For years I have followed with mingled hilarity and irritation the way marketers, unable for the most part to think for themselves, latch on to each new trend in the hope that it will do their work for them.
For quite a few years many thought something called database marketing would do the trick. It helps, but it won't do the job on its own, largely because most have no idea how to link database with creative.
Then someone came up with CRM.
Oracle used to run ads saying "Have a CRM system in 6 weeks." People pissed away millions because computers can't think for you - and customer relationships (surprise, surprise) revolve around customers. No computer programme will compensate for the experience of talking to someone in Bangalore whose English is not the same as yours and who is working absurd hours to meet insane targets set by his rapacious bosses.
Now we have social media.
New research from World Travel Market says "Social media has only a small and waning influence over travelers’ choice of holidays."
Only one in three UK holidaymakers use sites like TripAdvisor in their research, although more than a third of those who do change their travel plans as a result.
Of the 36% who did use social media sites, two out of three used TripAdvisor, around one-third referred to Facebook and one in five looked at YouTube. Only 17% looked at Twitter.
Travel and tourism chat rooms and forums attracted 28% of the social media users, compared with blogs which accounted for 9%.
WTM concluded that holidaymakers' interest in social media is not as great as the travel and tourism industry thinks. More than 60% of 1,257 senior travel industry professionals questioned said it had influenced their business over the past year.
More than four out of 10 believe social media represents an opportunity for their businesses over the next five years.
WTM chairman Fiona Jeffery said less than a quarter of holidaymakers expect to use social media to book next year's holiday, so its small influence is waning.
All good researchers know that what people expect to do has little to do with what they actually do, so the waning bit may be wrong. But as Ms. Jeffrey says, "The travel and tourism industry plan to invest heavily in social media over the next five years believing it's one of the major opportunities for the industry. This investment could be a waste of time and money as holidaymakers do not appear to rely on social media as much as the industry believes."
The fact is, most normal people have no idea what social media are, and couldn't care less.
But I predict they are here to stay for one simple reason: more and more people have computers. And since they have them, they will use them - until they switch to elaborate phones which do the same job