New Technology and New Solutions in Education

According to experts, today’s education consists of students learning through different softwares used on computers and laptops. Nowadays, teachers and students prefer to learn online rather than attending classrooms to receive degrees. Invention of new technologies and solutions has made it possible for people to think of the unthinkable and do the impossible things as believed at least a couple of years ago.

Social Media

Whenever we talk of new technologies, we instantly think of the various social media websites that are rapidly changing the way we interact and share things. Majority of people around the world are a member of at least one social networking site for personal, professional or for both reasons. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, and such similar websites are used to make global audience aware of any new products, service or events. Educational institutes have also started using Cloud-based social media sites to promote their upcoming classes and courses to millions of students located worldwide.

Content is Not Tied to the Classroom

The emergence of the internet has made delivery of learning a worldwide phenomenon. Today, students are no longer entirely dependent on traditional classrooms to receive education. It is easily available online and that too within a few seconds. Online teaching has made the educators easily conduct their classes using a computer with an internet connection. They can instantly upload their course brochures as well as take examinations and provide certificates to students without the need to personally come up and receive the same.

Increases Students Engagement with the Class or Course

Newer technologies and online solutions allow teachers stay in constant touch with their students residing in various far off places. Teachers can keep the students engaged through live discussions on any lesson or project. Learners can also develop a greater attachment with the teacher and other students through real-time connection, interaction, and sharing of thoughts and ideas. Recent addition of mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, iPads, and more) has resulted in anytime delivery of course content directly on the students’ handset for easy viewing and registering for a class.

Deliver a Seamless Learning Experience

Technology has enabled seamless transition of learning content and delivery of student evaluation reports at the end of each semester. Creating classes and conducting the same has become an easy affair. You don’t need to buy or install any software or hardware to start taking classes online. Many class creation and management solutions are available in the market for teachers to use it anytime to deliver world-class learning experience.

Touch screen kiosks getting interactive.

A touchscreen kiosk is at the sharp edge of the new digital advertising revolution, these solutions provide the added benefit of engaging with the shopper to boost your brand awareness or to advertise your product range.

What are the numerous kinds of interactive kiosk?

These can differ in size and orientation, from small 42″ interactive kiosks in portrait to huge 65″ touchscreen kiosks in landscape. Let us look at them individually.

Free standing kiosk.

As the name signifies they are an all in one device that once the base is attached the kiosk can be positioned on the floor and the LCD TV is at an adults heights, now the difference starts as there are a variety of ways to store the promotional media, as well as other ways to update the content.

Standalone kiosk.

These units are a fundamental, entry-level digital sign, the ads is stored locally on a storage card that is located in a media player that is built into the screen.

Strengths: reasonable, easy to configure

Weaknesses: Can only refresh adverts manually using a USB drive.

Interactive kiosk.

An interactive kiosk has a single or multiple touch panel that shows marketing content and is used in areas to target specific clients to find out exactly what items they are searching for.

Just like the standalone kiosk, the touch screen kiosk has a commercial grade LCD monitor that has a brightness of 500 CD/m2 and a contrast ratio of 1500:1.

Now the digital material is kept on an internal hard drive with a 160GB capacity and has the facility to connect to a wired network or even a wireless access point so that ads can be uploaded remotely, this is ideal if the digital sign is part of a much larger network.

These signs are obtainable in both landscape and portrait orientation, depending upon the location the sign will be rolled out in.

The above solution is good in shopping centres and can be used for way finding as well as electronic advertising.

How could a touchscreen kiosk help a corporation?

When a consumer enters an outlet or standard bank they may not know exactly what they are looking for, let us look at a bank example first.

A consumer wants to make a regular savings, but they do not want to encounter any effects if they need some money for an emergency fast, now using a touch screen kiosk the bank can upload all the content material on the products they offer and be titled; savings, savings with rapid access, so the consumer would click on the second icon on the monitor by touching the screen, then they are taken to another screen that asks how much they want to invest every thirty day period, then on the third page the buyer is asked what notice they like to work with. This could be an immediate access account with a low-interest rate or an account that calls for 4 weeks notice and gives 7% interest on the money deposited.

