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Listening is not Enough: Gleaning Actionable Insights from Online Travel Conversations At the dawn of the 21st century, Greg Icenhower of P&G said,“We’ve been voted the best marketer of the 20th Century, but that’s because we were the biggest shouters. In the 21st Century, we want to be the best listeners.”1 Nearly ten years later, plenty of marketers are listening – it’s hard not to. Social media discussions – via Facebook, Twitter and other platforms – are full of peer-to-peer conversations, particularly around travel. 15% of these conversations are from travelers either seeking advice, or giving it2; turning to and trusting each other rather than travel brands themselves, for authentic advice. In addition, there is a “high” correlation between a customer’s experiences in the hotel and airline industries and the willingness to A)make another purchase from that provider, and B) to recommend that provider to others.3 And the phenomenon is global and increasingly mobile. By 2014, mobile Internet usage will surpass computer usage;4 and more travelers are using social networks via mobile device during their trips, with 37% of international leisure travelers saying they use mobile social networks.5

15% of global online conversations are from travelers either seeking advice, or giving it. (Wunderman Listening Platform, 2010, English language only )

Yet, despite the proliferation of social media use, and tools such as Radian6 and BuzzMetrics that enable brands to listen, an astonishingly few companies are actively listening – of 2,100 surveyed companies, only 25% know where their most valuable customers are discussing their experiences, and only 7% responding integrate social media into their marketing activities.6 Even for those companies that are mapping and integrating social media discussions, very few have any sense of how such efforts impact their bottom line – only 16% of marketers have any measurements in place for understanding social media ROI.7 By simply listening to Internet “buzz,” companies are not getting the most out of a revolutionary opportunity. With active listening, brands can quantifiably analyze what they’re hearing and where they’re hearing it, so that those insights can be made actionable, and those actions made profitable.

1 Fara Warner,“Don’t Shout, Listen,” Fast Company, July 31, 2001 2 Wunderman Listening Platform, 2010, English language only 3 ”Customer Experience correlates to loyalty,” Forrester, February 17, 2009 4 Mary Meeker,“Internet Trends,” April 2010, Morgan Stanley Presentation 5 ITB World Travel Trends Report 2010/2011, December 2010 6 SAS Press Release from The Premier Business Leadership Series, Las Vegas, October 27, 2010 7 HeBS Best Practices: 2011 Social Media Resolutions


Marketing to travelers starts with active listening Active listening has long been a hallmark of successful contact-center sales operations. Indeed, training inside call-center agents on active listening skills was one element of an effort that drove a 41% increase in sales conversion and a 31% increase in average order revenue for a technology client.8 Imagine applying the same skills to social media discourse. Social media gives us the largest database of unstructured consumer data that has ever existed, and it is continually evolving. From picking a vacation destination to booking hotels – all the way through to the in-flight experience – travelers are talking to and trusting each other, and taking action based on peer advice. Combine those conversations with the feedback travelers are giving directly to marketers through thousands of call center and email conversations, and you have an enormous amount of minable data.

The travel planning process is complex and presents multiple hurdles. Active listening can help identify opportunities that simplify the process for consumers.

Clearly, some carriers want you to Start thinking about Europe in the fall. Aer Lingus kicked off a fall Ireland airfare sale, the Lufthansa fal Europe airfare sale is up and running, and now Icelandaic is Offering fall airfare deals. We’re off to Italy in Aug and the cheapest seats seem to beDelta/KLM. The flights arecodeshared so they can bebooked through either company,but going through Amsterdam uses KLM equipment vs. the others using Delta equipment. Does anyone have an opinion on which would be better?

Look at the private suites on this airplane!!! I am excited for mytrip to Dubai next year. Enjoy SINGAPORE AIRLINES SUITES A380 VIDEO

Went to Chicago last week on old-tech American airlines. Next trip I’ll opt for wifi/ personal screen on @VirginAmerica or jetBlue

Love this JetBlue website. Navigation very simple and great.

Think I’m having the worst customer Experience right now with British Airways. I’m never buying flights from them again.

Why is it that when I’m ready to go on vacation the airlines have doubled their ticket prices from a month ago? Southwest doesn’t go where I wanna go and all the other airlines charge you for your bags. Who can go on a vacation and just take carry on luggage? Not me!

I’m going home Monday! Flying @JetBlue purchased my ticket earlier can’t wait to sleep in my bed...thanks @JetBlueCheeps Seat on flight #LH4225 Paris - Istanbul Lufthansa just rated 5/20

Blogs/Forums How social media platforms play different roles in the experience.

Clearly there’s a lot to learn from actively listening, and certainly the unstructured social and voice data is there, but unless a rigorous process is applied to categorizing conversation content and identifying key trends and correlations, the task can be an overwhelming and, ultimately, an unfruitful one.

