User Generated Content: Trust and Relevancy Remain Elusive.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon ~ Web In Travel
Wednesday, 1st April 2009
How do you make user generated content pay as a business and how do you convert it from a nice-to-have value-add to solid lead generation?

Those were the key questions asked during a panel at PhoCusWright@ITB on "The Perfect Social Travel Guide", moderated by Kevin May, editor of Travolution.

It is clear that the economic crisis has put more pressure on social travel media models and most are striving to see how they can move to a more lead-generation and ROI-driven model.

For example, Jerome Touze, co-founder, director and co-CEO of WAYN-Where Are You Now?, said that with display advertising budgets getting slashed, in some cases by 50%, he would like to move from advertising to one that's more about lead generation and ROI-driven such as "how many rooms and flights sold?"

"Without leads, most social media becomes repetitive."

Sebastian Heinzel, CEO of tripwolf, agreed that UGC is a luxury "unless we use it smartly to increase lead generation".

The crux of the matter though is, as Diarmuid Russell, acting global online director, Lonely Planet Publications, put it, how do you do it without alienating your communities. "There is a balance between meaningful reviews and commercializing it."

The other challenge is how to make reviews relevant and meaningful to the customer, that is, the perfect social travel guide should be one that has the consumer trust.

Touze said with so many reviews out there, "how do you make it relevant to you so that you can read only those of people like you? We are not at that point yet."

Russell said while people were now figuring it out for themselves, "at what point does this become useless?"

"There needs to be some level of quality and expertise so that people can trust you."

Asked what's the next big wave in UGC, Russell said there was a need to get better at factual information. "We need more opinionated comment which is personality-driven, content that's got both facts and personality."

Said Touze, "The question is also how much is  good community user worth? It depends on how engaged they are. Twitter is getting traction but there is no business model but they will find a way to make it. The next big thing? The value of engagement and the value of the content."

www.webintravel.com - October 20-23, 2009 Suntec Convention Centre, Singapore
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