As the Olympics get underway, fans have a lot of options to engage online. Many popular sites on the web are involved in a variety of ways.
Google allows you to take a virtual tour of the Olympics in 3D. They recently released updates in Google Earth's 3D Buildings layer, which showcase Olympic venues (54 buildings). Models range from downtown event centers to ski lifts and spectator bleachers. The Official site for the Olympics uses the models itself.
Vectoral Elevation has "an interactive artwork" that allows users to direct light beams and transform Vancouver's skyline until the end of the month using a custom interface built on Google Earth and Map APIs. It lets users design big light sculptures by directing 20 robotic searchlights located around English Bay.
The Traveler Confidence Report Shows Significant Increase in Intent to Travel in 2010. http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=75787&p=irol-news&nyo=0
Social networking now accounts for 11% of all time spent online in the U.S. http://bit.ly/a1eMK8
Stat of the day: Google sites account for 40% of US online video views. Hulu, ranking 2nd, accounts for just 3%. (comScore)
A Search Engine That Relies on Humans
By JOSHUA BRUSTEIN
Published: February 4, 2010
A report this week laying out a strategy for social search has been getting a good deal of attention in tech circles. The paper, “Anatomy of a Large Scale Social Search Engine,” was written by Damon Horowitz and Sepandar Kamvar of Aardvark, one of several companies working on creating social search engines. As of October 2009, Aardvark had about 90,000 users.
Social search aims to connect people with questions to people who can answer those questions. By contrast, regular Web searches take questions, break them into keywords, and then find Web sites that have the most relevance to these keywords. The idea has been floating around tech circles for years. Yahoo, among others, has tried to develop social search as a way to challenge Google.
The idea has gained momentum with the increased use of Twitter and Facebook, where people rely on their networks for information, blasting queries to their social networks and, if their networks are good enough, getting useful, personalized responses. Aardvark and competitors like Mahalo are trying to create better tools for people with questions to connect to people with answers. There are some people who think social search has the potential to go beyond Google and fundamentally change the way people use the Internet.
Indeed, the authors draw a parallel between their report and another that the founders of Google published in 1998, “Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Search Engine,” which hinted at its own paradigm shift. The paper described a prototype of the Google search engine, which is based on the theory of reading hyperlinks and other data to determine how relevant Web sites were to a user’s search.
Aardvark uses various factors to identify who it thinks are the best people to answer a question, then poses the question to them. Among the things it tries to determine are the expertise a potential answerer has about a subject, how closely connected the two people are, and how quickly the answerer is available.
From a technical standpoint, Aardvark’s task is easier than Google’s. As the tech-news blog TechCrunch put it, “On Google, when you type in a query, the engine has to pair you up with exact websites that hold the answer to your query. On Aardvark, it only has to pair you with a person who knows about the topic — it doesn’t have to worry about actually finding the answer, and can be more flexible with how the query is worded.”
But there are also some significant shortcomings to Aardvark’s approach. Getting answers through social search requires someone else to do something, so it cannot produce the instant gratification that comes from typing something into a Web search box and watching a page of results appear. For Aardvark to be successful, it needs to enlist the participation of competent answerers. (Aardvark says that more than half of the questions posed received an answer within 10 minutes.)
There is also the question of whether or not to trust the answer one gets through a social search. How do you know if the person who answered your question is qualified to answer?
Social search will not replace conventional search, say its proponents. Instead, it will become another tool for Web users, like other specialized search tools such as Wolfram Alpha. Aardvark said in its blog post:
We demonstrate that there is a large class of subjective questions — especially longer, contextualized requests for recommendations or advice — which are better served by social search than by web search. And our key finding is that whereas in the Library paradigm, users trust information depending upon the authority of its author, in the Village paradigm, trust comes from our sense of intimacy and connection with the person we are getting an answer from.
Mac Slocum wrote on O’Reilly Radar that another factor — the increased use of mobile computing — may be the final piece of the puzzle for social searches. “Mobile search has to be concise and targeted. Results that emanate from a trusted network of friends and associates certainly fit that bill,” he said. “Toss in more geolocation features and improved speech recognition, and the utility of mobile-based social search could get really interesting.”
Aardvark’s report gives an idea of what niche it sees social search filling. For one, mobile Aardvark users are more active than desktop users. Questions on social search also tended to be more complex and more subjective than the average Web search question. As for the issue of trust, the closer a responder was to the questioner’s social network, the more likely the questioner was to be satisfied with the answer.
According to Aardvark’s report, the most common questions being asked are restaurants and bar recommendations, product reviews and help, local services and travel. And, as with all new buzzy technologies, a sizable chunk of the questions people are asking are about Aardvark itself.
Hotel Amenities – what fun little discoveries! There is usually a hotel amenity that people look for when they get to their room; or it could be an amenity that left an impression, was unexpected or simply made you smile.
During a recent Lodging Interactive meeting, our crew began chatting about these amenities. We had a lot of fun, so we thought it would be even more fun to start a discussion and include everyone!
To make it a bit more enticing, the first of every month we'll pick a winner of the best posting. That lucky person will win a $50 American Express Gift Card!!
Visit: http://www.facebook.com/LodgingInteractive and join the Discussion
PARSIPPANY, NJ, February 2, 2010 - Social Media engagement techniques and benefits are all about creating interest and engaging with people online that share a common interest with what you talk about on your social media pages. As a hotelier, you need to talk about more than just your hotel. It’s about your location, events, guest reviews and questions and so much more. An occasional special promotion or a holiday promotion is good, talk it up, but consider a special offer just for your followers. Try to get feedback so you know what actions you can generate to get the results you want.
The social media world is commercializing overnight. The number of hotels on Facebook and Twitter is growing every day. The challenge facing all hotels is how to engage consumers so they become guests or share their praise for your hotel with their network followers and fans. It’s really about knowing all your hotel’s market segments and how to reach out to each segment with a provocative message, survey, specials exclusive to your followers and follower contests.
It is important for every one of the hotel’s management and staff to know about your social websites and to follow what your followers contribute. You need to make your social media pages are public and invite guests, business associates and suppliers to follow you. A neglected social media page will do more damage than good, so keeping it current and fresh is essential. An active social media presence will also help the hotel's search rankings and exposure.
Here again, just like search marketing over the years, the question is to outsource or try to do it in-house. Most hotels have learned their staff is not up to the task of creating and managing effective search and social marketing. These are important marketing elements today and they will be even more important in the days and months ahead. Search marketing will deliver short-term results while social marketing is an investment in long-term results, but when done right returns will materialize from an effective viral network.
Social media is not a fade and it will not go away. The social networks will find ways to generate income and grow their services. Going forward, we can expect to see more social networks and segmentation of the current social networks into sub-networks, along with more blogging relationships. This one-on-one supplier to buyer relationship will put more pressure on the suppliers to deliver. We all know that you can’t satisfy everyone all the time, but if we don’t know how to engage consumers online, we are unable to join the conversation and add two new customers for the one we’ve lost.
For the hospitality industry, it is all about providing the best service possible because if you don’t, over time it will affect your business. Social media is a tremendous opportunity for independent hotels to challenge the cookie cutter standards of the brands and it is an opportunity for the brands to reach their loyal followers with more cookies.
As the Internet has evolved over the past 15 years and the search engines took control of website traffic over the past ten years, those businesses that get onboard with social media early are the ones that will build their relationships and viral networks that will pay off. With social media, it’s about what all-good service businesses do best; know who your customers are, what they want and deliver.
For information on how Lodging Interactive’s CoMMingle Social Media Marketing Service can help your hotel, please visit www.CoMMIngle.me or call 877-291-4411.
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