Social Media is all about? (There’s a clue in the title: Social.)
Many of the Brands sponsoring the Games gained many new followers, but also failed where it really counted – engaging with people. According to Unmetric (a social benchmarking company), despite posting almost 11,000 times (the highest of any sponsor), Coca-Cola were failing to engage followers - whilst the most engaging sponsor was Omega, who posted just 37 times.
There’s a lot to be said for the numbers game and having a high number of followers, but ultimately it’s what you do with them and how you engage with them that really counts.
As to whether you can truly inspire them and change their life is another matter entirely.
This little boy (my son Ben) had his day/month/year well and truly made yesterday when a Blue Peter (the world's longest-running children's television show) badge turned up in the post, complete with letter from the BBC thanking him for the great effort he had put into drawing a picture of one of the presenters.
I also received a Blue Peter badge when I was a similar age and I can still remember feeling that it was a mark of true recognition (along with the Cycling Proficiency badge) which I happily showed off to my friends.
My wife managed to top both of us, because she proudly boasts a Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award. I got a letter from Valerie Singleton, but she got one from HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. We’re hardly competitive at all in our family...
In today's world of Facebook and Social Media, recognition is all too easy to dish out. With the click of a mouse we can tell people that we like photos of their new puppy, we like photos of their dinner, we like their witty remarks, we like their rants at politicians – we like everything and anything.
Brands adore Likes. It’s the new measurement of how loved they are; advertising agencies dream up ways to attract Likes for their clients – they even run competitions in exchange for Likes. The world wants to be liked.
Putting the psychology of wanting to be liked to one side for a moment, whether you are a brand looking to increase sales or an individual building a career, recognition from our peers is becoming increasingly important, because if you are online in any way, shape or form, you are more visible than ever.
People, customers, prospects, future employers get to see you in more detail than ever before. They see how you conduct yourself, they get a sense of your expertise and they get a strong feel for your personality. Like has become the currency of reputation.
How likable are you online?
I came into my office today and smiled. Not just because it’s the start of an exciting new week, but because the room has a lot more space in it than usual.
That will be the big clear out that I had over the weekend, when for the first time in my thirty four year career, huge quantities of card and paper were removed from shelves, shoe boxes, plastic stacker boxes and ‘filed’ in the circular filing cabinet.
It’s not that I’m a hoarder; no, this was stuff that I just had to keep. But over the weekend I finally let it go.
The material that headed for the recycling facility was my collection of literally thousands and thousands of business cards.
Before I became self-employed, I worked for a number of large financial institutions in Sales. Over twenty five years in Sales and Key Account roles, I averaged ten meetings with prospects and clients every week. I also attended every conference, every industry exhibition and had developed a technique for collecting audiences’ business cards after every seminar and conference where I was speaking.
That resulted in a massive collection of business cards. In fact, I didn’t stop collecting them when I went self employed. At that point I started running several seminars each month and was speaking at even more events, so my business card collection grew even faster.
It goes without saying that a large business card collection can mean a very large list for your newsletter, and that can mean a truly valuable prospecting list. And if you enjoy networking then a large collection can make networking almost a full time occupation! But it was this collection which formed the foundation for my own social networking site, so it proved to be valuable in its own right.
One observation I had, was that in the financial world where I was collecting these cards, the turnover rate (i.e. people changing jobs and companies) seemed very low. In fact, a quick look through the cards over the weekend showed that many people whose names were on cards I was given twenty/twenty five years ago are still there. In many cases the logo and name of the company has changed (due to takeovers and endless reorganisations), but a lot are still in a similar role and at the same organisation. And although a lot of people had changed companies, they were still in my card box – still a part of my network.
But all of a sudden technology has changed things. Over the last five years, I’ve experimented with various business card scanners and devices, all of which have promised to make my life a little less cluttered and a lot more organised. Most of which have done nothing of the sort. A lot of names on cards ended up as Contacts in Outlook and more recently in Google Apps – but essentially they are still just names on cards – whether on paper or kept digitally. They’re static – they don’t live and breathe.
It has been since I’ve been running workshops and consulting on how to use LinkedIn that I realised that I now, finally, no longer need to keep those business cards. Why, because the overwhelming majority of those people are now on LinkedIn and other social networking sites – where not only do I have a simple record of their name and company, but I can now get a much more detailed sense of who they are, what they are about, their areas of expertise, what they’re doing, what projects they are working on, where they are in the world – and much more. They even let me know electronically when they change jobs.
In fact, their online profiles are telling me much more about them than I had ever known in the first place when I originally met them face to face. Many of these people had great reputations in business in the ‘real world’, but now they are developing reputations in the ‘online world’ too.
But a word of caution; if you had a great reputation in the real world, it does not necessarily follow that you have a great reputation in the online world. In fact some people’s online profiles (particularly on Facebook and Twitter) tell people a lot more about them than perhaps they had intended.
Social Media enables and empowers people to highlight their expertise and their personality to the world and reputation matters. It always did and always will; don’t get too carried away with the visibility that Social Media gives you – think carefully about what you want people to see and experience about you.
The relief was palpable and like a weight off my shoulders when the business cards headed for the recycling via the shredder. But I was also relieved that every single person is still part of my network and still just a click away.
Where is your network – in a card index on your desk or dead and buried in a box on your office floor? Or living and breathing online?
Tip: If you can’t yet get your head round finally ditching your business card collections, check out LinkedIn’s cardmunch app which enables you to scan a card and connect with them on LinkedIn – all in one process. It’s a really neat way to integrate your ‘real life networking’ with your ‘online networking.’
Want more help and tips to leverage your profile and generate business from LinkedIn? Click here
Yesterday I did something quite special.
I sat outside the Mill Inn in Aldeburgh
having a pint of Adnams
in the sunshine at lunchtime while I watched my children Ben and Izzy cycle around in front of the fishing huts by the Moot Hall. The Moot Hall dates back hundreds of years.
What's special about what I was doing, was that I was doing exactly what my Dad Brian did when I was Ben's age. I remember cycling round the Moot Hall with my Mum and Dad sitting in the same spot watching me.
Now what's special about that, is that my Dad's Mum and Dad did exactly the same thing when my Dad was Ben's age. They sat in the same spot outside the same pub watching young Brian mucking about outside the Moot Hall too.
It felt good.
I then told this short story to my friends on Facebook, and was amazed at the positive response to it. One person said it was "the best thing he had read on Facebook in a long time"
. Another said "Things like that make you realise what's important in life"
and other similar comments.
I love Facebook and all the other Social Media sharing tools where every minutiae of life can be disclosed to anyone who cares to read it. But it's the personal stories of real life where I believe it comes into its own.
Not everything that happens in life needs to be shared on Social Media, but where personal stories with real context are shared, they sure do pluck at the heart strings.