Photo by Pete Hodbod
After the surge of travel during Golden Week (Japan’s 5-day holiday block when much of the country goes somewhere), and with the busy US summer travel season approaching, I began thinking about how much technology has changed the way people plan, take and re-live our vacations in the past 5 years.
Making the Big Decision
How are travel companies borrowing research tools, sharing features and social media platforms from other industries? What unique web tools are they inventing to transform themselves into more powerful trip portals?
| How We Used to Travel
||How We Travel Now
|Learning About a Destination
|TV travel shows, magazines, newspapers, movies, friends, family, AAA||Facebook photos/posts, Twitter stream, RSS newsfeed, travel blogs, video-sharing sites|
|Researching a Destination
||Travel books, maps, brochures, destination websites||Travel blogs, traveler generated reviews, social network sites|
|Booking the Trip
||Travel Agent, airline websites||Online travel comparison sites, web rewards programs, flight/hotel/car packages|
|What do we do? Where do we eat?||Attraction brochures , concierge, hotel TV guide, restaurant guides, destination websites||Local bloggers, Yelp, Twitter, Google Maps, iPhone apps|
|Making Memories and Telling People
||Pictures, videos, travel diaries||Photosharing sites, social network sites, video sharing, microblog feedback|
These changes have spread rapidly around the world and in turn are allowing for easier (and cheaper) access to travel than before, especially to those living in digital developing countries, like China, where on-line travel booking is among the top online applications.
Customer Interaction Is Customer Satisfaction
You will find many of the popular travel brands are heavily integrating media that makes traveler reviews, photos and other user generated content a core part of their marketing strategy.
The ability of travelers to influence other potential travelers is a powerful influence on branding and driving traffic. And you might have noticed that the above box contains a virtuous cycle – friend’s content leads to our own trips, which results in us adding our own photos and reviews.
Expedia has its staff field customer questions, needs and issues realtime in the middle of their buying decisions. TripAdvisor integrates the Facebook app Cities I’ve Visited to share a custom map of where you’ve been and want to go with your friends.
Danny Brown cites the Toronto-based Hotel chain Four Seasons is a big brand that has locked onto social media. Video sharing with YouTube, Microblogging via Twitter, Fan Pages on Facebook and iPhone app.
It’s Not All Smooth Flying
The common traits of using social media successfully are interaction, reciprocity and engagement on a timely basis– the same basic tenets of building a local community. When a social channel gets neglected or abandoned by its creator, its followers are left in the lurch.
At the beginning of May, Water&Stone reported that 41% of Asia travel Facebook pages show signs of abandonment for pages that have not been updated in 30 days and over. Abandonment on Twitter is at 20%.
So jumping into social media requires more than setting up an account – it requires a long-term investment to live up to its powerful promises, otherwise you can end up damaging your brand rather than helping it.
What is Your Brand?
Your brand is the image and feeling you want your customers to have about you.
Visiting major brand sites, frequenting blogs, and following key Twitter users are a few good ways to form your own unique social media recipe. The more you know your options, the more innovative and successful you can be in the long term.
For us at btrax, client knowledge is a critical component to results, whether it comes from their own research or our staff helping them navigate the options. Strategy and experimentation are critical components to growing a community, one that is both sustainable and high performance.
In a Travel 2.0 world, content creativity is the destination and community is what happens along the way. Enjoy your journey.