Now the buyer can then note the reference number down or go to an advisor who can promptly bring all the data up the customer has just inputted into the LCD monitor, print out the application form and the purchaser then signs the form accepting the terms and conditions.

A bank can use this tool to save employees time with handling buyers who have no real intention of opening an account.

Can Social Media Help the Mauritian Hospitality Industry?

Or to be precise…

Can Social Media salvage the Mauritian Hospitality Industry’s shattered competitive edge and reputation?

First the Facts

The Mauritian tourism sector suffered some casualties in 2009 and at the beginning of 2010, with the heavy international crises that rocked the entire world economy. At first sight, the sequels weren’t as bad as one could think then. We were still profiting from positive growth rates, with an industry average of +7.3% for the period extending from January to March 2010 compared to same frame in 2009. And yet, something is still wrong in paradise, even if we welcomed 249 971 visitors for the first three months of 2010. The luxury niche seems to have lost some of its glitter. Top local hotel groups look like going through rough tides. Naiade Resorts, for instance, declared losses of the order of MRU 50 million while they closed 2009, profiteering at MUR 11 million. Same for the Rogers Group, which encompasses high standard resorts like Heritage and Le Telfair Golf & Spa. Their profits shrank by 51%. Similar picture for NMH (New Mauritius Hotels), with a 25.3% profit downgrade. These figures might well explain the gloomy atmosphere at the top tip of the Mauritian Hotel Industry. This negative mood is understandable. While the luxury room park (4-star up) had grown up by 115% in 2009, the occupancy rates dropped to 40%. That was just enough to slow down the investment momentum of the sector and in 2011 the pickup is still very slow.

Was there a rescue plan on the line, or were we waiting for the storm to cool off and get back to normal?

According to the Minister Nando Bodha, in an interview given to Jean Da Luz in May 2010, Mauritius must withstand its position and not give in to mermaid songs about lowering our rates and downgrading from our actual Diamond Destination status. This stands for 2011 also. His immediate action plan talked about strengthening the Brand’s positioning as opposed to fast growing competition from countries like Sri Lanka or the Maldives. And the operators just had to go down that same line, towards the top. They have to try find out about this little something that would give them the lead or, at least, stabilize it, without excessive finance-intensive solutions. But the main question remains. What can Mauritian 4star-up hotels offer to their target markets apart from the same old promise of unrivaled hospitality and service quality? What more, especially with the Harte tragedy at the Legends, the 5-star flagship of the Naiade Group of luxurious hotels?

What about the Harte tragedy?

The murder of the newlywed daughter of prominent Irish Football Tycoon, in her hotel room at the Legends, adds to the Mauritian hospitality sector’s misery. Communication havoc, media bashing and all the mayhem caused by thousands of online comments have surely hindered the efforts of Mauritius’ second economic pillar into accelerating its recovery. Within one week, Mauritius lost most of all the glittering goodwill it built round years of relentless market upgrade. The anguish of losing even a microscopic market share is relevant and legit. At least now we know how fast and how deep it goes when negative buzzing starts its worldwide tour.

Enter Social Media, Community Management and e-reputation. Are they genuine solutions?

