Last week we published an interview with the Twingly co-founder Björn Milton who after years in the startup business decided to do something totally different: That was to open a hotel on the Swedish island of Gotland.
We stay with the tourism industry even in today’s interview with Tobias Görgen, one of the two co-founders of Toocan, a social media monitoring company from the German speaking region that uses the Twingly API to gather data about the blogosphere.
The startup has offices in Berlin and Vienna and focuses on providing monitoring services for medium-sized tourism companies. We talked with Tobias about the specific challenges the tourism sector is confronted with in the ear of social media.
Please give our readers a short introduction about Toocan.
About a year ago I met Alexander Löbbecke who has many years of experience with software development in the media sector. At that time I had many ideas surrounding social media and it’s effect on medium-sized companies. So within weeks we started to built Toocan: an intuitive tool which enables not only big brands but also medium-sized firms to monitor what consumers say online about companies, products and trends.
Since we wanted to have a clear focus we decided to target the tourism industry. That market is highly depending on guest reviews and if you think about your own travel planing, often recommendations by others are decision-making factors. Our client base consists of many hoteliers, travel destinations and tour operators.
What is the difference between a broad social media monitoring service and one like yours which focuses on the tourism sector?
The main difference are the sources: Besides the major social web platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and the main media outlets, we collect data from travel and review websites as well as from travel blogs and travel news sites.
What is the typical problem that your clients want to be solved?
Most medium-sized companies lack resources to get themselves a thorough overview about what’s been written on the web. Thus they appreciate our automated monitoring. Many clients not only want to monitor their own products and services but also those of competitors.
Do you have an example for a specific case where you could help a client?
Yes: The leading hotel chain Best Western used Toocan to monitor the social media buzz about all their 200 hotels in Germany. While it’s already hard to manually stay up do date about the social web chatter regarding a single hotel, it’s impossible to do that for 200, so we could really help them. Another example is the family-run travel organizer Corfelios which has specialized in trips to the Greek island of Corfu. They use Toocan to monitor who plans a trip to Greece (e.g. through tweets) in order to approach those users with travel offers.
How do you use Twingly?
Twingly is a great way for us to monitor all those blogs out there, since we can’t keep track on all of them manually. Thanks to Twingly we were able to perform a quick and successful launch.
What challenges do you see for the tourism industry in the era of social media? What has gotten better, what more difficult?
Tourism has become much more transparent. All guests now can rate and describe their experience on one of the many travel websites, often including visual “evidence” like photos or videos. That sometimes creates a contrast to the high quality photos published by some travel operators and hotels. I expect this to become even more common with the rise of smart phones and tablets. For the industry this is both good and bad: Potential flaws are exposed, but companies can also react and use this chance to improve. That of course requires that they get to know about the feedback and criticism posted on the web.
Which advise can you give tourism companies on how to adapt to the changing landscape?
Social media is neither a guarantee for increased revenue nor a temporary trend. Companies and hotels should have realistic expectations. But social media definitely is a new kind of communication. You can either participate in that communication or not, but the latter means that you miss out on a lot potential. At Toocan we offer a basic service that allows companies to simply listen, which is the basis of communication.
Where can companies meet you?
We have offices in Berlin and Vienna, but we meet a lot of clients on fairs like the ITB Berlin, the Travel Expo Cologne or the CMT Stuttgart. Or we can meet where the companies are located.