8 Wunderman Client Case Study, Personal Computing, 2002


Making sense of travel conversations via active listening From building communities, to crisis communications, to offering discount fares and rates, many travel companies have established a social media presence via popular social channels such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. And while monitoring and responding to conversations within one’s own social channels is a natural first step, an exponential leap occurs when you begin to make sense of the myriad of travel conversations happening elsewhere, and the potential discovery of previously unknown venues where people are talking about your brand. There are four immediate opportunities that can come from actively listening to travelers’ conversations Opportunity 1: Categorizing and Benchmarking Topics Any listening initiative must start with a set of assumptions on what topics travelers are conversing about. As shown, this will likely range from upfront travel planning and destination selection, to the purchasing process, and finally the travel experience itself. Indeed, nearly 84,000 travelers Tweet about their airport check-in and in-flight experiences every month.9 A similar number Tweet about their hotel check-in and in-room experiences. And post-trip, travel forums like those found on Trip Advisor and Expedia give users the opportunity to review their entire experience, from start to finish. Where does your brand show up in these conversations? What key themes are most closely correlated to your airline, your rental car agency? What are fliers saying about your loyalty program? Your competitors’? Intuition will guide you to the likely starting points to examine, but we often find that the deepest insights come from unexpected topics associated with your brand – the “unknown unknowns.”

Over 83,000 tweets about the boarding and inflight experience every month. (Wunderman Listening Platform, February, 2011, English Language only.)

Opportunity 2: Mapping the Ecosystem The output from a well-executed listening initiative will identify the “Where” and the “Who” so vitally important to begin active listening. In what categories and specific domains and social media platforms are you and your competitors being discussed? Who is doing the talking, and how are others responding? Identifying content authors and matching their posts with comment counts, re-tweets, and other measures of engagement will begin to give you a list of who is most influential in any particular topic area. These influencers may vary widely based on the stage of travel planning they’re most aligned with. Overlaying reach data or network size with listening output tied to individual authors can provide your brand with a targeted list of real or potential brand advocates, as well as detractors. Similarly, mapping the key domains where these influencers (and those they influence) tend to gather is critical in targeting where your brand needs to participate in conversations. Again, this output will often bring obvious results – frequent fliers converse on sites like, but may also bring surprises – a significant amount of travel advice seeking and advice giving happens on domains like

9 Wunderman Listening Platform, February 2011


Opportunity 3: Measuring Sentiment Scoring “sentiment” in individual social media posts is, at best, fraught with pitfalls. Consider the following Tweet that was scored as “positive” by a popular listening tool: “Oh great, I’m on hold with [airline] AGAIN.” Sarcasm is one of the great barriers to accurate sentiment analysis, which is why human vetting of any single post is necessary before taking action based purely on scoring. That said, it is possible, with a fair degree of accuracy, to measure sentiment around a broader topic (like your hotel’s customer service) if there is sufficient volume of conversations on that topic. A better method, though, is to map attributes – whether they relate to customer experience, pricing, or any other measure, based on keyword proximity to your brand and your competitors’ brands. This typically requires deeper analytics than provided by most listening dashboards, butis well worth the effort. Data visualization of this type of data can bring quick insights that enable you to pinpoint areas that require closer examination. Opportunity 4: Assessing Topic Relationships Beyond focusing just on your brand and your competitors’ brands, social listening provides a window into the customer travel experience as a whole – from planning all the way through to the return home. Looking at how key themes and topics relate to one another in peer to peer conversations can yield surprising insights. For example, we recently looked at the pre-event discussions for a client in the entertainment industry. In addition to the expected themes of excitement and anticipation, we also found a lot of language around fear, dread, and remorse. The same may likely hold true for travelers – once a trip is booked, the expected emotional language “can’t wait to get to Jamaica!” may also be surrounded by anxiety around getting to the airport, keeping the kids in line on the plane, exchanging currency, and understanding local customs. Virgin Atlantic was onto something when they realized that the flight experience begins when the traveler wakes up at home on the day of departure – and thus began offering door-todoor service via chauffeured car to its Upper Class Service passengers. Understanding how the customer mindset manifests itself in conversations about pain points, needs, and wants can help bring deeper insight into your customers’ experiences.

A global ear to a global travel conversation Travel has become more global than ever, fueled by the globalization of business, growing migration, rising consumer affluence and the cost of travel more accessible to many. It is estimated that the total number of overseas trips taken by tourists from the top 15 traveling nations will almost double by 2020 from 433 million to 837 million.10 Actively listening to the global traveler requires a global solution like Wunderman’s Listening Platform, with the scale and scope to work locally, regionally and with geographic specificity. For example, an airliner seeking to cater to the emerging Chinese traveler could use the Listening Platform as a cost-effective means of gathering market insight including targeting opportunities, identifying unmet market needs, measuring brand awareness and understanding specific barriers to consideration and conversion.