Can the social bubble help the real world into consolidating actual leads and generating new ones? Can the Social Media trend mend broken images? The answer is definitely yes. Not as THE absolute keys, but as the bases for the development of new user-centric solutions towards consolidation and upgrade of the acquired competitive edge. The tourism industry in itself generates behaviors that remind us of what is going on in cyberspace when it comes to social media and networking. At some point in time, when going on holiday to the Club Med, it felt really good to be part of a community, even if this would be only for a week or so. Once to Club Med, one was considered and felt like a lifetime member (the GM, Gentil Membre), with that only wish to be back year after year. To have a grasp of this ambiance, the French feature films “Les Bronzs” is the right example, but definitely not a reference for times and setups like ours today. Social Media and networking has become for millions of online users a lifestyle in its own. People without a Facebook account are more and more regarded as ‘homeless’, atypical or asocial. With the Social networking mode enabled, an individual will take his time to consult blogs, Facebook groups or his LinkedIn connections. He will be asking questions through tweets, comparing everything online and will make his decision out of a messy information intake. That’s the same pattern when choosing a hotel destination nowadays. The customer goes by the bloggers’ trend. This is where Social Networking fits, by basically offering a consolidated and relevant alternative to a user’s search process. Integrating Social Media to the hospitality sector is almost a natural procedure. The prominent place of relationship management in the day-to-day business with tourists, makes it easier for the tourism industry to analyze and understand the target’s behaviors, needs and expectations. Social Media management will just plug in to translate all these data into useful information for the development of relevant interactive platforms. The most complex part of the setting up of such a strategy, resides in the pre-operational routine which implies thorough research on the targeted segments. Investigating social behaviors and expectations are the fundamentals underlying the production of relevant toolsets. This part of the setup is time-consuming and requires proactive human resources.

Dealing with e-reputation.

The Harte tragedy has brought into the limelight, at least for the Mauritian tourism sector, the extent of damages that can be caused by uncontrolled and untapped worldwide buzz. In less than a week it looked like this first and isolated episode had bitten up the competitive edge our Diamond destination had. Felt like a bad mouthed Tsunami had overwhelmed the country’s white shores and modified them forever. This is where and when e-reputation goes astray. Not dealing with it, equals letting open doors to further havoc. When a Hotel Group, which has got more than regional ambitions has its name brought into a negative turmoil, it needs to react in real-time, at least to defend its brands at the very heart of the battle. If the Naiade Group has managed well to preserve the group’s global image, it has by the same time allowed the downgrade of its 5-star flagship’s image, consequently due to total absence on the Social Network scene. They simply did not monitor what was being said on the Net while exercising high level damage control on the physical scene. Nowadays both the physical and cyber scenes must be treated the same way, because they both feed each other. A bad online publicity ruins the brand image and reflects immediately on the day-to-day business in the real world. And this can be as silly as a benign allegation on a z-series blog, like:

I loved it there, but there were not enough shrimps in my seafood cocktail!

or

I loved the material mix of their rooms but why do they have to put those old-fashion copper taps in the bathroom?

These may well look silly but that’s enough to up-dig similar resentment, trigger an endless blog thread and end up as a long-going negative buzz, if nothing is done to give minimum explanations or to talk about taking relevant actions through Social Media. That’s obvious now! A successful brand, group, company and even an individual have the obligation of seeing to it that their names are not being mentioned noisily without any control or monitoring. A business’ goodwill is never like before at the mercy of its virtual reputation, its e-reputation. This e-reputation needs to be monitored on a 24/7 basis with a rapid turnaround at tactful commentaries and replies.

Bottom line

When built the proper way, Social Media toolsets allow smooth, seamless integration with the ongoing traditional communication and marketing philosophy. Resourceful Social Media management and its satellite activities can effectively help hotel groups into acquiring, widening, nurturing new target markets by developing community-based content and events, via effective interactive platforms. This ensemble, when geared within a proper strategic frame, will aim at giving a more social and sociable global image to the hotel group and to its brands.

Social Media Advantage For Brands

Social media has become mainstream and as someone said: every media becoming social. I always think some brands and their attitudes to social media, content marketing, management. It is clear from every angle, except from view, that most brands are overlooking the “social” in front of the social media. This is what sets social media apart from other kinds of media. To excel in social media, you begin with cultivating a social media mindset. Most have not understood what this platform offers.

All that we are currently doing is majorly titled toward social media abuse which is based on advertising and shameless ego promotion. This affects corporate brands more though.

