Will Reviews Get Shorter in 2011?

I am constantly surprised when I look at TripAdvisor reviews and see the amount of time that people take to write reviews. Why? As an active Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare user, I have been trained to share my thoughts in short bursts. I update my Facebook status in 2 sentences or less. I tweet in 140 characters and I provide Foursquare tips in 10 words or less.

I have a theory that hotel reviews in 2011 will get shorter as more and more people become accustomed to sharing opinions in short updates/tips. And, judging from the new wave of review tools such as Google Hotpot, Facebook Places and others, content sites won’t be expecting much more.

I reached out to some other social media gurus for their thoughts. Ari Greenberg is a Managing Partner at BCV Evolve. BCV works with hotels to engage current and potential customers and clients across all social media platforms.  He says, “Sites like TripAdvisor have done a great job gathering content or data, but that’s really all they are.  The user has to take time to make sense of it and it’s not actionable. The more people integrate social media into their lives, the less time they are going to have for sites like TripAdvisor with their page long reviews. People will start prioritizing tweets and tips from their networks. The same is true for hoteliers. The focus on generating reviews for 3rd party sites such as TripAdvisor will gradually switch to generating positive tweets, mentions, Facebook posts, and Foursquare tips.  After all, Twitter and other platforms can be seen as a  review every minute of every day.”

Hotel consultant Daniel Edward Craig is a little more conservative about the pace of change. He says, “I think it’s probably true that reviews and feedback will get shorter as they appear increasingly on social media platforms that encourage brief messaging, such as Twitter and location-based platforms like Facebook Places and Foursquare, not to mention that travelers are increasingly using smart phones, and the small screens and distractions encourage short messages. But travel is fairly complex and it’s hard to capture a hotel in 140 characters or less. Short messages may be good for grabbing attention, but I think travelers will continue to seek more in-depth reviews for the whole story and a variety of opinions rather than fragments.”

Interestingly, there was an article in the New York Times this morning about how email is evolving to be more instant. In the article, Andrew Bosworth, director of engineering at Facebook, says, “The future of messaging is more real time, more conversational and more casual.” Facebook has removed some of the email formalities in its messaging service, such as removing the subject line the cc and bcc line and using the return key to send the message, versus starting a new paragraph. Facebook is creating a messaging solution for a generation who is used to quick, instant communication.

Also today, Facebook announced that TripAdvisor will be using Instant Personalization on the site  to allow visitors to see friends’ reviews and where they have traveled. This information will be visible whether the user logs into Facebook or not, hence the ‘Instant’ in the name. For the IM generation that wants information immediately, this feature will be a big hit. For others who value privacy and the formality of logins, it might be creepy.

Regardless of the word count, I think we can agree that 2011 will be the year that the majority of hoteliers will take their heads out of the sand and devote time and energy to focusing on their online reviews and social media mentions. What do you think? Let us know in the comments, below.

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