10 Mintel Press Release, ”World’s leading outbound markets,” March 2006


For our global engagement with a large telecommunications company, the Listening Platform actively gathers and mines social media in 17 markets and 11 languages. Working with local in-market analysts, actionable insights are generated on a weekly or monthly cadence. For the North American market, the Listening Platform was leveraged to generate insights around consumer language, mindset and passion points for smartphone usage. The subsequent launch campaign helped to propel the smartphone to the top sales position for the carrier.

Connecting travel conversations to business outcomes Rationalizing investments in social media is dependent on the travel enterprise’s business goals, strategy and the key performance indicators that will be developed as an ongoing measure of success. Investments typically include the tools/technology and human resources.



Action Plan Creation




HOW Sentiment/Polarity WHERE Domains

Objectives & Hypotheses

Alignment between objectives and recommendations

WHAT Topics Topic Relationships




Data Filter Deinition Geo/ Language Filters Data Collection Data Extraction

WHO Influencers WHAT’S NEW Momentum


4 4



Loading De-duplication SPAM Removal Tokenization Word/Phrase Analysis

Taxonomy Creation Scoring

Listening Platform Tools & Processes

3rd Party Social/Search/ Voice Recognition Technologies

A well defined process can help clients connect active listening to business outcomes.


Unlike other solutions, The Listening Platform is not just a tool, as any social tool can collect data and generate reports. It is the interpretation and translation of data into actionable strategies and tactics that provides the greatest benefit to a travel company. For illustrative purposes, below are some potential marketing actions and business outcomes which can be generated from each of the four listening opportunities previously described: Listening Opportunity

Marketing Action

Business Outcome

Categorizing and Benchmarking Topics

Input to the creative and agency briefing process

Improved insights/ relevance/speed/cost

• Topic presence and significance • Competitive activity • Campaign propagation • Market trends

Example: Actively monitoring topic trending can enable an airline to proactively address FFP issues before they snowball, enabling immediate email and social media communications to address those issues

Mapping the Ecosystem

Influencer outreach

• Domains – where are conversations taking place • Influencers (reach, pull) • Influencers/domain sentiment • Participants – who are they • How this changes by topic

Media strategy – bought/owned/earned

Measuring Sentiment

Benchmark/measure propagation in key marketing themes

• Negative areas • Positive areas • Competitive opportunity • Effects of partnership

Assessing Topic Relationships • Consumer language • Consumer mindset • Attitudes • Needs and wants • Pain/passion points

Advanced targeting and efficiency in media spend: higher response and conversion rates

Example: Identifying advocates of your hotel chain and matching them to your loyalty database can enable high touch, shareable communications to those potential “brand champions”

Improved customer experience

Identify passion/pain points Example: Actively listening to negative language around the auto rental process may lead a brand to hone in on widespread process issues, or issues specific to a particular rental location

Identify key strategic opportunity areas (Client/competitor strengths/weaknesses)

New product or service opportunities

Example: An hotelier might identify that customer experience with a competitor’s property in a particular city is lacking, and present an offer to its own loyalty members who travel to that city. The hotelier might also target a referral program to its members who live in that city, making the offer shareable for those advice givers


Summary As we progress through the 21st century, one can only anticipate the continuing transformation of the travel industry. Today, social media discourse provides us with the largest database of travel conversations that has ever existed. Active listening can help find the meaning behind these conversations and make those conversations actionable. And as travel conversations become more global in nature, any social solution must take geographic scale and scope into consideration. The Listening Platform enables active listening, driving actionable outcomes for travel marketers on a global scale. Listen actively. Take action. Connect actions to business outcomes. These are the requisites for success in today’s online travel marketplace. Contact us To learn more and preview The Listening Platform case studies, email: Businesses that are using The Listening Platform Financial Services

• Understand the impact of economic crisis on consumer attitude towards financial institutions • Determine how best to communicate changing regulations


Mobile Devices

• Measure the impact of large sponsorship effort (relationship between the brand and the fans) • Understand smart phone usage and attitudes • Identify key influencers and domains to drive social media strategy • Link traditional brand tracking research with social media analytics

Consumer Electronics

• Key barriers for product adoption to drive product re-launch

B2B Technology

• Key barriers and opportunities for “Cloud Computing” to drive overall launch strategy

Young Mothers Segment

• Insights around diapering and nutrition to drive CRM communications


• Leverage tour momentum (conversations) to drive additional CD sales Understand key motivations and barriers for concert attendance


• Conversations regarding various conditions (e.g. High Blood Pressure) to drive messaging and segmentation

About Wunderman Wunderman is the original architect of response-driven marketing, an estimated trillion dollar global industry. Today, with 50+ years of innovation, creativity, and insight, Wunderman stands as the first name in advertising that delivers measurable results. Throughout its network of 130+ offices in 55+ countries and 15+ specialized companies, Wunderman speaks the customer’s language—whatever the dialect—at the right time, creating profitable conversations that build brands and generate sales. Visit us at ©2011 Wunderman. All Rights Reserved.


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