Most have concentrated mainly on mainstream traditional media. They have neglected or can we say they are unaware that the only way to survive in this time is a two-way communication media which embraces not only the traditional but online media platform. As we know, the current trend today is for brands to first learn about their brides-customers, get their attention through the use of social media platforms like blogging, Youtube, Xing, Facebook, Del.ici.ous, Bookmarking, RSS, Podcasting, videocasting, Wikis among many other available online media.

The evolution of these new media has opened up opportunity to seek opinion, interact, court, date and offers irresistible proposal that will hook the bride. Today customers are no longer buying one mode fits all offer by the traditional media. Some corporate brands here seem to hinge non-participation in online community building on such excuses that we are not yet online, neither are there recognized consumer fora which have major convergence of consumers online. Also no regulatory authority here pays attention to or gives any attention to whatever they have to say can. They also claim that online forums here have no impacts on corporate performance. Some also claim that social media is alien to us. My answer is that social media is not alien. The fact remains that many things had been part of us only that we do not accurately labeled them until the westerners help us out.

The idea of social media, content marketing is rooted in cultural rituals where a couple gets engaged before they could start dating. The process require that suitor’s intention has to be established through family contacts, integrity checked and a cogent promised is made that he is interested in a serous relationship and not flings. Without these background checks, no one officially allows the intending couple to start dating. If this is violated then, the bride to be would be disciplined.

Drawing a parallel in this ancient ritual, the customers want the brand today to show that what matters is her, not money making. The customers want to be sure that out of arrays of suitors-products, services- your brand can take the initiative of starting a conversation, the customer wants to be sure your brand is not just flirting, looking out for short flings but a real relationship that will enhance her lifestyle. Brand through social media, content and social marketing set up a bate by loading the right words in their contents to convince, educate, entertain the bride that they are out to make her life better even before selling anything.

Customer wants to see how much of your intellectual property will be made available without charges. The customer wants to find out you are a giver. One of their love languages is gift sharing. A giver without string attached always takes the show. Social media, content marketing requires a lot of commitment. It takes time before social media and content marketing make huge impact. Any brand that can show high level of commitment in social media will always carry the day.

Typical case studies of brands with efficient use of social media include Tony Hseih. Tony followers in Twitter today is over one forty million. Hseih is the managing Director of Zappos.com. Tony through his ‘tweet’ has course to meet with customers at a bar while many in his position will rather hide under the guise of busy schedule. Tony uses Twitter to build interaction with customers; he uses twitter to solve problems for clients. The strength of Tony Hseih and Zappos communities has been used to strengthen relationships with Zappo’s brand offline. Zappos client freely gives their ideas on what they want. This aids, leads to co- creation of brands products, services.

As busy as Richard Branson of Virgin group is, he also maintains a twitter account. He has used his twitter account to answer questions from angry customers as well as virgin potentials. The virgin group also has an integrated website that allows news update, blog among others. Southwest Airlines has used social media to build strong connection that impacts on the brand’s offline interaction

A good example of the use of social media to spread messages and connection was recently demonstrated by Michael Jackson’s personal doctor. As we are all aware, it was once insinuated that he killed Michael Jackson through drug overdose. About a week ago, he used YouTube video to spread his part of the case. This video spread across the internet as well as mainstream media. Popularity of virtual community has been soaring high with more people paying attention from academics and marketing communications practitioner discussing it in advance countries, yet Nigeria brands have assumed ‘I do not care attitude’. Nations and brands are not considered backward just because of their location but based on attitudes, disposition to the use of technology that will aid progress. Building emotional connection, loyalty with the brand is becoming an easy thing through social media.

Social media has become a great platform to identify with, interact, communicate brand element. This often starts in online forum and lead to offline beneficial relationship. Today, nearly three billion of the seven billion potentials are now connected in social media platforms. Agreed the ratio is still slow here but the number is increasing daily. Through social media brands can ignite confidence in the hearts of the bride, build thought leadership. Your brand competitors may have better product, services but will surely lose out to you if you can build strong connection with them before you ask them to buy through massive advertisement.

