Saturday, November 29, 2008

Virgin Atlantic V-Jam Event

I had a very corporate day yesterday in London at a Virgin Atlantic event, V-Jam. The agenda was as vague beforehand as it still is retrospectively, get loads of people in a room with either a connection to Virgin, travel or social media and then talk about it...... Ok, so we're going to write their social media strategy for them are we? Hmmm not even sure if we did that, but hey there were some interesting people there, some insightful conversations and free chocolate, so i shouldn't be too critical.

Aside from the usual ice-breaker sessions, the majority of the time was spent in very informal brain-storms, (which, as Alex Bainbridge writes in his post, were seriously lacking in some kind of moderation.) I went to 2 sessions, the first of which was addressing the issue of how Virgin should / could capitalise on social media. We were outnumbered by Virgin employees who were all keen to understand the 'secrets' of social media and how they should be using it.  Toying with the idea of their own social network seemed to be high on their agenda. They are clearly monitoring blogs and forums already for mentions of their customer service and then (like many other large co's) are unsure with what to do with the information.  They have identified the influential bloggers in the industry and are unsure as to how to approach them.  (After the recent blog camp debate 'tread carefully' would be my advice!) They were keen to get our feedback on this dilemma. 

Personally, I think it does pay for a company such as Virgin to be aware of what people are saying about them and to act on the feedback in an open way.  However, rather than getting lost in the fog that is 'social media' they should remember that this is more about good old fashioned customer service, rather than funky web 2.0 technology.

The 2nd meeting was a more generalist conversation about how people can find information about destinations and be inspired by them. This began by everyone in the room being asked to choose 1 word to describe what motivates their decision when booking a holiday.  This infuriated me because there are several 'need states' for a holiday and I think pigeon-holing consumers into one category the 'you have children therefore you must only want child-friendly holidays, therefore I will only try to market family resort holidays to you' is actually very short sighted. 

The conversation then became dominated by a discussion about the collecting and profiling of complex consumer data and thus the ability to market to them according to their needs.  What Amazon do for books etc could be done for travellers.

Now, those who know me will appreciate that I am not exactly an early-adopter of technology, so I'm not necessarily best qualified to judge the technical capability of this.  However, I can't help feeling that tech development should be driven by a consumer insight, rather than an exciting programming proposition. And as an impulsive and unique individual, I would far rather have access to a site that allows be to browse and be inspired (ahem some self-promotion here, how about a site called tourdust?) rather than be told by a programme that I should be going on a package holiday to Spain because I have 2 children.. OK, this is turning into a rant, move on Anna, move on.

The event didn't so much end as peter out, with no conclusions presented on how Virgin will progress on the day. However, I'm told that they will be in touch in 3 months with feedback. So I guess we will have to wait and see what happens.


jheaduk said...

Hi Anna!
That's interesting... 3 months for feedback from the event? That seems like a long long time... where did that info come from? I've been blathering on my blog about how I think NESTA needs to set up some kind of aggregation or forum facility to capture post VJAM debate on blogs etc...

Susie and Veronica said...

Hi there, I am interested to know if the feedback on this event has been provided. Three months have passed and I am curious about what came of this brainstorming session as well as what specifically Virgin is planning to do. Any insight would be helpful.

I am especially interested to know if you have any more about their idea of having their own social network. I have some ideas that might be interesting to Virgin but want to have more background on the direction in which they want to head and why.