Hotel marketing firm harnesses the power of IBM’s Watson

IBM doesn’t have the world’s only supercomputer; all the really big tech giants, like Amazon, Google and Microsoft, have one.

But it may be the only supercomputer with widespread name recognition. Or fans. Or that is a legendary “Jeopardy” champion.

None of those facts by itself sealed the selection of Watson, IBM’s supercomputer, to analyze “tens of thousands” of social media posts in seconds, but it does give a company a certain cachet, according to DJ Vallauri said, who gave Watson one of its latest “jobs.”

Vallauri is the chief executive officer of Lodging Interactive, a digital marketing and social media engagement agency in Parsippany, N.J.

It exclusively serves the hospitality industry through its main business and its CoMMingle unit, a social media management platform.

It was Watson’s ability to grasp the “colors” – the emotional tones of anger, fear, joy or sadness — of a social media post that stood out, Vallauri said.

CoMMxingle works individually with hotel clients to develop social media and influencer marketing strategies designed to increase hotel brand awareness on all major social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google and YouTube.

It identifies the influencers in a hotel’s orbit Lodging Interactive has determined that brands are more comfortable working with influencers than with celebrities in ads.

“I got the idea of using Watson a couple of years ago,” Vallauri said. “Madison Avenue already was using it, but it was new to our industry.”

Vallauri was ready to hop on board. He was looking for a means to measure what had been previously unmeasurable.

“We wanted to make sure that we were using the right terms and key words,” he said, especially when it involves a call to action. “We should be using them to make sure we’re achieving the goal.”

If a request to “Click here for a free martini” isn’t getting much response, a hotelier needs to know why his martinis aren’t moving.

One of Watson’s chief “specialties” is its tone analyzer: It can analyze emotions and tones in what people write online, like tweets or reviews.

It also can predict whether they are happy, sad, confident or some other emotion that would be helpful to know when customers are talking about a hotel or shopping for one.

How does one use Watson?

It’s a sort of metered service, Vallauri said. “You pay for the power or the bandwidth that you use. The more queries you submit, the more your bill goes up.”

Not surprisingly, CoMMingle has controls in place to keep users from going overboard.

Vallauri cautions that artificial intelligence is not likely to unemploy humans any time soon.

“An upload never really replaces a human,” he said. “You always want the human to make sure the information that comes back makes sense.”

Even Watson didn’t always get it right. In Final Jeopardy, it mistook Toronto for a US city.

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