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You may have noticed that Google has started using data from Google+ in search results. For a user this is intriguing and potentially useful - it personalises your search experience.
For brands it begins to explain the benefit you can get from Google+, as well as showing how you should make the most of the opportunities that it offers.
There has been much written and discussed in the last few weeks about Google+, Facebook and a desire (often more than a reality) for a rivalry between the two.
The truth is that they are very different: one is an intelligent, network-based sharing-and-discussing tool and the other is collection of different tools that users pick and choose from to curate their own experience. These tools become important to the success and survival of Facebook as does every brand that creates a reason for people to use Facebook.
Social media and the travel industry have a rich heritage, from reviews to personal blogs and photos. But much of the mainstream use social media in the travel industry is confined to marketing and PR.
There is great benefit to be gained from focusing in these areas and some great work being done by brands. However there are many other areas across the business where social could be used, from innovative use of data to using location to provide a real service to customers when they are away.
Not social media marketing, more social business.
Many brands are nervous about letting people engage on their behalf in social media; and their nervousness is often well-founded.
They think of cases such as the Nestle Facebook page, where the person managing the page on behalf of the brand lost control of the situation; generally they fear that people will say the wrong thing, to the wrong people at the wrong time.
This leads to policies that are about controlling and restricting use of social media, whereas the ideal would be the exact opposite.
There is a temptation to think that negative reviews are always a bad thing for a brand. Some of them definitely are, but it's much more nuanced than that.
Recent stats suggested that between one and three bad reviews would deter 67% of customers from a purchase, but not all negative reviews are bad for businesses.
As a recent example from a US cinema shows, context is all important.
Gamification is not new to social media, but it seems to be one of the key terms for 2011 with presentations, reports and analysis making claims about the proportion of brands that will have 'gamified' in the next few years.
There is a real danger of confusing this trend with social gaming (Farmville and the like), and of thinking that it's all about brands making things more fun. The real benefit of gamification is about understanding how users behave, what motivates them, and using techniques that reward them for doing things that ultimately help you achieve your aims.
Using social media in the financial services industry always challenged by the restrictions of internal risk and compliance processes and by external regulation.
How do you use social media in an environment where you can't promote your services, advise people or identify customers? And where you need archives of your communications, long approval processes and where information may become out of date?
For many the answer is to not use social media. But Morgan Stanley has recently announced a different approach - actually encouraging their advisers to engage people on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Social media is a 'top eight' driver of traffic for 78% of travel sites according a recent study of the "digital competency" of travel brands, with airlines and hotels dominating the leading brands in the study.
Perhaps more interesting is the fact that people are as likely to return to social media after they have visited the site. Travel sites are part of a social media experience online and brands should do more to capitalise on this behaviour.
Facebook is a social network, yes, but it is also a communication tool. Which is why it makes sense to add "voice" to the platform via a deal with Skype.