If your brand can give away enough information, answers to concerns and prove that you are on the verge of seriously neglecting your own best interest, of tight schedules, in order to serve these greedy, needy brides that desire your brands become more open, honest with them which is the essence of social media. Social media do not allow cover ups, unnecessary protection of corporate brand’s failures. I am of the opinion that if our banking industry’s Managing Directors have been active in social media, there is possibility of gaining public sympathy instead of this anger, tantrum they are now receiving from various angles. Their followers would have been able to defend them and take appropriate position that may have given them soft landing in this trying period.

Since our brands have concentrated on one form of media, mainstream, tell me why should their brides not block out their useless bragging through advertising? Tell me why is it difficult for brands n our environment to see handwriting on the wall that their brides now desire their authentic voices that are not coloured with jargons of self- serving moneybags? The brands’ brides are now also afraid; skeptical of marketing. Why should the brides be loyal when the element of trust is shaking?

Having established that let us now examine proper way of participating in social media which is now being exchanged for web.2.0. For brands to actively participate in social media, brands need to observe, listen, find clients’ hibernating medium. In doing this, brand should first define its social media strategy through careful evaluation of brand’s resources, analyze the target audience, and identify objectives. Having done this, brand must carefully pick or access platforms that fit their goals. This will inform the decision to run a blog or just to participate in other forums like Twitter, Facebook, discussion board, social media bookmarking, stumbleupon among others. Be sure you know that such platforms are used by your niche audience. Identify the top influencers of your industry online through recognitions given to their opinions, comments, awards etc.

To do this effectively, brand may consider creating the position of community or social media/knowledge management manager or hire consultant who has track records in skills like community management, online reputation management, monitoring, tracking, podcast, video cast, web links etc. These skills do not require a programmer’s knowledge and in actual fact, they are used by customer relations, brand, and Public relations experts. The only requirement is passion that is backed with proven results. The said manger or consultant must also understands forum rules, reputation software, know how to distribute contents without creating offense as this may be counter productive. Great ability to create qualitative content for blogs, create profiles and claim such blogs in online directories is also essential. Social media, content marketing, management is seen as collection of open-sourced, interactive and user- controlled online application used to expand the experiences, knowledge and market power of the users as participants in business and social processes, the social media landscape is basically about conversation before any marketing campaign.

Brands must therefore consider Rajesh Setty’s suggestion that it must demonstrate that your brand cares, is curious to find out what is the concern of the customers, contribute, make sure the content is worth their attention, clarify issues, build conversation that will lead to strong relationship, bring in a lot of creativity, demonstrate the brand’s character and values cherished, build community, tribe, brings change, instill courage and be highly commitment to a cause its believe in.

Let me conclude this piece by highlighting how brand can start participate in social media and content marketing. Content marketing is an art of understanding what your customers’ want, need to know and the science of delivering it to them in a useful and compelling way. The content has to be engaging in a useful and compelling way. To start, the brand has to build trust and credibility. This is huge work. This becomes easy if your brand can take time to listen to customers first. By that brand discovers their problems and the content is therefore tailored to provide solution.

Avoid talking too much about your brand or your expertise as much as I do know the fact that your brand need to establish the line that your brand is worth their attentions. This can make your brand’s efforts become suspect. Your customers want educational content without initial marketing spin. The content also has to be compelling, entertaining to earn the scarcest entity on the wed- time/patience. Great content must guides, clarifies, enlightened and connect. The language of the content has to be in tune with your industry. Contents that solve problems drive traffic and increases sale rate.

Social media and content marketing make your clients see your brand as unique resource, trusted advisor and a brand that makes them look good. This will make them to gladly exchange their money and loyalties for your commitment to the relationship. When you have so much to give, they will not wait to tell others about your brand. There are some other factors that come into play here but let us conclude today’s piece by saying that brand has several opportunities when it annexes the two way communication of mainstream and evolution of new media.