SHERMAN – Social networks like Facebook have attracted massive users bases, and a strategically managed social media presence has become de rigueur in the travel industry. However, companies are still struggling to determine how best to harness the medium. Is it a distribution channel, a customer service tool, a marketing and branding platform, a referral and lead-generation service, or perhaps all of the above? Travelers are clearly engaging in social platforms, and often for travel, but social's influence on the buying decision is less clear.
According to PhoCusWright's Social Media in Travel 2012: Social Networks and Traveler Reviews, more than three fourths of travelers turn to social networks to find some type of shopping-related deal, and 30% specifically seek out travel-related deals. However, travel suppliers that have implemented booking tools, widgets or full-fledged booking engines within Facebook have so far reported mixed results, citing a range of challenges. Most significantly, travelers do not appear to engage in social networks with the primary intent of shopping or purchasing travel, as they would when using search or travel sites. While Internet users are accustomed to using Facebook to share their travel photos and stories, making purchases is another matter.
"Everybody and their grandma may be on Facebook, but for many in the travel industry, that has not made social into a reliably actionable and demonstrably profitable marketing medium," says Douglas Quinby, senior director, research at PhoCusWright. "The potential of social for travel may lie less in any one platform and more in the ecosystem of social data to socialize a traveler's experience across a variety of online travel websites and mobile applications."
Created in partnership with Circos Brand Karma and Travelport, PhoCusWright's Social Media in Travel 2012: Social Networks and Traveler Reviews examines the role and impact of social media and user-generated content on the online travel landscape. The report explores how both travelers and travel companies are leveraging this powerful medium, and highlights the implications for the industry in the years ahead. PhoCusWright's Social Media in Travel 2012: Social Networks and Traveler Reviews includes: